Surprise 90th birthday party honors veteran

March 31, 2014 by  

On March 8, nonagenarian local Thomas Bristol was surprised when a trip to Mario’s Restaurant and Pizzeria in Clifton with his daughter turned out to be an early birthday party in his honor.

Bristol remembered his 20th birthday vividly; it was March 29, 1944 and he was fighting his way out of the tail section of a B-25. Fast forward 70 years, and his surprise party was sure to have been more leisurely as 60 family members and friends helped him celebrate early.

His daughter, Beth Wajts, planned the party, with help from some local friends of her father. Bristol and Wajts, who now reside in Wyndham, N.Y., lived here from 1980 to 2009 and visit frequently.

Highlights of the party included a copy of an Army newspaper article from 1944 detailing the plane crash that almost took the WWII vet’s life. On that fateful day in 1944, his crippled plane limped back to the airfield after being hit by enemy fire and crash landed, causing the plane to burst into flames.

Bristol, the plane’s tail gunner, very nearly lost his life that day due to a jammed emergency rear hatch, but March 8 found him surrounded by friends and family and hearing his daughter read a tribute to him from Congressman Bill Pascrell Jr.

Large get-togethers like this sometime work best when announced by a flyer printing rather than trying to contact individually all the people who might like to attend.