What birthday gift do you give the man who has everything? Kevin Mills was asking the same question as his father, Gerald Mills' 104th birthday was approaching. He ultimately decided on a unique gift, certainly one his father had yet to receive across 103 birthdays. Mills took to Twitter, asking for 104 happy birthdays wishes, along with a photo of his dad.
“Dad's at an age where there's nothing he wants or needs that can be bought with money,” says Mills, explaining his idea for the 104 wishes as a birthday gift. “I thought something like a bunch of congratulatory messages from a few random strangers would be a bit fun and different.” Of his centenarian father, he added, “He'll be amazed and baffled in equal measure.”
Mills expected maybe 10 replies, but Twitter did its thing and and the tweet blew up—by the time Gerald's birthday rolled around, just over a week later, it had amassed over 400,000 likes and 68,000 comments worth of birthday greetings, funny comments, and sweet messages from all over the world. Many people shared photos of their own centenarian relatives. “Happy Birthday from my great-nana who turned 105 the Saturday before last and healthy as ever. She's single too [with two winking emojis],” one person playfully joked. Some others replied to the tweet with photos of their babies, pets, and the places from which they were sharing the happy birthday wishes, including Switzerland, Nigeria, and South Africa.
Mills had originally reckoned he could screengrab the tweets and print them out to show his father. “Of course, that idea soon became impractical,” he says. The tweet ended up trending #3 in the U.S., above “4th of July” on the day itself. It even garnered some celebrity attention. Henry Winkler quote tweeted the post with a “Happy birthday Mr Mills.” And Mark Hamill tweeted, “For Gerald: [birthday cake emoji],” to which Mills replied, “Thank you! I have SO much explaining to do when I see him…”
And how did the man of the hour respond to all this attention? Gerald’s reaction to the outpouring of well-wishes has been one of “astonishment and gratitude,” says Mills. He hasn't been able to show his father the tweets in person yet, due to testing positive for COVID, but he will as soon as he gets the chance. “I can't wait to show him some of the tweets to give him a sense of the scale of the global reaction,” Mills says. “Whether my dad will have heard of any of the celebrities who've wished him happy birthday remains to be seen…”
Among the birthday wishes, there were also comments asking what Gerald's “secret” to longevity was. “Thinking of my dad, it's certainly not rigorous exercise, a meat-free diet, abstaining from alcohol or never having smoked,” says Mills. The centenarian, who still lives in England, spent most of his life in Bournemouth, but also served with an anti-tank regiment in Italy and North Africa. He then spent some years as a technical illustrator for local aircraft companies. This skill led him to teach art in his retirement, at village halls and adult education centers.
The younger Mills shares that, in addition to enjoying the good things in life, his father attributes his age and good health to a few essential factors: “retaining his independence, having a close and supportive family, a positive outlook and an unfailing sense of humor. He tries to see the funny side of most things, enjoys a joke and is still not too old to be politely flirtatious.”
In addition to having miles of lovely tweets to read, Gerald celebrated his birthday on July 12 in simple, fun fashion with a visit from one of his other sons and “cards, cake, a little wine, and a lot of laughter.”
Kevin Mills asked Twitter for 104 birthday wishes for his father Gerald’s 104th birthday.
This is my dad, Gerald. He turns 104 on 12 July. Any chance I can muster 104 happy birthdays from Twitter? He'll be amazed and baffled in equal measure. pic.twitter.com/0dv65FQ9Yk
— Kevin Mills (@bravenewmalden) July 4, 2022
The tweet blew up almost instantly, amassing over 68,000 sweet comments and well-wishes.
Happy Birthday from my great-nana who turned 105 the Saturday before last and healthy as ever.
She's single too 😉😉 pic.twitter.com/BPCAZtsy9W
— Griffin Middleweek (@Ardvarkion) July 5, 2022
Many people shared photos of their own centenarian relatives.
Happy Birthday Gerald – what a milestone! Looking great on it too 👍 Enjoy your celebrations 🥳 My lovely dad turned 100 in February … you centenarian boys are amazing ❤️ x pic.twitter.com/WOb7Vw7uUl
— diane scott (@skotzki) July 5, 2022
Happy 104 trips around the sun! You look amazing and happy Gerald! Cheers to you and may you have many more great times with your family. Sending along a photo of my husband and his Grandma Nina who is 105. He was giving her a ride in our ‘67 Ford F-250. 🍻♥️💫 pic.twitter.com/Zx3hgcCHOB
— Ragey West (@Rager65) July 5, 2022
Some wished Gerald a happy birthday on behalf of their newborns:
Happy Birthday Gerald. This is my daughter Flora who was born 12 weeks premature and has just come home to us at three months old. Hope she makes it to 104 too 👍 pic.twitter.com/i6JPjPpfor
— Adam Hill (@adshill) July 4, 2022
Cheers Gerald! My birthday is also July 12th, a toast to us! My new granddaughter thinks the secret to long life is being extra cute but I think you already know that by looking at your pic! ❤️ pic.twitter.com/gcWfYaloH2
— Texas BLUEbonnet (@ASautarel) July 5, 2022
And others replied with cute photos of their pets:
Happy birthday Gerald from Buster and I! pic.twitter.com/nooP29SVeP
— Buster’s Collectibles (@Mountain_Weasel) July 5, 2022
It is our honour to wish you the happiest birthday ever, Dear Gerald 💙🥳👏🎂🎶💛💐 104 years you are an amazing Gentleman! Congratulations 🎉 Love and Hugs from Blaze and Xander 🤗 pic.twitter.com/HJsTdVO0Zn
— 🤍🕊 Karen Alexandra 🕊🤍 (@KarenAl04019831) July 5, 2022
Gerald received well over 104 wishes, and from all over the world:
Happy Birthday and all things bright and beautiful from Switzerland Gerald! ✨ pic.twitter.com/hnRmV4CSRD
— ecléctica 🪐 (@xtinamagwaza) July 5, 2022
Happy birthday from Lagos, Gerald! pic.twitter.com/sU1nAkr7Ju
— Rinu Oduala 🔥🔫 (@SavvyRinu) July 5, 2022
Happy 104th! What a great innings. Sending love and swimming elephants from South Africa pic.twitter.com/tLXrFqAPqc
— Gillian Rightford (@grightford) July 5, 2022
Kevin’s original tweet garnered some celebrity attention, too.
For Gerald: 🎂
— Mark Hamill (@MarkHamill) July 5, 2022
Thank you! I have SO much explaining to do when I see him…
— Kevin Mills (@bravenewmalden) July 5, 2022
Happy birthday Mr. Mills https://t.co/CPPM2zAJCq
— Henry Winkler (@hwinkler4real) July 5, 2022
The tweet ended up trending #3 on Twitter on July 4, above “4th of July.”
Happy birthday, Gerald. You are trending #3 in the US, above July 4. 😁 pic.twitter.com/jqmBLr9mkV
— Chemmy (@ChemmysLab) July 5, 2022