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Newmarket hero's surprise 100th birthday drive-by parade postponed

'He’s shocked, awestruck, by the attention people are bestowing upon him. He says he cries when he reads their kind words,' says George Markow's daughter of the many birthday cards he has received
2021 03 26 George Markow 100th birthday
After months in isolation at his Newmarket retirement home, George Markow would welcome your best wishes for a very big birthday coming up on April 14.

Due to Ontario’s state of emergency and stay-at-home order, Newmarket resident George Markow’s milestone 100th birthday celebration, originally set for April 14, has been postponed.

The event — which was planned to surprise Markow with a drive-by parade, speeches from local dignitaries, and tributes from the York Regional Police, York Region Paramedic Services, Central York Fire Services and the Newmarket Veterans’ Association Colour Guard — will be rescheduled for a yet as undecided date. 

The 2021 Citizen of Character award, which was to be presented to Markow by the Character Community of York Region in honour of his 100-kilometre fundraising walk, will also be presented at a later time.

The event was due to be held outside Markow’s retirement home, the Roxborough Retirement Residence.

“We felt that delaying the ceremony would be the safest for everyone,” said Sylvia Perkins, Markow’s daughter and organizer of the event. “We don’t want to put anybody at risk.”

The 99-year-old Second World War veteran Markow made national headlines in 2020 when he embarked on his fundraising walk around his retirement home last April. Hoping to raise $100,000 for Southlake Regional Hospital Foundation’s COVID-19 Action Fund and the Sunnybrook Research Institute before his 100th birthday April 14, 2021, Markow shattered all goals when he first surpassed the 100-km mark in September, and the $100,000 fundraising goal through direct and GoFundMe donations in December. 

Walking to this day, Markow has gone on to complete an astonishing 150 km — approximately 2,200 laps around the Roxborough Retirement Residence.

The April 14 celebration was planned not only to honour the senior’s incredible accomplishments in 2020 and beyond, but to usher in his 100th year with pomp and circumstance.

“He says he’s just not deserving of all the attention he’s getting,” said Perkins. “He tries to give me all the credit. But he’s the one that’s survived all the hardships of his life, and persevered, and is now doing something so remarkable at such a remarkable age. But he doesn’t see it like that.”

With the surprise ceremony on hold for the time being, Perkins said she plans to celebrate Markow’s 100th birthday with an accordion performance (“that’s what we used to play together”) and a bottle of champagne (“we’ll pop the cork and toast to his 100 years.”) 

Perkins will also present Markow with a scrapbook of all the articles and mementos she has collected throughout his 100-km fundraising walk through 2020.

“We’ll spend the afternoon together at his little apartment at the Roxborough and reminisce,” said Perkins. “I’m sure there will be many tears shed, and lots of hugs.”

A recent appeal for birthday cards has done much to boost the senior’s spirits leading up to his big day, said Perkins. Since using Markow’s GoFundMe to ask the public to mail him birthday cards, he receives 10 to 40 cards every day and spends two to three hours going through them each afternoon. 

“He’s shocked, awestruck, by the attention people are bestowing upon him,” said Perkins. “He says he cries when he reads their kind words.”

You can send a birthday card to:

George Markow
1 Roxborough Rd., Suite 324
Newmarket, Ontario   L3Y 2P8

Perkins will announce the celebration’s rescheduled date on GoFundMe when restrictions lift.

“The key word is postponed, not cancelled,” said Perkins. “Hopefully, once this order is lifted, and more people get their vaccines, we’ll have a greater chance to enjoy the event.”