As delayed birthdays go by, Meri Mion’s 13th anniversary celebration really takes the cake.
In 1945, American soldiers marched into the city of Vicenza in Italy, close to the village of San Pietro.
The 88th Infantry Division had reached the city after intense fighting with German soldiers.
In San Pietro, Meri and her mother had gotten ready to celebrate her 13th birthday.
A freshly baked cake had been left in the window sill to cool off when the couple heard that the conflict between American and German soldiers had reached a climax.
They scurried to a loft in a nearby farm building where they spent the night.
Bullets from retreating Nazi soldiers rained down on their house, but by morning the Germans had gone.
But Meri’s birthday cake had also disappeared – and it is believed that whipped American soldiers had mocked it on the way to Vicenza.
America has now officially apologized for the lost cake, and even bought Meri a replacement.
The Italian, who turned 90 today, shed tears when she was handed the cake during a special ceremony held this morning.
She pronounced ‘mamma mia’ and ‘grazie’ while accepting gestures of good will.
Soldiers, locals and Italian veterans were all gathered to sing Happy Birthday to her in both Italian and English while the sun shone.
Meri waved American flags and beamed at the American soldiers as she celebrated her birthday.
Meri was both emotional and surprised that the American soldiers had returned the cake 77 years later.
“Tomorrow we will eat the dessert that my whole family remembers this wonderful day that I will never forget,” she said.
Sgt. Peter Wallis of Washington presented the cake to Meri along with Colonel Matthew Gomlak, commander of the U.S. Army Garrison Italy.
Sgt Wallis said, ‘It was a little awkward, but it makes me feel great to give her the cake.’
About 19 American soldiers were killed or wounded and several tanks destroyed when the Germans were thrown out of Vicenza back in 1945.
There was cheering from the Italians as the Americans marched into the city after winning the battle.
During a parade through the Corso Palladio, Vicenza’s famous thoroughfare, happy residents even offered the troops bread and wine.
“The warm welcome from the people of Vicenza continues to this day,” Colonel Gomlak added.
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