There can be no two days which hold as much sentimentality as July 4th and birthdays.
Both hold fond and dear memories of special moments with family and friends.
They are also filled with traditions of all sorts.
Take birthdays, for example.
What is more traditional than having a birthday cake?
And, what could make that better than if that birthday was shared with your country’s special day — July 4?
And, to amplify those feelings even more, having that cake made on that special day by the same person who has performed that task for most of your life?
That’s the story of Steve Hancock and Jo Gilbert.
Gilbert started the Village Bake Shop in 1961, along with her husband, Arthur.
The shop has remained in the family and is now operated by their daughter, Teresa.
They have been delivering sweet treats to Cleveland for more than 50 years.
A few years after the shop opened, Jim and Syble Hancock had a delivery of their own — a son named Steve.
When Steve turned “5 or 6” as he recalled, his mom had Jo bake the cake for the special day.
“We’ve just been using this dear lady ever since,” Hancock said. “It hasn’t been every year, but it’s been a lot of years.”
This year, Gilbert has fulfilled one more request from Hancock.
“I told her 10 years ago, ‘You’ve got to hang on until I’m 50,’” he said with her reply being one of doubt.
“But, she was,” Hancock said.
So, Hancock is today celebrating his 50th birthday and a long-running tradition remains intact — they are celebrating with a Jo Gilbert-baked caked just as they have for almost every one he has had.
Hancock was in town recently to pick up his yearly cake after making a 250-mile round trip from his home in Fayetteville, Ga., where he lives with his wife, Bonnie, and their two children.
Speaking of long-running traditions, the Hancocks are both educators with John being a middle school instructor and track coach.
Today, they will both participate in the Peachtree Road Race — a 10-kilometer (6.2 mile) Atlanta tradition — for the 15th time.
Now a long run will be followed by the long-running tradition.
John will cut into a birthday cake made by Jo Gilbert.
The occasion was so special this year, Bradley County Mayor D. Gary Davis came to see the special delivery.
“This Fourth of July, when we pause to reflect on our independence, it’s appropriate to thank all of those who have worked tirelessly in our community over the decades to make it a better place for others,” Davis said.
“That includes people like Mrs. Gilbert, who for years has brought joy and delight to many through her art of baking and our own Steve Hancock who, even though he has moved away, will always call Cleveland and Bradley County home.”