Delano veteran Martin Avila Medrano's 102nd birthday was affected slightly by the current COVID-19 pandemic.
Instead of scores of relatives and friends shaking his hand or giving him hugs, the appreciations and well-wishes came via a drive-by vehicle parade Thursday. And the city of Delano even declared it Martin Medrano Day!
"We had family come from Wisconsin," said great-great granddaughter Angelique Ramirez. "We had one of his friends who drove up and gave him all these (handmade signs) for his birthday."
About 50 vehicles, including Delano police officers, Delano firefighters, folks on motorcycles, low-riders and huge trucks drove by to help celebrate Medrano's day, said Richard Cubeiro, Ramirez's older brother.
Local school music teacher Arnold Morrison even played "Happy Birthday" on his trumpet for Medrano.
On Friday, Medrano's porch still had those signs adorning it, along with two sets of patriotic red, white and blue balloons. Both sets had giant "102" balloons for his current age — one in silver and the other in gold.
Medrano was born Nov. 12, 1918, in the Southern California community of Pacoima. He spent the first part of his life around the San Fernando Valley area. He enlisted in the U.S. Army at 22. He served with the 1st Cavalry Division stationed in the Philippines. He was the oldest of eight siblings and outlasted each one, relatives said.
Medrano took time away from his lunch — a slice of pepperoni pizza — Friday afternoon to pose for pictures and answer a few questions. Family also brought out some photographs of him in the military. He also showed off a well-kept picture of his mom and himself as a very small child.
The old vet wore his 1st Cavalry Division uniform and moved about his front yard with the help of a walker and relatives.
He lost his wife, Eva, who died a few years back. Together they raised 13 children of their own. Then at age 70 they took on four grandkids and raised them too, Medrano said. He and Eva did realize their "travel" retirement dream, making it to the beach and other excursions, including a trip to New York.
Two years ago, Medrano’s 100th birthday celebration took place at the Delano Elks Lodge, tying in his day of birth with the nation’s observance of veterans who have served the nation.
Medrano isn't the first in his family to live to 102. "My grandmother lived to be 108," he said.
He remains young at heart, even keeping up with social media at his age —becoming a dancing partner with great-great granddaughter Ramirez on Tik Tok.
Because of his military service, Medrano's great-great grandson Juan Garcia Jr. served in the U.S. Air Force for four years and is now in the Air National Guard.