MONTVILLE, NJ – When a 90-year-old Montville resident and Army veteran had his birthday during these times of social distancing, township residents knew that such a milestone had to be applauded and celebrated in a special way.
Bob Cottrell celebrated his birthday on April 11 in the way that has become the norm for the past month or so due to safety measures for his advanced age – his children and grandchildren waved and held up signs and sang happy birthday – which his daughter, Linda Spinella said he loved. But when she put the pictures on social media to show how they were celebrating his birthday – she, especially, couldn’t go near him because she is recovering from the Coronavirus – her friend Sheryl Cafferata thought that it was time to go the distance for this man.
Cafferata made some phone calls – she has known Cottrell for a very long time – and soon Mayor Frank Cooney and the Montville Township Police Department were “in,” along with her son’s company truck, a vintage Army truck, seven people on motorcycles, and four vehicles – all honking their horns, flashing their lights, and the police cars used their sirens.
Spinella said her father has had a very rough life. He grew up in Manhattan to parents who were separated; he had a brother and a twin brother. On one trip when his father, with whom the three boys lived, sent the boys to visit their single mom in Lincoln Park, they brought a note which said they were to simply never come back to Manhattan. They had very little money and lived in a shack with no indoor toilet. Cottrell did his homework by hurricane lamp and had to work from the time he was 10, Spinella said. He attended Bloomfield Technical School where he earned straight A’s and was the head of his class. He was drafted into the Army and served for just under two years.
“My father served on the front line in the Korean War,” Spinella said. “He was in the 25th Division, 27th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Battalion as a sergeant. He had a very dangerous job probing for land mines.”
After the Army, he became a carpenter and he built the house he still lives in today; the family moved into it in 1964.
Spinella said she was amazed that the parade was put together in just hours and she was really touched that Mayor Cooney – with whom she went to high school – participated.
She said that when she told her father that “even the mayor participated,” her father wanted to know how Cooney knew it was his birthday, she said with a laugh. “Of course we explained it to him,” she said. “He was happy we fussed over him. This is one of the nicest things anyone has ever done for him!”
According to the Cafferatas, parade participants included:
Sheryl Cafferata – Montville; Dan Tadesco - Tadesco Contracting, Inc – Parsippany; Mark Miller - Staff Sergeant NJ Army National Guard/Commander VFW post 10184 Parsippany; Danny Weber – Parsippany; Reina Wardlow – Parsippany; Matt Ziegler- 1968 Army Ambulance – Towaco; Judy Errichetti - Mountain Lakes; Connor Jenkins – Rockaway; Terry Cavanaugh, Towaco; Debbie, Michael (Sr.), Ptl. Michael (Jr.), Ptl. Daniel and Kyle Cooney, Towaco; and Cheryl Cavanaugh, Towaco.
See Spinella’s video of the parade here:
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