A local pensioner has felt the kindness of strangers – being delivered hundreds of birthday cards along with a message from some of Strictly Come Dancing’s biggest stars.
Gwen Keene turned 103 on August 26 and her care home had set a challenge in July to get 103 birthday cards in time for her 103rd birthday.
The challenge was reported in CoventryLive and the community swiftly rallied together with a trail of cards arriving at her care home from generous locals and CoventryLive readers.
In total, Gwen received 145 cards, which she enjoyed reading and looking through on her big day.
A projector screen at Harper Fields care home, in Balsall Common, beamed in messages from Gwen’s family, and the ultimate surprise came in the form of a video message from some of Strictly Come Dancing’s biggest stars, including Kevin Clifton, Joanne Clifton, and Johannes Radebe.
You can watch that video at the top of this article.
Gwen said after the event: “I loved every minute of my party. I felt like a princess.”
Cards also arrived from supporters of Gwen’s football team, Leeds United, after they shared the appeal on their Facebook page, and of which she is a die hard supporter.
Staff at the home wanted to throw a special bash for “on the go” Gwen, who lives a busy life and loves a party.
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A red carpet, balloon archway, and vintage tea party were set up at the home to help Gwen celebrate such a remarkable milestone.
And a local choir called the Firebird singers also recorded happy birthday and a special rendition of ‘We’ll Meet Again’ as Vera Lynn is Gwen’s favourite singer.
Gwen’s daughter Angela said: “Mum was born the youngest of seven children in 1917 in Leeds. She got married to my father in 1951 and quickly had two children, a daughter and a son.
“Before this, she worked a personal assistant in an office but gave it up as many women did in those days when she married. Her life was then devoted to caring for my brother and myself, and her mother who was in her eighties by then and lived with us.”
As Gwen got older, life didn’t slow down and she had a bustling social life, something which she still enjoys at her home now. Angela added: “Mum loved to socialise and help people: she did some voluntary work, was active in the Townswomen’s Guild and was always on hand to help out neighbours or family who needed anything.”
She went on to say: “In her 60s she started going to keep fit classes, she swam and tried out line dancing. Mum had been married for just over 63 years when my father died in 2015.”
As Covid-19 continues to remain a risk to the community, most care homes have remained closed to outside visitors, having to get creative to keep residents entertained.
As reported in the CoventryLive newsletter, care homes have done everything from helping residents become event planners, to building e nchanted gardens, to ensure they continue to enjoy the day to day.
It has been a challenging time for staff and residents across care homes in Coventry and Warwickshire.