Charlottesville church congregation puts on parade to celebrate member’s 100th birthday

Charlottesville church congregation puts on parade to celebrate member’s 100th birthday

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - A Charlottesville church congregation is celebrating a milestone birthday for one of its longest-attending members. Members of Thomas Jefferson Memorial Church Unitarian Universalist held a birthday party parade Tuesday, May 26, to celebrate Virginia James turning 100 years old.

“We thought this was a good chance for the whole congregation to come out if they want, have a little fun, visit with each other, and let her know we haven’t forgot her. She’s very important to us, and we want to celebrate,” parade organizer JJ Towler said.

James started the Sunday school program at the church in 1946, and served the community in roles ranging from PTA president to Cub Scout leader.

“Between her work in the community and her work with the church, they all wanted to celebrate in some way,” James’ daughter, Mary Wright, said.

The COVID-19 pandemic forced the congregation to get creative with the birthday party plans for James. Church members gathered Tuesday morning in a parking lot to decorate their cars with “Happy Birthday” banners and signs. About a half mile away, James took her seat outside RoseWood Village assisted living community with a view of the street and her family safely social distancing over a fence. She watched with appreciation as members of the congregation drove by, honking their horns, and shouting well-wishes.

“I just think it’s a delightful way to celebrate when you can’t celebrate the way you want to,” Wright said.

This isn’t the first time James celebrated her birthday in a unique way. She took a hot air balloon ride when she turned 90, and her family says she expected to take another ride this year until the COVID-19 pandemic shelved those plans.

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