They flocked together Sunday from throughout their close-knit Walnut Grove community – they came to sing happy birthday to their friend, their neighbour, and terminally ill retired fire captain Randy Piticco.
They gathered, unbeknownst to Piticco, on his front lawn to give him one of the most powerful and special birthday presents he could ever have hoped for, said Piticco’s wife Marilyn.
They came together to show how much this man meant to each of them. And that outpouring alone has proved overwhelming for the Langley couple.
“We can’t believe all the people who are writing and talking about him, and sharing this post. They’re thanking him… even complete strangers. And all these people, they’re sending him best wishes. They’re calling him a hero… and he deserves it. It’s just amazing,” Marilyn said. “It’s quite a gift.”
The concept began Saturday afternoon, while Marilyn was out for a walk.
Randy had been diagnosed with cancer on the couple’s 20th wedding anniversary, back on July 24. He’d been unwell for more than a year before an MRI and CT scans discovered cancerous growths on his spine, in his bones and lung.
“We knew it was cancer… but we were going to beat it,” Marilyn said, explaining their outlook prior to July’s diagnosis, when they learned the lung cancer had metastasized. He’s since started an intense regime of chemotherapy treatments, and is waiting on word and hoping that the medication has put his cancer in check.
In the midst of his treatments, Randy was not feeling well and prone to becoming violently ill.
Marilyn said she had been racking her brain for weeks, trying to figure out something special to give Randy for his 61st birthday. She couldn’t plan a birthday party for him. She couldn’t take him out. There wasn’t really any physical possessions that he needed or wanted.
As she walked through her neighbourhood the afternoon before his birthday, she reflected on how fortunate they were to have so many great and loving friends and families – near and far.
Suddenly, the idea hit.
She began knocking on her neighbours’ doors, and texting out to those a little farther afield, asking their friends and family to join her at 2:30 p.m. on Sunday to sing her hubby happy birthday and share in a little birthday cake.
She expected, at max, she’d have a dozen people turn up – especially given the short notice.
Turns out more than 50 people came together, making for one of the most touching, inspiring, and meaningful moments of Randy’s life, Marilyn told the Langley Advance.
“He was just beaming,” she said, noting that her son-in-law and several of his fellow firefighters from the nearby Walnut Grove firehall even showed up and help Randy get out of the house onto the front lawn where he could thank the impromptu guests.
“It was so amazing… the outpouring,” Marilyn said. People were there thanking him for all his years of service as a firefighter and all the things he’d done – big and small – for friends and family.
“The last few days, he’s been so good. It’s like he’s been recharged,” Marilyn said.
In addition to the outpouring of support and kindness that was displayed Sunday, the video has spawned an entirely new wave of compassion the couple could never have expected.
The video was made by 22-year-old Meaghan Gipps. She grew up across the street from the Piticco family much of her life, and recounted all the help Randy had given here on large and small undertakings through the years. “He’s always been there for me,” Gipps said, noting she was more than happy to help when asked to take a few photos and a little video of the surprise birthday event.
A recent graduate of a broadcast program at BCIT, she said it’s her life’s dream to capture and create video that moves people. But she admitted she was a little surprise when this video – which she spent Sunday night editing and posting – went viral.
“Of course, you can just see the love in everyone,” she said of the three-minute video. “It was such a special moment. Randy is very supportive to everyone. But I didn’t know how supportive and beautiful this outpouring was going to be,” Gipps said, honoured to be the one to create the tribute.
• Giving continues
The giving for Randy hasn’t ended there.
The back deck of the Piticco home was in “horrible” shape, Marilyn admitted. While it was on Randy’s to-do-list since he took early retirement from the Surrey fire department six years ago, it never got replaced.
Well, a team of Surrey firefighters learned of the situation a few weeks ago – during one of their frequent visits to see Randy. Since then, they’ve demolished that deck and they’re are in the process of replacing it, a work party planned next weekend.
“Thank goodness for the [firefighter] brotherhood,” Marilyn said, noting how imperative they’ve been in giving her respite time for herself, as well as a bit of time away each week to run her twice-weekly stroke recovery groups at Walnut Grove Community Centre.