Like many car enthusiasts who call Avon home, Rupert Smith rarely misses the local cruise-in held during the warmer months at the Lowe’s parking lot. It’s become a popular Saturday hangout aimed at honoring local vets, just like Smith, a WW2 veteran better known in the community as “Smitty.”
Smitty didn’t drive to Sept. 1 cruise-in, however. He recently turned 100-years-old, but that’s not why. In fact, his license is good until he’s 102. He was offered a ride as part of a surprise birthday celebration set up by cruise-In founders, Bob Hale, his son Bobby and his wife, Karen.
“I got in touch with the honor flight crew and learned that our local hero, Smitty, who is out here every week, is going to turn 100-years-old this month,” Bobby Hale said. “We started planning something at the start of the season and tried to keep it under wraps. Had he [Smith] known, he would have said no.”
Hundreds of residents gathered early for the party, unbeknownst to Smitty who soon found himself as part of a police and fire escort convoying down Hwy 36.
“I can’t believe it,” Smitty said after he arrived. “I figured there may have been a party or something but I didn’t know it was going to be this big. I didn’t know what to say.”
Dozens of party guests lined up to shake Smitty’s hand. A few guests even presented Smitty with an American Flag bearing 48 stars, folded and accompanied with a firm salute.
“He’s a local hero and that’s the type of person we want to do this for, people like him,” Bobby Hale said.
Since the Hales started the cruise-in event in summer 2017, it has raised over $10,000 for Indy Honor Flights.
The 2018 Avon Summer Cruise-In will continue through Sept. 29. There is no cost to attend the event which meets every Saturday (weather permitting), 6-9 p.m., in the Lowe’s Home Improvement parking lot in Avon, 7893 E US Hwy 36. All proceeds benefit Indy Honor Flights. For more information or to see videos of past cruise-in events, visit facebook.com/avonsummercruisein.
By Chris Cornwall