VIDEO: WWII veteran celebrates 100th birthday with Bixby Knolls community caravan

In the weeks leading up to Army veteran Philip Patterson’s 100th birthday, his family was deliberating on how to celebrate the momentous occasion. Still in the midst of a global health crisis, they knew it would be a challenge to gather friends and family and protect his health. But still, they wanted to do something special.

Inspired by the trend of drive-by caravans happening all over the city in the last three months, his granddaughter Marika Patterson decided to put out the word to the online Bixby Knolls community in hopes that the neighborhood might take interest in the celebration. Needless to say, Bixby Knolls responded.

“We were absolutely blown away,” Marika Patterson said. “We saw over 300 likes, 40 shares and 200 comments [on Facebook]. The community really came together. Almost everything you see here was donated. The fire department, the police department, the press, all celebrating in our grandfather’s life. It’s really amazing.”

Dozens of decorated cars and a firetruck rolled past the Patterson’s home on Friday, June 19. About 20 or so individuals, made up of family, friends and neighbors stood in front of Patterson’s home and sang “Happy Birthday” while Philip and his wife, Betty, observed, waving and smiling, from their porch.

After the car procession, Patterson, who fought in World War II, was awarded a quilt of valor by the Quilts of Valor Foundation, a volunteer based nonprofit dedicated to honoring veterans with one-of-a-kind, hand-sewn quilts.

Philip’s quilt featured a red, white and blue framed design with squares depicting numerous soaring eagles.

“I actually made this one,” said Esther Ferris, a member of the Quilts of Valor Foundation, “and we put a lot of love into them so we can wrap you with our love.”

Jay Patterson, Philip’s son who is an Army veteran, was also awarded a quilt of valor for his service.

Philip Wellington Patterson Jr. was born on June 19, 1920 in Phoenix, Arizona to a family that has served in almost every war since the Spanish-American War, according to his granddaughter, Marika. Philip was drafted into the war in 1942 and was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant Army Engineer in 1943. His unit specialized in bridge building, his son, Jay Patterson, said.

Philip was discharged in 1944 and settled in Long Beach where he met and married his current wife Betty. They have been married for 62 years.

“He is such a pillar in this community. He has lived in Long Beach for 75 years.” Megan Routt, Philip’s granddaughter said. “For us, getting the community together to support him in this amazing life event and accomplishment was the most important part.”

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Cheantay Jensen is an editorial intern who covers art and culture for the Hi-lo section of the Long Beach Post.
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