Weeks after losing son to virus, WWII vet, 97, gets surprise drive-by birthday


Robert Coleman turned 97 over the weekend

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Two weeks after losing his son to COVID-19, a 97-year-old Washougal man got an uplifting birthday surprise without ever leaving his home. Robert Coleman’s friends and family put together a drive-by party to honor him.

Robert’s son Steven died from the coronavirus on March 25 in Boise.

Robert Coleman’s son, Steven, who died at the age of 64 from the coronavirus. (Courtesy Coleman Family)

“He was so healthy — nothing wrong with him,” said Steven’s sister, Susan. “The doctors were optimistic that he would make it.”

Steven was driving from a job in southern California to visit his parents in Washougal, but suddenly got sick and stopped in Boise where his son lives.

“Saturday evening my mom and I, we had been talking with him and he said, ‘I have to go, I’m not feeling well,'” recounted Susan. “I said, ‘Dad wants to talk,’ he said, ‘I can’t right now, I’ll talk to him later.'”

He never got the chance. Steven died five days after showing symptoms. His parents have had to mourn the loss of their son in isolation on their rural Washougal property.

In the wake of the sudden tragedy, last Saturday, friends and family put together a special drive-by party to honor Robert on his 97th birthday. The proud World War II veteran who retrofitted B-24 bombers into tankers to get fuel to General Patton on the front lines was deeply touched. Members of his local American Legion Hall also joined in the celebration.

World War II veteran Robert Coleman

“You know, it’s not every day a guy gets to be 97,” said Robert. “I had no idea. I looked out here, and here we had a string of cars.”

The Colemans said their strong faith in God has been helping them get through the tragic loss of their son. When asked how he would compare the current crisis to other points in his life, including WWII, Robert said this was only a bump in the road.

Robert’s daughter, Karen, who lives in West Virginia, is now staying with her parents after their in-home care person could no longer work because of the coronavirus pandemic.

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