For weeks, Vinnie Rominger, a graduate of Lakeview High School,  had driven down Riverside Drive, in Battle Creek, noticing an elderly man in a wheelchair, regularly sitting in his driveway, waving at passing traffic. Vinnie would “honk” and wave back, but after a day’s work, would continue on home. Just the other day, this would all change.

Vinnie saw George sitting in his drive, waving and smiling. Rominger pulled into the drive and began an hour-long conversation that revealed more about George’s world. George would be turning 100-years-old in the next few days.

Rominger sensed that George didn’t get out much anymore and didn’t have much opportunity to visit and meet with new folks. His daily interaction, with drivers along Riverside Drive, was the highlight of his social calendar. George mentioned that a lot of folks drive by and wave, but never stop. He also revealed that on September 9th, he turns 100-years-old.

Being a major event in one’s life, Vinnie asked George want he wanted on his birthday. George politely replied, “It would be nice if people just drove by and honked and waved.”

After 100-years of celebrations, just a simple act of kindness, between other people, would make his day. It was this interaction, with George, that made Vinnie realize how important it is to “slow-down in life and step out of your normal routine. Maybe say hi to someone you see often but don’t ever interact with. A small act of kindness can often change people’s days, weeks, or even lives.”

Rominger decided to post about the meeting on his Facebook page and the hundreds of responses have revealed more about George.

For instance:

  • His name is George Wentz.
  • He is a lifetime volunteer with the American Red Cross.
  • He is a woodworker and makes wooden cars for kids.
  • He used to dog-sit for the neighbors.
  • He used to attend a local church, years-ago.
  • His wife Phyllis was a sweet lady.
  • A family met him at Steak n’ Shake. He gave their son a couple of wooden toys.
  • Another person posted he is “a kind and amazing person with such an extraordinary heart. I still have one of the wooden toys that you made back in 2016.”
  • Another posting..“He makes wonderful cookies and the cutest cars for all the kiddos.”
  • and… “Happy Birthday George!! My girls still have the wooden toys you made and gave them at Steak and Shake a few years back.”
  • “I've known George for over 30 years through the Red Cross blood drives in BC and Marshall. He is truly a bright light. Happy 100th to you, George!!”
Photo: Bruce Milnes

Vinnie has a suggestion, in his Facebook posting, to anybody who is passing through Battle Creek on George’s birthday, “So, if you happen to be driving down Riverside Drive, between Columbia and Golden on Wednesday, Sept. 9th and see George sitting in his wheelchair, honk, wave, and wish him a happy birthday! I know it would mean the world to him."

After reading the hundreds of comments and seeing over 1.6K shares, on Vinnie’s posting, it appears that Riverside Drive should be rather busy on George’s special day.