Frankly, anyone who reaches her 104th birthday probably deserves a parade regardless. But during a state-of-emergency and pandemic, it also seemed the best option to celebrate Vinnette Fowler’s milestone.

Sunshine glistened over foil balloons and party hats on Saturday, May 2, as Fowler’s friends and neighbors gave her a “drive-by” birthday party in South Bethany. About a dozen vehicles drove, honking and passengers singing, past her house, including vehicles from  the South Bethany Police Department and Bethany Beach Volunteer Fire Company.

“It’s a beautiful day, isn’t it?” Fowler said. “It is so wonderful. It’s a wonderful place to live, with wonderful people. No wonder I’ve lived to such an age.”

Fowler waved from her porch, seated with two caregivers, Sabie Carey and Margueritte Bailey.

In a loose crowd standing around her house, her friends, neighbors and church family sang “Happy Birthday.” Most people wore masks. But guests were overjoyed to see her, and several took turns to give their love, clasp her hand or even take a few dance steps with her.

“Don’t take any chances,” she warned, “But it’s so good to see you!”

She gave heartfelt thanks to all the guests, from her priest to a few local legislators.

“Everybody is here. Father is here, newspaper lady is here. … Thank you, everybody. It’s been so beautiful.”

Fowler was featured in the Coastal Point in 2018, when she was meeting one of her youngest great-great-grandbabies for the first time. Fowler’s family tree branches out from her own four children to about 60 various grandkids of all ages.

At that time, her family described her as a social butterfly who loves having company.

Most of her family were unable to attend the birthday parade, due to state-of-emergency restrictions and the COVID-19 health restrictions. But grandchildren aplenty watched online through live cellphone video.

“I hope I have this many friends when I’m 104,” said a family friend.

Staff Reporter

A staff member for 10 years, through mid-2021, Laura Walter is an award-winning reporter on schools, environment and more. An IRHS and Washington College alum, she has rappelled, assisted a magician, and encourages readers to act on local issues.