Every year, during the first week of July, friends and family descend upon the Mello house to wish David Mello a Happy Birthday.

Mr. Mello turned 88 on Thursday, but with the constraints of the pandemic the annual gathering looked a little different this year. Instead of a jubilant celebration on a crowded porch, the main event took place at the Right Fork Diner at the Katama airpark, the site of Mr. Mello’s first airplane ride and the spot where he later learned to fly. Before heading off to the Katama airfield there was rhubarb pie on the porch and later in the day a family boat ride.

Patrick Mello, Tanner Kriedel David, Elaine, and Benjamin Kriedel. — Ray Ewing

The event was attended by Mr. Mello’s wife Elaine and his cousin Patrick, along with a surprise visit from his two grandsons Benjamin and Tanner.

“We always spend his birthday here on Summer street, no matter what,” said Elaine Mello. “[Normally] our yard is jammed so it’s a little different this year. . . it was a particularly special birthday.”

Mr. Mello was born in Edgartown in the same house on Summer street where the family gathers to celebrate his birthdays. As a boy, he worked at the Vineyard Gazette inserting pegs in the Linotype. The training he received at the Gazette was evidently vast as Mr. Mello went on to become a nuclear physicist, serving as the head of the Inventions Program for the U.S. Department of Energy.

And rhubarb pie on the porch, of course. — Ray Ewing

An engaging conversationalist with a wide repertoire of stories, Mr. Mello often holds court for family and friends, sharing colorful tales from his past.

“I’ve had a wonderful life with friends and parents…no complaints,” Mr. Mello said.

His wife agreed. “He’s an extraordinary human being who has had a very interesting life. I hope it continues to be interesting for him and for everyone that he comes to meet.”