GLENBURN, Maine — If Sumner Edward Pinkham Jr. had been born a day earlier or 24 hours later, he would be turning 80 this week.
Instead, he will mark his 20th birthday on Wednesday.
Pinkham was born on Feb. 29, 1932, in Bangor.
His family threw a surprise party for him Sunday afternoon at the Glenburn Town Hall. The retired Maine Department of Transportation worker was surprised once he got there but was reluctant to leave home Sunday afternoon for no apparent reason.
His daughter, Brenda Pinkham, who had been planning the event for six months, said it had been a challenge getting her dad to the event without telling him why he was supposed to leave his home.
“My mother said they were going for a ride,” she said. “He said, ‘I do not want to go for no ride.’ But she prevailed.”
“I was watching TV in my nice recliner chair,” the “birthday boy” said when asked why he was so reluctant to leave home. “I had no suspicion at all until I got here. It just like when I retired. I had no idea then and that was 15 years ago.”
Although he was born in Bangor in 1932, his family moved to Glenburn when he was five years old, Sumner Pinkham said during a lull in the party, attended by about 40 people. He has lived there since 1937 and raised three children with his wife, Marion Pinkham, 73.
Having his birthday on a day that was on the calendar once every four years never bothered him growing up, the 20-year-old said.
“It was just one of them things, I guess,” he said.
His former co-worker Glen Label said there were years when Sumner Pinkham would say, “No birthday this year.”
In addition to friends and fellow members of the Glenburn Lakeside Drivers, a snowmobile club the Pinkhams founded, sons Thomas Pinkham, 52, of Kenduskeag and Edward Pinkham, 45, of Glenburn also attended the party along with Sumner and Marion Pinkham’s three grandchildren.
Marion Pinkham said that the family most often celebrated his birthday on March 1 during years when there was no Feb. 29.
“I think it was a good idea to get everybody together to celebrate his birthday,” 15-year-old granddaughter Tiffani Pinkham, 15, of Glenburn said. “He really was suprised.”
Marion Pinkham, whose maiden name is Tozier, met her husband at a dance hall in Hampden. They married in 1956, when he was six, she said Sunday with a smile.