Broomfield resident Caroline Kelley, who turned 90 on Thursday, watched from the sidewalk as firefighters with North Metro Fire Rescue District waved and sang “Happy Birthday” — all while wearing masks and keeping 6 feet from Kelley and her family.
Her family surprised the nonagenarian with flowers, cake, the firetruck drive-by and more than 100 birthday cards sent from all across the United States.
“I’m just like him,” she said, referencing the Energizer Bunny. “I just keep on going.”
Caroline’s mother lived to be 100, her son, Roger, and daughter-in-law Judy Kelley said, and she wants to beat her mom.
Initially the birthday plan was to celebrate with a family dinner that included her granddaughters, who live in New York and Chicago.
Judy Kelley, who lives in Brandywine, said that obviously changed with the spread of the novel coronavirus. Instead she decided to solicit birthday cards — enough to match Caroline’s age — by putting out the request on Facebook and Nextdoor.
Caroline Kelley, the oldest of six siblings, received lots of cards from nieces and nephews, and grandnieces and grandnephews. She loves getting well wishes in the mail, Judy Kelley said, most of which came from Colorado and Michigan. A relative, who is a newscaster in Michigan where Caroline Kelley used to live, aired a segment about the card drive.
“Yesterday she got 14 cards in the mail,” Judy Kelley said.
Broomfield Greens, independent senior apartments, is not in a place conducive to people slowly driving by in a birthday parade, Judy Kelley said, but the firetruck drive-by was a good substitute to add to their celebratory home-cooked meal and cake.
Mary Edmundson, who lives down the hall from Caroline Kelley at Broomfield Greens, joined the Kelleys for cake and the firetruck visit. She also helped with a family tradition. For years Judy Kelley tied a Mylar balloon to her children’s bedpost in honor of their birthdays, so she asked Edmundson to tie one outside her mother-in-law’s door.
Caroline Kelley said she was disappointed her granddaughters couldn’t be there, but Judy Kelley said she and her husband still wanted to make the day special. Her mother-in-law knew something would happen for her birthday, but the details were a surprise.
One thing that’s helped Caroline Kelley not feel so cooped up is Roger going over twice a week and taking his mother through a drive-thru for lunch and visiting over a short drive, Judy Kelley said.
Broomfield resident Kelley Peachey said her daughter, Kylie Large, celebrated her 11th birthday in February by inviting friends over for a painting party in the backyard. When social gatherings ended, she kept painting. She saw Judy Kelley’s request for birthday cards, thought it was adorable, and inspired her daughter to paint a picture.
Kylie did a similar project for her own great-grandmother, Jackie Milonas, who lives in Arvada and turned 90 on March 24.
“We have four generations living in one house,” Peachey said, “my grandmother, my mother, sister, niece and nephew.”
Her sister is a full-time caretaker of her mother and grandmother, both of whom are active and love hosting theme parties, which they did once a month before the pandemic.
“COVID has really interrupted their social gatherings,” Peachey said, “which takes a toll when you’re trying to maintain activities as a 90-year-old woman.”
To celebrate the family threw a tea party and dined on crumpets, scones, chocolates and cheesecakes, Peachey said. They plated the treats, jumped into a car decorated with balloons and delivered sweets to all the friends they would have invited to the party by leaving them on the porch.
“Her friends would then come out, stand in the driveway, and sing ‘Happy Birthday,’” Peachey said.
Milonas has lived in Colorado since the 1930s, Peachey said, and owned Mostly Bears, a teddy bear shop, in Arvada for about 25 years. Locally she has helped teach people how to sew, make teddy bears and start their careers.
“She keeps in touch with everybody,” Peachey said. “She used to run a Girl Scout troop and keeps in touch with the girls.”