You have to be pretty special for your birthday to be a holiday. At the Atria Windsor Woods retirement community, however, another informal holiday has developed over the past few years: celebrating another year with Helen Aldrich, who will turn 103 in December.
An early birthday party was held Thursday. It was the fourth straight year Aldrich and her fellow Windsor Woods residents celebrated her birthday early. In 2009, Windsor Woods had four residents, including Aldrich, who were reaching or had reached the century mark.
With a few more residents about to turn 100 the next year, the residence decided to throw a big party that September, with the idea that a "party of the centuries" could become an annual event.
In 2010, two of Aldrich's birthday buddies from the year before had moved away and one had died. Two other residents turned 100 that year, but one of them died and the other was in the hospital when it came time for the party, leaving Aldrich as the sole guest of honor.
Last year, Windsor Woods again threw a party as Aldrich's 102nd birthday approached. There was a celebration for everyone, and then a private luncheon for Aldrich and some of her relatives.
Aside from her senior-most status among the seniors, Aldrich has long been among the most popular residents at Windsor Woods. She has made newcomers feel welcome and helped them get acquainted with the place and people.
Talking with people is one of the simple pleasures Aldrich has loved all her life. She maintains that good conversation and constant intellectual stimulation have been the nutrients to her inner health and been what have made her century-plus on Earth so enjoyable.
At the party in 2009, as her 100th birthday was approaching, Aldrich said she regretted that the Internet hadn't come along sooner, when her eyesight was still good, because she loved the idea of having access to the whole world.
Her years of accumulated knowledge and insight make those who speak with her instantly appreciative of good conversation, as well. Among them is state Sen. Mike Fasano.
Fasano was the special guest at the 2010 party, and at the time he was notably impressed with Aldrich's wisdom and expressiveness. He commented at the time that he wished he could have brought a busload of schoolchildren just to listen to her.
Fasano was back for this year's party to celebrate with one of his oldest and most favorite constituents. He didn't bring schoolchildren with him this time. But that gives him a good reason to come back for next year's party.