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Golden Anniversary Features Surprise Family Parade
Married on May 16, 1970, longtime Escalon residents Pete and Edith Vander Meulen were treated to a ‘drive by’ parade of family members to mark the occasion, having had to cancel their original golden anniversary celebration. Marg Jackson/The Times

It’s hard to find anything that hasn’t been impacted by COVID-19.

The pandemic that has resulted in a virtual shutdown of the country over the past several weeks has left many events in limbo.

That was the case this past weekend, when longtime Escalon residents Pete and Edith Vander Meulen had to cancel a previously scheduled golden anniversary celebration. Married on May 16, 1970 they were planning a big bash to mark the 50-year anniversary. But the pandemic’s shelter in place order put an end to that plan.

Nonetheless, the couple was surprised on their special day by a family ‘parade’ with their grandchildren arriving at their Escalon home on the back of a restored Escalon fire truck, tooting noise makers, waving signs and shouting out congratulatory wishes.

The fire truck was driven by Ed Prins, who is Pete Vander Meulen’s brother-in-law. It is a 1953 GMC Van Pelt fire truck, which was built in Oakdale and purchased from Escalon Fire Department when they retired the truck.

Saturday’s anniversary celebration was a family only event, with the Vander Meulen’s children, grandchildren, siblings and other close family members stopping by. Those in the parade of vehicles had also picked up a catered dinner – prepared by Copper Spur BBQ out of Denair – at a pre-arranged location prior to the caravan leaving to follow the fire truck and the group was able to eat together in a large backyard with ample room for social distancing protocols to be followed.

Though it may not have been the party they originally planned, it certainly is one they won’t soon forget.

“We went to school together,” Pete said of he and his bride of 50 years. “She was the first girl I ever went out with.”

Though there were a few other girls he dated after that, he said he came back to the right one.

They have lived in the community their entire married life, with three children and now 10 grandchildren.

“I had a hunch,” Edith admitted of feeling something might have been in the works. “I told my daughter we were going to go for a long ride Saturday and she was a little disappointed; so we decided to stay home.”

That way, they were there when the caravan arrived, honking horns and shouting their ‘Happy Anniversary’ wishes.

Edith’s sister, Linda Van Tol was in attendance; she served as maid of honor at the wedding in 1970. Also able to attend was Bill Vander Meulen, who was supposed to be the original best man.

“He was serving his country in Vietnam, so my next youngest brother, John, stood in,” Pete explained.

As for the impromptu celebration? Pete said it definitely brought a smile.

“What a treat,” he said.

Joining in with their grandchildren for the family only photo opportunity, Pete and Edith Vander Meulen celebrated 50 years of marriage on Saturday, May 16; their grandchildren arrived on a restored Escalon fire engine, with anniversary signs and well wishes. Marg Jackson/The Times