MONTVILLE, NJ – Easter was very different for many families this year, with church masses cancelled across the township – and the nation – the annual Recreation Department egg hunt cancelled, and family gatherings not allowed due to social distancing rules. But long-time Montville resident Jerry Vella wanted to put a smile on families’ faces no matter what.

Vella, who has lived in Montville for more than 50 years, owns a replica of a 1927 Mercedes convertible car, and can often be seen driving around town in the vintage-looking automobile accompanied by a humongous stuffed Shrek. At Christmastime, there are presents in the passenger seat. But for Easter, he decided to drive around town with Shrek, a ten-foot teddy bear, and the Easter Bunny.

“It was safe, though, because Shrek was wearing his mask,” Vella told TAPinto Montville with a laugh.

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The 80-year-old Vella cruised somewhere in the vicinity of 80 of the township’s streets or more with his “buddies” over the course of four days, each trip taking about three hours – and that doesn’t take into account the mileage of roads like Pinebrook and Taylortown. At one point the car, built in 1977, overheated and he had to pull over to let it cool down. Vella said he gets a kick out of putting a smile on the kids’ faces – and the parents’ too.

“Usually I bring little stuffed bunnies to Easter mass to hand out to the kids, and I missed doing that this year,” he said. In December, Vella also plays Santa Claus at the St. Pius X Santa Claus brunch and other charity events, and brings presents to many families around town.

Parents across town were thrilled with Vella’s visits and so were their kids.

“That was awesome!” Krissy Weiss wrote on social media. “Thank you so much! My daughter was crying because she thought she missed you, but your u-turn thrilled her!! I think the lady walking on the street loved it even more!! So glad we caught you.”

“My son is three and he was so excited!!!!” Carrie Glattman wrote. “It made his day! My son loved seeing the car and the bunny!!!! So sweet of you to do this for our community! You made his day!!!!! Thank you so much! Happy Easter! God bless!”

“People like you are what make this community wonderful!” Nandita Bery enthused.

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