BRICK – Frank Spital said he couldn’t understand why everyone was making such a fuss about his birthday, but said he felt “humbled and overwhelmed” by a huge drive-by held for the World War II veteran, who turned 100 on September 1.
Family members came from as far away as Colorado to attend the drive-by, which took place in front of Town Hall. A roadside tent had been set up and decorated for the occasion.
Originally planned as a smaller drive-by in front of his Lake Riviera home, it evolved into something much bigger as hundreds of motorcycles, classic cars, new cars, emergency vehicles, military vehicles and more drove past Spital and his family. There was even a military jeep with a mounted machine gun.
Vehicles staged at the Ocean Ice Palace at noon, and the parade started at 12:45. Many of the vehicles were decorated. Some had banners that said “Happy Birthday Frank,” and most of the drivers had their windows open so they could shout out birthday greetings to Spital.
“My stomach is curling,” Spital said just before the drive-by. “I’m putting on a calm act. I can’t get over all the people that are here.”
Some 25 family members surrounded him, some dressed in red, white and blue, and most waving flags.
The day was planned and organized by Brick resident Chris Lyle, who met Spital at a craft fair when he was selling some of the wooden toys he makes.
Lyle, 28, who lives in Midstreams, said he was impressed by the veteran.
“He’s just a nice guy, a World War II veteran, and I just wanted to do something nice for him, that’s all,” said Lyle, who comes from a military family.
Drafted in 1942, Spital said he “felt like any other fella…we had to go.” Most of his friends also served, he said.
He spent four years in Germany and France on a supply chain, delivering food, water, clothing and munitions to soldiers.
Born and raised in Hillside, NJ, Spital was the sixth of eight children who were raised by Ukrainian immigrants in a two-bedroom house. He is the last surviving sibling.
Aside from some hearing issues, he is in good health and rides a stationary bike every day for 30 minutes. Spital walks with a cane that he uses for balance after taking a fall once, hitting his head.
After the war, Spital got a job as a machinist with Bristol Meyers and worked there for 40 years until he retired. Bristol Meyers is also where he met his future wife, Barbara Kisner of Union.
She died in 2018 at the age of 89. The couple had been married for 52 years and had two children: Tom, who lives in Littleton, Colorado, and Leslie Riccie, his daughter with whom he lives in Lake Riviera.
“My dad’s been around for a century,” Tom said. “I just realized he went from the invention of the telephone to using an ipad and a remote for the TV.”
He said his dad has one Dewar’s scotch every day. “But just one,” he said.
Before the drive-by, Council President Vincent Minichino – accompanied by Council members Heather deJong and Art Halloran – presented the veteran with a proclamation that named September 1 Frank Spital Day.