The parade passed by; and, the 85th birthday of a Fair Haven man with a lot of his own townie history was celebrated in a historic way.
Walter Cuje’s birthday gala made history, alright. Mid-pandemic, the popular hometown dad with deep roots in the Rumson-Fair Haven area and a well-known love of classic cars, good times and staying young at heart was surprised on Friday with a drive-by of family, friends, fans and even a police escort and firetruck.
Birthday wishers gathered at the Church of the Nativity parking lot, equipped with signs and high spirits. They paraded past Cuje’s house, giving him a wallop of a lockdown surprise while boosting his birthday psyche.
The surprise was big and spirits soared.
“Thank you all that came and all that sent their love!” Cuje’s daughter Loujeanne said. “We had a huge turnout, police escort thanks to Joe ❤ and we even had a firetruck! My father’s eyes teared up at the end and he said this was his favorite birthday!!”
If you didn’t grow up around Walter Cuje, you’d likely know him from his very cool collection of classic cars he’s been assembling “since I was born,” Loujeanne said. He’s also been an usher at Nativity forever and repairs watches and clocks. Walter worked for “the phone company” for more than 45 years and now works at John E. Day Funeral Home.
If you don’t know him from being a fixture around the towns seemingly forever, you may have become acquainted with Walter at a funeral or several. “He’s one of their senior employees that drives the hearse, greets family and friends, organizes the gatherings, etc …,” Loujeanne said. “Yes, he still drives the hearse and families all over the state at 85!”
Aside from work, he and his wife Patti are avid square dancers. His zest for life, his family and friends would tell you, is no corny dad joke. It’s quite real.
“And in my opinion he’s the best dad on the planet!” Loujeanne said.
She said he’s still beaming and talking about the birthday surprise. Now that’s some pandemic pandemonium of the good kind.
Happy 85th Birthday Walter Cuje!
Take a look at the photos by Loujeanne Cuje and send your birthday wishes …