NEWPORT BEACH — Twelve years ago, he began patrolling parking lots, distributing crime alerts and checking homes while families were away on vacation.
That was back when Earl Fusselman was only 81.
Now, more than a decade later, Fusselman continues to serve as volunteer with the Newport Beach Police Department.
On Wednesday afternoon, NBPD members quietly waited in a conference room to surprise him with a birthday party in advance of his 94th, which is Saturday.
As Fusselman walked in, staffers hushed. A cake filled with raspberry jam, some star-shaped balloons and about 50 birthday cards awaited him.
Nearly 40 NBPD staff members and volunteers shouted "Surprise!" as he opened the door.
"You think it's a holiday or something?" Fusselman joked.
Over cake, he told members of the department about another memorable surprise in his long life.
A beautiful woman, startled by a mouse running across the floor of a Mexican restaurant, unexpectedly jumped into his lap. That woman ended up becoming his wife of 44 years.
And though Fusselman's wife died 22 years ago, he still has plenty of friends, including those who look forward to seeing him weekly at the police station.
"We get the pleasure of seeing him Wednesday," said colleague Amy Park. "We call it 'Happy Wednesday.'"
Added Dianna McBride: "He just makes the day. He's great. He makes it special for everybody."
Several employees referred to the man of the hour as a "human GPS" when it comes to Newport Beach.
"When you go out with Earl, he tells you where to go, what to do — he's excellent," Sal Grecco said, adding that the two haven't missed a day this year. "That's 35 Wednesdays."
But one colleague said he has another name for Fusselman.
"My nickname for him is 'Earl the Pearl' because he's just a sweet guy," Roger Otte said.
Sandy Meadows has volunteered alongside Fusselman for 12 years.
"I love Earl," Meadows said. "He serves. His entire life is service. He's our role model."
"I have no excuse," he said. "I guess it's living for something to do on this earth. I have no idea how much longer I'm going to live — time enough to do somebody some good."