Virus doesn’t stop party for 90-year-old; drive-through event held to celebrate patriarch’s birthday
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Virus doesn’t stop party for 90-year-old; drive-through event held to celebrate patriarch’s birthday

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Social distancing has changed how we all interact with our friends and families, leading everyone to find creative work-arounds to make sure they still keep in touch with the ones they love.

One family recently held a special birthday celebration for the head of their family.

Rut Thomas of Cope turned 90 this year.

With such a momentous milestone, the family had already been planning on celebrating but had to quickly rethink and adjust their plans to fit the new standards.

Amanda Rice, one of Thomas’ daughters, said she and her siblings had discussed new ideas.

“We were trying to think and my brother said, ‘What about a drive through?’” Rice said.

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At first, Rice laughed, saying, “I thought he was just making a joke,” but it didn’t take long for her and everyone to go, “Yeah, let’s do it!”

They quickly got on their phones making calls and began sending invites through Facebook Messenger to all the family and friends they had made over the years.

As a retired member of the Orangeburg County Voter Registration and Election Commission, serving for 35 years, Thomas is a well-known member of the community.

Rice said even at 90, Thomas is still serving as the Edisto Hunting Club’s president.

Additionally, he has been a lifelong dairy farmer

On the day of the party, his family members led him outside to sit in a golf cart parked along the side of the dirt road that runs through their land.

One by one, the party-goers stayed in their cars and followed the procession along the road, rolling their windows down at Thomas’ golf cart to deliver their happy birthday wishes.

“We had about 50 cars,” Rice said. “We had over 100 people come through.”

Among that number was Orangeburg County Sheriff Leroy Ravenell, Randy Culler with the sheriff’s office, former county elections director Earl Whalen, a fire truck from Canaan out near Cope, other volunteer fire departments and even a couple of golf carts.

Thomas also saw various church members, grandchildren and signs decorated for his birthday.

“I still get emotional thinking of the people that came,” Rice said. “It was a tribute to him.”

Thomas said seeing all of his friends was important during this time.

“People just rode by because of the situation we’re in now,” he said. “You can’t do much.”

“I didn’t know I was that well known,” he laughed.

Reflecting on the day, Thomas simply said, “It was great.”

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Rice said the party goers enjoyed themselves as well and just were glad to be able to celebrate Thomas in some way this year.

“It was a happy time and we needed it,” Rice said.

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