SYOSSET, NY — As the new coronavirus crisis forces Long Island nursing homes to crack down on visitors and enforce strict social distancing, Kim Rampanelli and her daughter, Nicole Rampanelli, 18, refused to let that stop them from celebrating the birthday of a beloved member of the community.
On Friday, Gus Scutari, turned 99 at Cold Springs Hills Nursing & Rehab in Woodbury. If his name sounds familiar, it should. As a member of the New York Senate’s “Veterans Hall of Fame,” Scatari is unapologetically patriotic. During WWII, he was just 24 years old when a kamikaze plane struck his ship and instantly killed 14 of his closest comrades. From that day on, he’s never taken life for granted and has remained an important fixture in Syosset.
“It was so important for my daughter and I to wish Gus a happy birthday because he was turning 99 years old. He is also a legend in our town of Syosset,” Kim told Patch. “We have had a strong relationship with him for the past 10 years at the Memorial Day parade where my daughter sings.”
According to Kim, over the years, he’s become somewhat of a fan of her daughter, who’s been singing at local town events for a little more than a decade. His favorite tunes? Anything to do with the USA, of course.
“When he calls us, he always asks Nicole to sing the national anthem and ‘God Bless America,'” she said.
With the coronavirus crisis forcing many people to cancel events or celebrate huge milestones in nontraditional ways, Scutari’s birthday was no exception. On Friday, he spent his birthday with his wife and nurses. A brick wall may have separated them, but Kim and her daughter also joined the celebration from outside his nursing home window.
“I called the Cold Springs Hills Nursing & Rehab and spoke to a nurse on his floor, the Sagamore floor, which was the floor my grandma was also on,” she said. “I proceeded to tell the nurse, we were in the parking lot and wanted to sing ‘Happy Birthday’ to him.”
The mother and daughter celebrated Scutari’s big day the best way they knew how under the circumstances. From outside his room, the two held up a large sign that read ‘Happy 99th Birthday, Gus’ while loudly singing to him.
“When he started waving the American flag, I lost it,” Kim said. “At least, we know this birthday message will and has brightened his day and his wife’s. God Bless America.”
“When you see a man or woman in military, especially next month as we approach Memorial Day, try to salute them and thank them for fighting for our country,” added Kim’s daughter, Nicole.
The celebration didn’t stop there. According to Kim, she and her daughter delivered 50 pretzels to the nurses on Scutari’s floor as a way of saying ‘thank you’ for the long hours they’ve been working to care for the elderly during the coronavirus outbreak.
To keep up to date with coronavirus developments in New York, sign up for Patch news alerts and newsletter.