A lawn chair on the front porch of Ernie Lynch’s residence was the hottest ticket in town Sunday, as cars paraded down Gilbert Road in Cleversburg to surprise Lynch on his 90th birthday.
About 60 vehicles greeted the lifelong Cleversburg resident, who is known as the beloved owner of Ernie’s Fruit Stand. Among those to welcome Lynch on his birthday were friends, family and long-time patrons.
“They sat me on a chair in the yard and these cars started to come in, waving and just making all kinds of noise. It was really something,” Ernie said Sunday. “I was really shocked. I saw people that I hadn’t seen for a good while. They were blowing their horns. It was something.”
Ernie’s wife, Wanda Lynch, was in on the surprise, which was originally thought up by his granddaughters, Julie Fulghum and Holly Young, a week prior.
Wanda helped spread the word on Facebook, and like Ernie, she was thrilled with how the parade turned out.
“It was more than we could have asked for, believe me,” Wanda said. “We had a lot of our faithful customers that have come to our stand all these 20-some years. We are going to miss that.”
Due to his health, 2020 will be the first year in more than a quarter of a century that Ernie will not sell tomatoes, apples, oranges, grapefruits and other fruit from the stand that had been located outside of his residence.
Ernie began the fruit stand when he was 64 years old, a year before he retired from the railroad.
“It was something for me to do,” Ernie said. “I’d go over to Leinbach’s Auction [in Shippensburg] and that’s where I got most of my stuff. Then I’d bring it home and resell it. All kinds, tomatoes, apples, oranges, grapefruits, everything. I’d buy anything that was on the market. I just enjoyed it, it made me happy. I met a lot of people, I had some customers that were there the whole 20-plus years that I ran it. The same customers just kept coming back.”
Ernie has lived in Cleversburg for most of his life, only leaving to serve with the United States Navy from 1947 to 1952, and was stationed on the Destroyer USS John W. Weeks.
“I was born here, went to school in Shippensburg. I just liked it here. I got married and we moved back [to Cleversburg]. We are here and we are going to stay,” Ernie said.
He thought nothing of the circumstances that did not allow him to have a normal birthday gathering, COVID-19 or social distancing; he was just happy to be able to see some familiar faces to be able to celebrate his special day.
“It feels good, you don’t know how good,” he said. “It was really something.”