WEST FARGO — James Milbrath has worked at Gate City Bank for almost 34 years, but for almost a year, the vice president and personal loan development officer has been battling stage four liver cancer.
The pandemic has forced him into quarantine, since cancer and cancer treatments can weaken immune systems, making patients more vulnerable to infection by the coronavirus.
Still, that doesn't mean Milbrath's friends and family are letting him fight cancer on his own.
More than 50 vehicles lined up outside Young Field in West Fargo Monday night, May 11, as Gate City Bank coworkers prepared to hold a parade for Milbrath, who had no idea he was about to witness a big show of support.
"He's one of the most genuine, nicest guys you'll ever meet," said Stacey Smith, a coworker who met Milbrath when she started working at Gate City Bank more than a decade ago. "It's been a long road for him ... we're just happy to just do what we can, especially in this time where we can't go and give him a big hug."
After assembling, Milbrath's coworkers surprised him with a parade at his home in West Fargo. Milbrath watched with his wife, daughter and son, who were in on the surprise the whole time.
"We're just letting him know he's not in it alone," said Gate City Bank CEO Kevin Hanson, who worked at the bank when Milbrath was hired. "We're here for him, and we miss him."
Milbrath said he occasionally drives by his coworkers' homes to safely wave and say hello from his car. The parade he got in return provides a much-needed boost in a difficult time, he said.
"It's been a battle but ... when you have friends and family supporting you, it gets you through a lot of these things," Milbrath said in a FaceTime interview after the surprise. "It just warms your heart when things like this happen."