Gabriel Van De Wiele celebrated his 100th birthday Saturday afternoon in his Tillsonburg driveway as dozens of friends, family and well-wishers drove by his home displaying birthday signs, waving, and honking car horns.
“Thank you. Thank you,” was Van De Wiele’s heartfelt response each time, although some well-wishers may not have heard him from the street. There were also a few “holy smokes” as more and more cars and trucks – many of them classics – drove by. Most of the vehicles made several trips around the block, wishing him a happy birthday each time around.
Accompanied by his daughter Yvonne Van De Wiele-Cooper and son-in-law Allan from Brantford, ‘Gabe’ stood next to his 100th birthday balloons, supplied by his nephew Richard Van De Wiele.
“One hundred today,” said Gabe, who has lived in Canada for about about 92 years, coming here from Belgium when he was eight. Fifty of those years have been in Tillsonburg after semi-retiring as a tobacco farmer from the Alymer-Malahide area, then full retirement.