BUCKHANNON – When people think about celebrating a birthday, items that usually come to mind include presents, balloons, cards, flowers, cake, well wishes and visiting with friends.
However, with the COVID-19 pandemic and the practice of social or physical distancing, people have had to think of alternative ways of celebrating these milestones.
Residents of Country Club Estates in Buckhannon on Tuesday had a neighbor coming up on a large milestone – Lenora Thomason was turning 100 years old – so they worked together to organize a safe way to celebrate the event where everyone could have fun.
Lenora Thomason has lived in County Club Estates since 2001, and on Tuesday evening, her neighbors gathered for a birthday celebration – one that included a band of children singing ‘Happy Birthday’ along with units from the Buckhannon Fire Department and the Upshur County Animal Control.
Also in line were neighbors who decorated their cars, antique vehicles, tractors and golf carts as they paraded past Lenora Thompson’s house where she watched from her front porch with her children Charlie Thomason and Katie Thomason Howes.
As residents drove and marched past her home, many stopped to drop off birthday cards, flowers and balloons.
Leading the parade was a representative from one of Buckhannon’s finest, the Buckhannon Fire Department, in a fire truck being manned by firefighter Steve Michaels. Michaels said since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, firefighters have been bringing out the trucks to help celebrate birthdays and other milestones.
“We have been doing this when people request this because of COVID-19,” Michaels said. “We are always glad to help out in the community.”
Neighbors Ed and Joyce Wilt decorated their vehicle to join in the Birthday Parade to celebrate Lenora turning 100 years old. Ed Wilt said they thought it appropriate to celebrate because ‘you don’t see someone who turns 100 every day.’
“We know her and wanted to come and wish her a Happy 100th Birthday,” Ed Wilt said. “We hope she gets a lot of joy from our parade. I hope they have a Birthday Parade for me when I turn 100!”
Country Club Estates Homeowner’s Association President Steve Collett said he was very excited to have the Happy Birthday Parade, adding that organizers Mary Beth Hinkle and Darissa Shaw did a wonderful job coordinating the event.
“It’s quite a fete to know someone who is turning 100 and to live close to them,” Collett said. “It’s a lot of fun.”
“We asked our neighbors to walk or drive by in decorated vehicles with signs and balloons and music,” Shaw, one of the organizers, said. “Turning 100 is such a celebration, and we wanted to do something nice for Lenora while we remained socially distanced, safe and healthy.”
Lenora Thomason was born Sept. 1, 1920 on Long Run in Randolph County. She said she could not see any difference in turning 100 years old.
“I do have some pretty good neighbors, and I am happy to have everyone come and say hello,” she said.
Her children said they consider it an honor that the neighbors were parading by to offer well wishes.
Lenora’s children are Charlie Thomason and Katie Thomason Howes, and they gathered with Lenora Thomason along with daughter-in-law Sheila Thomason for Tuesday’s parade. Lenora was married to the late Roy Thomason Sr. Lenora also had another son, the late Roy Thomason Jr., and son-in-law, the late Clyde Howes.
Lenora Thomason grew up on a farm and her husband Roy Sr. worked in the coal mines. Daughter-in-law Sheila said Lenora was a terrific gardener and farmer, and her hobbies include quilting, reading and doing jigsaw puzzles; however, she said she can no longer quilt.
During the parade, Lenora sat on her porch with a big smile and waved to those passing by, mouthing, ‘thank you.’
Sheila said Lenora remarked that her 100th birthday was the celebration where she received the most birthday cards. Lenora said, “Never have I had a party or anything that compares to this.”
Sheila said her mother-in-law was ‘tickled pink’ when the neighbors decided to drive by and offer their wishes for a ‘Happy 100th Birthday.’
Folks wishing to send birthday wishes may mail them to Lenora Thomason c/o Sheila Thomason, 190 Circle Drive, Buckhannon, West Virginia 26201.