This Ontario veteran couldn't celebrate his 105th birthday — so he got a parade instead

Residents in Fort Erie, Ont., hosted a mini-parade to celebrate the Burdett Sisler’s 105th birthday during the COVID-19 pandemic.

'They made me feel like the Queen of England'

Burdett Sisler’s 105th birthday came in the middle of a pandemic, but it didn't stop him and his family from celebrating. Dozens of vehicles drove by his home in Fort Erie, Ont., to wish him a happy birthday. (Submitted by Norm and Matt Sisler)

Burdett Sisler's plans to celebrate his 105th birthday with friends and family at a house party came to a halt because of COVID-19 — but when Sisler looked out of his window on April 14, his son rode by in a fire truck, sirens blaring, followed by a line of other cars honking their horns and dragging tin cans.

"I was standing on my front veranda, I looked up the street and they were lined up as far as I could see, two blocks, cars pulling down the street," Sisler told CBC News.

"They made me feel like the Queen of England," Sisler told CBC News.

Roughly 50 to 70 cars joined in on the mini-parade in Fort Erie, Ont., with their windows rolled down, hollering "Happy Birthday!"

Sisler's 70-year-old son, Norm, rode the fire engine and was one of the main orchestrators of the birthday celebration.

"He likes the limelight, he sucks that up good and I don't blame him, he's been here for a long time," Norm said.

"It's usually pretty quiet but his street was full."

Neighbours and others in Fort Erie, Ont., drove by Burdett Sisler’s home to celebrate his 105th birthday. (Submitted by Norm and Matt Sisler)

Sisler was born in Akron, Ohio on April 14, 1915 before moving to Etobicoke, Ont., at age three — the same year the Spanish Flu hit.

After serving in the Second World War, Sisler moved to Fort Erie and he's lived there ever since, working a number of jobs including 30 years with Canada Border Services Agency.

His family includes five children, 11 grandchildren, 19 great-grandchildren and nine great-great-grandchildren. His wife, Mae, passed away in 1985.

Burdett Sisler is one of Canada's oldest Second World War veterans. In this picture from two years ago, he stood on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Ont. (Submitted by Norm and Matt Sisler)

They all were worried for him when he was in the hospital just a few months ago.

Sisler was dealing with pneumonia before being released in March, just before the novel coronavirus began rapidly spreading in Canada.

A nurse checks on Sisler every few days, but he still lives on his own and when family do see him, they wear masks.

Burdett Sisler moved to Fort Erie after serving in the Second World War. He said this birthday was one of the best ever. (Submitted by Norm and Matt Sisler)

He said this birthday is one of the best he's ever had, but is already thinking about the next milestone.

"I'd like to stop at a good number like 105 or 110," Sisler said.


Bobby Hristova is a journalist with CBC Hamilton. He reports on all issues, but has a knack for stories that hold people accountable, stories that focus on social issues and investigative journalism. He previously worked for the National Post and CityNews in Toronto. You can contact him at bobby.hristova@cbc.ca.