One cherished Oro Valley resident experienced a birthday surprise he will never forget when family, friends and strangers came together to organize a heartwarming drive-by parade outside his home.

George DeGregorio, a World War II Navy veteran, celebrated his 98th birthday on a memorable Saturday, overwhelmed with joy at the thoughtfulness of those around him.

“Did you have any idea what was going on?” I asked him.

“I knew something was happening when I sat outside, but I never expected this,” DeGregorio said.

While the day ended with a surprise celebration, he shared that it had started with a margarita. When asked if he’d have another before the night’s end, he said, “I don’t know if I can last through another,” as laughter erupt in the room filled with family.

Affectionately known as “Mr. George” in town, he was moved by the outpouring of love from everyone who came together to make Saturday a special day.

“I really can’t believe it. My caregivers and my family have just been so fantastic,” he said. “I can’t believe all this.”

Mr. George’s remarkable life journey includes serving as the principal for the first graduating class at Canyon Del Oro High School, earning a doctorate in education from the University of Arizona and teaching at Pima Community College.

Amanda Stinnette, a family friend who organized the parade led by the Golder Ranch Fire Department, expressed her excitement prior to the surprise, saying, “He’s very well known in the Amphi school district, he’s amazing, and I’m so excited to see what turns out from this.”

For Mr. George, this 98th birthday will undoubtedly be one he will always remember.

“I think the real meaning in life is having a loving and caring family and friends. I think that’s what it’s all about, friends and family,” he reflected.