Grandpa turning 98 gets thousands of 'likes'

Posted at 5:06 PM, Mar 14, 2016
and last updated 2016-03-14 23:55:51-04

A Facebook test among family members to see if a 97-year-old man could get 98 likes by his 98th birthday has exploded into a bonanza of birthday wishes from around the globe.

Alfred Birch, of Manchester-by-the-Sea, Massachusetts, was in the hospital earlier this month when his daughter, Dale Birch, and granddaughter, Julia Geswell, decided to boost his spirits by posting his photo on Facebook.

The photo showed Birch, a former NASA inspector, holding a sign that reads, “My daughter does not think I can get 98 likes for being 98 years old. Can we prove her wrong?”

The photo was posted on March 6, weeks before Birch’s March 28 birthday. In less than 24 hours, the photo had more than 100 likes. Today, the photo has 14,000 likes and counting.

“He has over 12,000 birthday wishes from strangers around the world,” Geswell, 18, told ABC News. “We went across the U.S. map last night and he got messages from 42 states out of 50.”

“I told him and he said, '42 states out of 50?'” Geswell said, imitating her grandfather’s shocked voice.

Geswell says her grandfather has lived with her family her whole life. Birch, a Boston Red Sox fanatic, is now home from the hospital and preparing to ring in his 98th birthday with his family -- and now strangers around the world as well.

“We’ve been reading the comments to him, and I made a binder with the picture and printed the comments for him for his birthday,” Geswell said. “We got a banner made and we’re going to have him sit in the driveway on his birthday with the banner and post that picture too.”

Geswell said she and her mom, Birch’s only surviving child, had to explain Facebook to Birch when they first posted the photo. He is still bewildered by it all, according to Geswell.

“He was in shock when I told him,” Geswell said of the overwhelming response. “I said, ‘You’re getting 13,000, 14,000 people saying happy birthday to you.’”