XENIA — Darryl Howard wasn’t going to let the coronavirus ruin the family matriarch’s birthday.
The Xenia native and his relatives anticipate April 19 annually as a way to stay in touch with eachother.
“We celebrate every year and we use her birthday as the family reunion,” Howard said of his grandmother and lifelong Xenia resident Janice Howard. “It’s something that we look forward to, all of us throughout the course of the year.”
But with restrictions on travel and large gatherings due to COVID-19, Howard had to come up with another plan. So like so many other activities during the pandemic, Janice’s 88th birthday became virtual.
“These days you’ve got to keep everybody safe,” Howard said.
So without her knowledge, Howard — the historian of the family — contacted his siblings and cousins and everyone recorded a 10-second clip wishing their grandmother a happy birthday. Throughout the week a series of gifts were sent to Janice. The Friday before her birthday a bouquet of flowers was sent with a “we love you and miss you” message from the grandchildren. The next day some gifts from the great-grandchildren arrived.
Then on the big day, a birthday cake with an edible photo of Janice’s children (taken the year before), and the video arrived.
“She had zero idea,” Howard said. “It turned out to be an awesome virtual celebration. Very emotional on the positive side. Everything that we wanted to do we were able to do. She had no idea.”
Howard said his grandmother was feeling a tad shy and didn’t want to comment on the unexpected celebration. But he said it was “meaningful” for everyone.
The family was also able to celebrate Janice and Donald’s 70th wedding anniversary, which took place April 12.
In all, the Howards have eight kids — five daughters and three sons — and grandchildren and great grandchildren spread out in Georgia, Tennessee, Wisconsin, Florida, Minnesota, and Ohio.
“We’re all over the country,” Howard said.
But on April 19 they were virtually all together in Xenia.
Contact Scott Halasz at 937-502-4507.