Cheers to 107 Years: Pandemic Can’t Stop Volunteers from Celebrating Birthday

Categories: Featured and People & Places.

Photo: Marie Cheatham

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted every aspect of our lives, including social gatherings. Rituals and special events like weddings, funerals, birthdays and anniversaries have either been delayed or canceled altogether in the name of safety and slowing the virus’ spread.

However, it’s not every day someone has a chance to celebrate a 107th birthday. So, when Marie Cheatham approached that amazing milestone, her volunteer companion, Connie Hoban, was determined to make it memorable.

Connie is a volunteer with Western Reserve Navigator (WRN), a community palliative care program offered by Western Reserve Care Solutions, the parent organization of Hospice of the Western Reserve. WRN teams help patients manage symptoms of their advanced illness at home. The team includes a social worker, advanced practice nurse and volunteer working together to support independence and prevent repeated hospitalizations.

Since in-person visits are limited right now, Connie has been staying in touch with Marie and her daughter on weekly phone calls. When she learned about Marie’s upcoming birthday, Connie contacted Hospice of the Western Reserve volunteer service manager Cheryl Eynon to plan a special celebration.
More than 150 Hospice of the Western Reserve volunteers helped Marie celebrate by showering her with birthday cards delivered in a box topped with a pretty pink bow. They also gave her a blanket crocheted by a volunteer, a balloon bouquet and an apple pie.

Marie was born in 1913, so the coronavirus pandemic is the second to occur in her lifetime. She was only five years old when the Spanish Flu pandemic began in 1918. “She lived on a farm in Georgia,” said Connie. “She learned to cook at an early age by her mother’s side and is especially proud of her sweet potato pie recipe.”

Marie grew up loving music, especially the blues and gospel music, and sang in her church choir. Her mother played the piano, so on Saturday nights, their house was filled with dancing and singing.

She raised six children and has outlived all but two. Despite her age, she is not afraid to try out the latest technology with the help of her daughter.

“She is surrounded by so much love from her many grandchildren, great-grandchildren and nieces and nephews,” Connie said. “They keep in touch regularly on Zoom.”

Happy 107th birthday, Marie!