Photo by Austin Green – Stella Gamberdella’s family surrounds her after Sunday’s 100+ car parade to honor her 100th birthday.

by Dave Warner

Turns out that Sunday was the perfect day for Stella Gamberdella to turn 100 years old when vehicles formed up in the Holy Family Parish area and surrounding streets to then parade past her house on Hancock Street.

Amanda Jaquay is her granddaughter, and she said that originally they were planning a great big party and they had reserved the church hall and were going to invite everyone through the church bulletin.

“She loves people more than anything, children especially and there’s nothing that makes her happier. We thought we would just surround her with people and love,” said Jaquay.

When the COVID-19 restrictions came around, they weren’t able to go through with that plan anymore, so they wanted to find another way to celebrate Stella’s life. “We saw where some people were driving by honking their horns in other parts of the country, writing on sidewalks in chalk, and I thought, what if I could organize a parade for her.”

She felt that it would be a really great way to honor her and let her see how loved she is. “Normally when you see that kind of outpouring, it’s at a funeral and she wouldn’t get to see any of that. People she hadn’t seen in decades would be able to go by and say hello,” stated Jaquay.

Stella’s health is starting to fail and Jaquay said the number one thing she loves is affection, people, and togetherness. “That’s tough with this COVID, but if she could see a lot of people who still care about her, that would mean the world to her.”

They had to test her endurance, so last weekend, they took her on a long drive out to the old Sherman’s Amusement Park at Caroga Lake and then to other locations where she had fond memories, so that they could see how she would do.

“She really did so well and from that day on, she talked about it every single day about how she got to see these things from her past. It lit up everything about her,” she said.

Jaquay felt that an event like the parade would give Stella something to talk about for many weeks to come.

“She’s seen everyone around her pass away, including one of her children, and yet she doesn’t focus on any of that. She focuses on family and the here and now. It’s so inspirational, and I truly believe that’s how she’s made it to 100. She just doesn’t give any energy to the negative stuff,” Jaquay said.

More than 100 vehicles were involved in the parade when the final tally was taken.