It isn’t every day that a Hellertown resident turns 100, and it’s certainly a special occasion when the centenarian is able to celebrate that achievement with a surprise party organized by family, friends and neighbors.
That was the case on Saturday, when Hellertonian and soon-to-be-centenarian Meryl “Jack” Reiss was surprised with a drive-by procession of firetrucks and borough police vehicles.
The well-timed salute by local first responders was what alerted Reiss that something was up, and he ventured outside to witness what was just the start of his birthday surprise.
Outside his home of more than 60 years, Reiss was joined by his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren just as a SUV driven by Mayor David Heintzelman arrived.
“Are we gonna go for 200?” Heintzelman asked Reiss jokingly, before telling him, “today is your day,” and noting that “the love of his life, Pearl” was with him in spirit.
The mayor then presented the World War II veteran and former Bethlehem Steel worker with a proclamation in which he declared Feb. 24–Reiss’s birthday–Meryl John “Jack” Reiss Day in Hellertown.
Reiss’s pastor, Rev. Phil Spohn of Christ Lutheran Church in Hellertown, was also present to lead the gathering in a prayer of gratitude for his parishioner’s good health.
Reiss has been a member of Christ Lutheran since before the current church was built in 1969, with Heintzelman noting in his proclamation that he attended services at the former church, which is now the Saucon Valley Community Center.
Spohn also presented Reiss with a gift box containing more than 100 birthday cards sent to him by members of the community who participated in a “card shower” that Saucon Source recently helped publicize.
“Hey, I did a little research, Jack and when you were born in 1922 do you know what gas cost?” Spohn asked him.
“Yeah, two cents,” Reiss joked.
The actual price of a gallon of gas 100 years ago was 25 cents a gallon, Spohn said, and the hourly wage at that time was just 67 cents an hour; a pay rate Reiss said was more than what the “forty-two-and-a-half cents an hour” he earned years later when he began working at Bethlehem Steel.
“So you’ve seen a lot of changes,” Spohn told him.
Following the presentation of the cards, Reiss posed for a photo with his family, who planned to take him to a celebratory birthday luncheon.
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