Robert Greene of Washington Township was surprised by a 100-car caravan on July 27 to celebrate his 78th birthday.
“It was wonderful,” Greene said. “I was very surprised, and I really liked the cars, especially the older ones. Our family and friends were behind them. It was quite an experience and I really enjoyed it … It made my heart feel good.”
Greene served his country as a captain in the Army National Guard. In 2018, his family almost lost him to a heart attack, and as a result, Greene lives with congestive heart failure.
Despite his health, Greene is still an active part of his community, working with senior homes and donating food twice a week. He also serves on the board of the Mullica Hill Historical Society and is president of the New Jersey Baptist State Deacons Convention.
“We really wanted to do something special because life kinda sucks right now,” said Kimberly Greene, one of Robert’s daughters. “We wanted to do something to celebrate him … Our family doesn’t do anything small.”
Kimberly and her mother, Marilyn, began reaching out to people last month about joining the birthday caravan. After only reaching out to a few people, the group began to grow larger than expected.
“When I asked them to do this, someone mentioned, ‘When you are part of a car club, all you do in the summer is drive to car shows or different outdoor events,’ and this year they have had nothing,” said Kimberly.
“The Corvette club came from northern Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, New York, North Jersey. They came from all over because they just wanted to be able to ride and to get together.”
Cars and people gathered at Bunker Hill Middle School to prepare for the motorcade. Participants included the Washington Township Police Department, the Simeone Foundation Automotive Museum, the Living the Dream Corvette Club, the South Jersey Street Legends Car Club and the Buffalo Soldiers Motorcycle Club. At the end of the parade, Robert was surprised by family and friends he had not seen in months due to COVID-19.
“He’s laid back; he’s a cool dude. He just sits there and takes in the world,” Kimberly said.
She explained how the family wanted to do something to pierce Robert’s cool demeanor, and they all hoped the caravan would be the thing to do it.
“How we really knew this was something he was enjoying was the fact that he didn’t sit down the entire time,” Kimberly noted. “The whole time he spent looking in awe, I said, ‘We got him.’”
The car clubs and groups used the opportunity to get together with friends and colleagues they had not seen since COVID-19 began. After the caravan, they reconveined at the middle school and had a socially distant car meet-up together.
“In light of everything going on in the world with the virus, economic downturn and racial tensions, we felt that this would be an amazing way to bring together not just his friends and family, but members of the community as well,” Kimberly said.
Robert and Marilyn Greene spoke of how COVID-19 has affected their life, but conceded not all of it is negative.
“It’s been different,” Robert explained. “We cannot go out as much. We can’t do what we would like to do, including hugging someone when we see them. We have to wear a mask and keep our distance. But we are adjusting and we are doing fine.”
“I think it has drawn us closer,” Marilyn said. “We have to be together; it lets us see that we have a new normal now, and people are more loving and they are kinder. We appreciate everyone and everything more.”
The Greene family will donate money to each club and group to thank them for participating in the event.