A Pleasanton neighborhood joined together on Friday to celebrate one of their own returning home following a lengthy battle with a serious case of COVID-19.
After 3-1/2 months spent in hospitals and rehabilitation centers due to becoming infected by the coronavirus, Pleasanton resident Rita Fisher arrived back at her home in the Village at Ironwood -- a seniors-only neighborhood on the east side of town -- and was greeted by a social-distancing procession of about 150 neighbors.
"Oh my God, it's amazing," Fisher told the Weekly in a brief interview from her driveway on Friday.
Fisher, who said she was stunned by the surprise congregation, added that after so long away from home, she was most looking forward to sleeping in her own bed and eating "real food."
"We're a community of seniors and when one of our own gets ill, it affects all of us," said Barry Mew, Fisher's neighbor. "Rita and (husband) Larry got a chance to feel the love from the neighbors here at Ironwood. So many of us prayed and were thinking of them. She overcame a really difficult situation, so we are just really thankful."
To greet Fisher -- who spent a month and a half in the intensive care unit battling COVID-19 -- when she finally returned home, Mew reached out to Ironwood friends to organize a little welcome home party for their long-absent community member.
On Friday morning as Fisher drove into the gated community with her husband, neighbors could be seen on the sidewalk with "Welcome Home" signs, waving as she drove by and shouting words of encouragement.
When the car pulled into the driveway, a parade of neighbors marched by her home continuing to shout greetings and well wishes. The get-together culminated with a musical performance by some local teenage musicians who performed such hits as "Fly Me to the Moon" by Frank Sinatra on the saxophone and "You've Got a Friend in Me" by Randy Newman.
All participants wore masks and made a conscious effort to maintain a safe social distance from one another.
"Larry and Rita got a chance to feel the love from the neighbors here at Ironwood," added Mew, who took the lead in organizing the event.
"We kept asking Larry 'how's Rita doing, how's Rita doing?' And it just didn't sound good for a long time and then finally Larry said I think she might be coming home," Mew said. "Once I heard there was a light at the end of the tunnel, it just came to me I thought 'Wow, we should have neighbors line the street with signs (to welcome her).'"
Friday's gathering also featured a prayer from Mew, who said, "Oh gracious God, Heavenly Father, I want to thank you for this beautiful day and that Rita can finally return home after over three months. We thank you for her family and friends who have been thinking of her and praying for her and for you having helped her overcome the coronavirus."
Fisher was exposed to the coronavirus while on a Princess Cruise back in March and had been in rough shape when she returned, showing signs of a seemingly severe cough, according to Mew.
Senior residents and adults with pre-existing conditions are particularly vulnerable to serious cases of COVID-19, according to the Alameda County Public Health Department. As of Friday, ACPHD reported 4,104 positive cases in county residents and 108 deaths -- 1,380 of those confirmed positive cases involved residents over 50 years old.