MENTOR, Ohio (AP) — Doris Vehar heads to the tree lawn to take her trash can into the garage when the burly garbage collector jumps from his truck and heads her way.
“Happy birthday!” he yells with a big grin, closing the snowy gap between them in two long strides.
“How did you know it was my birthday?” the 88-year-old grandmother asks, a bit startled.
“I saw the video on Facebook!” he laughs. Vehar shakes her head, and the two chat about the weird day full of strangers wishing her well.
As the garbage truck pulls away, Vehar spots neighbor Kathy Latino and her dog, Ellie. Vehar watches Ellie pull Latino across the front lawn, and the three enter Vehar’s neat home, just a block from Fairfax Elementary.
“The rubbish man just stopped to wish me happy birthday,” Vehar tells Latino. “Look what you’ve started!”
Two days earlier, Latino was on her daily walk with Ellie when school bus 46 pulled down their street. As always, Vehar was outside, at the end of her driveway, to greet the students with waves and air kisses.
Only this time, the bus stopped, and all the children leaned out the windows and sang happy birthday to the woman they call “grandma.” Latino pulled out her cellphone and shot a video of the heartwarming moment, and posted it on Facebook.
Since then, some of the love the energetic widow gives the world has been returning to her, via telephone calls, birthday cards, even visits from the media. The video has been viewed hundreds of thousands of times.
“This is like a beautiful dream,” says Vehar as she sits at her kitchen table and feeds Ellie from a bowl of dog treats she keeps at the ready. “Five years ago, I started to go outside and wave to the bus because my granddaughter was riding it. She graduated to Memorial Middle School, but I still went out every day to greet those kids. I loved every last one of them. But this year, there is something about this bus. I don’t know what it is, it just got to me. They are so lovable.”
Vehar stops mid-thought. “Here it is!” she shouts, hearing the bus’ rumble from more than a block away. She dashes out the door and nearly sprints to the end of her driveway.
The students have already pushed the windows open and are waving and shouting, “Hi, grandma!”
Once again, bus driver Stacey Wolfe brings the bus to a stop, and throws open the doors. Vehar climbs aboard and is swarmed by students, wrapping the willowy woman in their arms and allowing Vehar to give them each a kiss to thank them for making her birthday week so special.
Vehar makes the visit a quick one, but stops to give Wolfe a big hug before climbing back down the steps of the bus.
Both Vehar and the students wave and shout their goodbyes, and Vehar’s eyes fill with tears.
“I kissed everyone on that bus,” she said, smiling and weeping. “Every one. My best wish. It was my best wish in the 17 years since my husband has been gone. I got to hug them all.”
Information from: The Plain Dealer, http://www.cleveland.com