Lake County celebrates World War II veteran Charles Kelley's 103rd birthday

LAKE COUNTY, Ill. (WLS) -- The line of vehicles seemed endless, which may be appropriate for a man who has cheated death several times in his storied military career.

It was Charles Kelley' s 103rd birthday Thursday.

The Lake County community celebrated just about the only way they can in this pandemic age, with a drive-by salute.

"It's quite a surprise, but I'm so happy," Kelley said.

Hislife story is the stuff of legend around Lake County, and word of the drive-by spread quickly. Everyone wanted to get involved with the celebration.

"Huge inspiration to all of us and we were all honored to take part and work on this," said Andrew Tangan, with the Veterans Assistance Commission.

Lake County is a patriotic community with a large population of veterans, and citizens grateful for their sacrifices.

Allen Lynch served in the army and was awarded the Medal of Honor.

"This is our Memorial Day parade right here. This is what America is all about," said Lynch.

The parade included plenty of emergency vehicles and motorcycles, but no marching bands or floats- except one with a big birthday cake driven by Julie Gonka.

"A Pearl Harbor survivor, Memorial Day ...103 years old. It gives me chills. It's just amazing. I want to celebrate this man," said Gonka.

Kelly not only survived Pearl Harbor, but also later the battle of Guadalcanal, where his ship was sunk by a torpedo and he clung to a life raft for three days in the ocean before being rescued.

"I was lucky. I just started hallucinating, but eventually they came in a boat and picked me up," said Kelley.

After leaving Kelley's home the parade also drove by the homes of two other World War II veterans who live down the street, making a truly memorable Memorial Day weekend.
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