‘I always thought no one really knew me.’ MI man overjoyed to receive 100+ cards for 80th birthday

Posted at 10:10 AM, Feb 16, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-16 10:22:07-05

(WXYZ) — As Al Gutowski of Farmington Hills was quickly approaching his 80th birthday during a worldwide pandemic, his wife of 58 years, Camille, got an idea.

“I was thinking, ‘this is a big number for my husband . . . what can I do special?’" said Camille. “I told Tracy and my other daughter Kelly that it would be really good if he got 80 cards.”

Camille said her daughters ran with the idea and put out the call on social media to get family and friends to mail Al cards for his upcoming birthday, which is officially this Wednesday, February 17.

The cards started arriving in small batches on February 1 from old work buddies to former neighbors, much to Al’s surprise.

Photos courtesy Gutowski Family

“That is great . . . I’ve never received very many cards,” said Al.

A veteran, former police officer and retired carpenter, Al is a self-described introvert and said he loved getting all of the sentiments from friends, family and even a few strangers.

Photos courtesy Gutowski Family

“When you get my age, or our age, this is what you look forward to,” Al said. “There’s not much to do, but the thing is, when you receive something . . . it means a lot.”

Camille, 78, said he’s been joking that he’s never received that much mail before — even the bills are in her name.

“He was just so anxious to go to the mailbox to see how many cards,” she said. “He’s just amazed.”

As of Saturday, Al had received more than 100 birthday cards.

“We only have two doubles, all the rest are entirely different birthday cards,” Camille said. “Funny ones and sincere ones . . . it brings tears to your eyes every time you open up the card.”

With no computer or cell phone, the cards are a way Al and Camille are finding community during the pandemic.

Photos courtesy Gutowski Family

“I do feel a good connection in these people I know and even in the one I don’t know, because I know somebody knows me,” said Al. “Deep inside, I know them because they sent me a card.”

As far as his big 80th birthday plans, Al said they plan to keep it low key and COVID safe. He said he’s looking forward to Marie Callender’s three berry pie and a big sub sandwich. The cards will also be a focal point of the celebration, as they are all strung up around their living room’s bay window.

“I always thought no one really knew me, but a lot of people must have,” said Al.