The massive parade of vehicles and socially distanced celebration of a former soldier and cop’s 100th birthday held last Sunday was primarily a demonstration of love and respect for someone who dedicated his life to public service. Gary Inzerillo has been there for his community and country at least since he fought in World War II and through his service on the NYPD, from which he retired in 1973.

A former resident of Howard Beach, where he and his wife, Ann Marie, raised their family, Inzerillo lives in New Hyde Park, less than a mile from Queens. The couple will celebrate their 69th anniversary next month. On Sunday, a day before his centennial birthday, the people of Queens and Nassau came together to celebrate his service in an event that seemed to be nearly as much about community, country and tradition as it was about one man.

Scores of classic cars, police SUVs, fire trucks, World War II-era jeeps and more passed by the house as speakers, singers and musicians gave Inzerillo his due. Confetti flew. According to his daughter Patricia Gatt, a Chronicle account executive, his favorite part of the event was watching his grandchildren and neighborhood kids have fun.

As we emerge a bit more from the shadows of the virus crisis every day, it’s easy to believe the celebration reflected both love for Inzerillo and a pent-up desire for people to be together, safely, and to revel in patriotism and the freedom provided in large part by vital institutions that often take withering fire. Happy Birthday, Mr. Inzerillo. And welcome back, United States of America.

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