Living through coronavirus: Neighborhood’s surprise parade pulls man, 91, from home isolation

Getting Charles Caudell out of his house and down to the end of the driveway was the trickiest part of his surprise birthday party.

When his wife, Patty, told him she needed help fixing a vine by the mailbox, and she had a folding chair for him, he refused at first. Then he reluctantly agreed.

And he’s glad he did.

MORE CORONAVIRUS: Atrium doctor, husband design device to protect health care workers from coronavirus

Minutes later, Caudell heard a horn honking at the end of the street and when he turned and looked he saw one of his daughter’s cars followed by 14 more as part of a surprise parade to celebrate his 91st birthday Thursday night.

“You got me,” he said as the cars passed and passengers handed his wife birthday cards. “You really got me. This was a good one for sure.”

This has been a difficult year for Caudell, who said seeing his family and friends was the perfect medicine. He suffered two strokes last year, and just when he was feeling better and looking forward to getting outside, the coronavirus hit and he was homebound.

Dealing with the coronavirus has felt like living “in a cage,” he said. “I can’t get out.”

Angie Riley, 47, of Madison Twp., one of his daughters, helped organize the parade.

MORE CORONAVIRUS: New Butler County restaurants continuing to build during coronavirus shutdown

“He deserved a little bit of happiness,” Riley said. “He hasn’t been able to do nothing for six months. We wanted to cheer him up. I’m so happy to be able to put a smile on his face. When I saw him crying it made my day. It touched me.”

His wife, Patty, 67, said he had a 50/50 chance of surviving the strokes because of having previous five-bypass surgery and being a diabetic.

“The Lord has truly blessed him,” she said.

So instead of attending a birthday party, his family and friends threw him a surprise parade.

“This was the only way they could express their love for him,” his wife said. “It was beyond words really.”

People met at Fenwick High School, decorated their cars, then slowly drove down Ruby Drive off Ohio 122. After turning their vehicles around in the cul-de-sac, they got out and sang him “Happy Birthday.”

Throughout the parade, Caudell sat in his folding chair wearing a winter jacket and his “Jesus is the way” baseball hat. His wife kept handing him birthday cards as he shook his head.

Caudell said the parade “made my day.”

He worked for more than 50 years in the butcher business, retiring from McGee’s IGA locations throughout the area in 1998. Caudell attends Cross & Crown Community Assembly in Carlisle.

Combined from previous marriages, the Caudells have five daughters, 13 grandchildren, 15 great-grandchildren and two great-great-grandchildren.


We’re looking to profile people throughout our coverage area about how the coronavirus is impacting your daily life. If you’re interested in sharing your story about how you’re affected or adapting to the situation, call Journal-News reporter Rick McCrabb at 513-483-5216 or email

About the Author