Surprise drive-by 70th birthday celebration a milestone event for Camden man, despite pandemic

Wed, 05/20/2020 - 10:45am

    CAMDEN – Many are slowly emerging after over two months in quarantine, and stories of how citizens coped during this pandemic, including experiencing new and creative ways of celebrating special occasions, are still being shared.

    Gordie Guist, of Camden, who has been battling Parkinson’s Disease for more than 20 years, thought he would be spending a quiet birthday celebration inside his home, while following the strict quarantine guidelines since he is more vulnerable for contacting the virus.

    Sunday, April 19, was Gordie’s 70th birthday, definitely a milestone celebration.

    Gordie said that practicing social distancing while being quarantined was difficult for him.

    He said he was bored, although accompanying his wife, Robin, on errands and stops at the P.A.W.S. dog park in Rockport with their yellow lab, Blyss, helped a bit.

    Robin had planned a birthday dinner of lobsters and angel food cake, but it was going to be just the two of them at the dinner table.

    At least that is what Gordie thought was the game plan.

    But, a group of ladies who have been meeting almost daily at the dog park, where Robin and Gordie have been going for over three years since Blyss joined their family, concocted a surprise plan for a drive-by birthday party.

    The women, who call themselves the “dog park divas” also had previously named Gordie as their “honorary king diva.”

    Now they were determined to make his 70th birthday something special.

    The “divas” include Robin, Evelyn Lowe, Apryl Grindle-Jenner, Mariah Klapatch, Elizabeth Yarrow, and Julie Clement.

    The group, who have become close friends, also gather for dinner and good times besides their outings at the dog park.

    Lowe has a French Bulldog, Louise, who comes to the park sporting handmade dresses made by her mom. She said that Gordie “is a special nice guy and is also wicked funny.”

    “He’s a token male with the ‘divas’ and fits right in and doesn’t mind if we tease him a lot,” she added.

    Clement said they wanted to recognize Gordie’s special birthday since he has contributed a lot of his time and talent to the community.

    Gordie has volunteered with the Camden Food and Pet Pantries, was a founding member and is still active in the Parkinson’s Disease support group at Quarry Hill, participates in the Pedaling for Parkinson’s program at the Penobscot YMCA, and was formerly an EMT with the former Camden First Aid Association and a volunteer firefighter.

    The divas put their event planning skills in gear and put the word out on Facebook. Since Gordie is not a member of the social media outlet, the details were kept a secret.

    On Sunday, April 19, a caravan of 30 cars, with many of Gordie’s canine buddies sitting inside, gathered and lined up at the former Camden Tannery parking lot, before heading to Pleasant Ridge Drive.

    There was quite an eclectic group of well-wishers assembled for the drive-by, including two funeral directors, state archivist, painter, author, accountant, caregiver, retired teacher, philanthropist, bookkepper, minister, nurse, and a former business owner.

    Robin said it was one of the first warm spring days, so she was able to get Gordie outside for some fresh air and in position in front of their house to view the surprise parade.

    There was a lot of noise, so many of their neighbors came out of their homes to join the celebration, as well.

    Well-wishers stopped their cars, and left gifts and cards in the mailbox.

    Gordie, who is known for his quick wit, said after witnessing the long caravan that, “I didn’t think I had that many friends.”

    “My birthday parade was bigger than the Camden Memorial Day parade,” he chuckled.

    “It was a fabulous birthday parade and we both can’t thank everyone enough for making his day so special,” Robin said. “After the dust settled Gordie said wow.”

    “The afternoon was a reminder of what a great place we live in,” Clement added.

    Sarah Shepherd can be reached at