Dept. on Aging Helps Celebrate County’s Nonagenarians
September 28, 2022 by Rose Nemunaitis

Notre Dame Educational Center took a step back in time Sept. 13 as the crooning sounds of Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin filled the room where several people celebrated their ninth decade on earth.

Notre Dame Educational Center took a step back in time Sept. 13 as the crooning sounds of Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin filled the room where several people celebrated their ninth decade on earth.

The Geauga County Department on Aging held a birthday party to honor all Geauga County residents who’ve reached nonagenarian age.

“This event is a favorite of ours. It’s such an honor to celebrate the lives and longevity of so many of our Geauga County residents,” GCDA Senior Centers Supervisor Sandy McLeod said. “It is quite a milestone to make the 90-plus club and they are excited when they get invited to this event. Although any senior can enjoy in the celebration, only the 90-year-olds can come for free.”

Guests were served apple fritters from Patterson Fruit Farm for a morning snack. Then, about 75 birthday celebrants and some additional guests dined on a lunch of chicken marsala, roasted potatoes, mixed vegetables and birthday cake.

The oldest three guests, all 99, had the honor of cutting the ceremonial birthday cake donated by University Hospitals Age Well Be Well Program.

“Geauga County does more for their seniors than anywhere,” said Irene Hein, 91, of Bainbridge Township. “People outside say, ‘I wish I lived in Geauga County.’”

Hein, who enjoys volunteering regularly at the Bainbridge Senior Center, sauntered over and smiled as she got her photo taken next to a large inflatable birthday cake.

The 90th birthday party has been an annual event for at least 15 years, originally held at Orchard Hills Center in Chester Township. But, as the event grew, it moved to other places, such as Notre Dame and St. Mary’s Church banquet room in Chardon.

Sponsors included Western Reserve Area Agency on Aging, UH Geauga Medical Center and Sisters of Notre Dame.

McLeod said the seniors are treated royally, with volunteers to wait on them, and they each, like Hein, have their picture taken at the decorative big birthday cake station.

A disc jockey, along with a live “The Frank & Dean and Then Some Show,” brought toe-tapping-applause, plenty of smiles and laughter.

“They feature the old classics and wonderful sing-along songs everyone knows,” McLeod added.

GCDA’s Rebecca O’Reilly has been helping coordinate the event since 2014.

“During our shutdown because of COVID, we took our show on the road and with the help of several community partners, delivered individually-wrapped cupcakes, cookies and other goodies and surprises to individual homes,” O’Reilly said. “We did this for two years and it was very well taken, as we visited well over 200 seniors each year.”

She added, “We masked up and drove from home to home, basically taking the party to the people — one senior at a time. We sang ‘Happy Birthday’ on front lawns and back decks, danced around and presented each senior with their birthday goodies.”

O’Reilly said the annual tradition is a time for people to celebrate life and longevity with their peers and reminisce about all the events that have taken place in their lifetime.

“These are people who have a lifetime of living, working and serving in Geauga County,” she said. “This is our way of giving back and thanking them.”

Hein grew up in Newbury Township and recalled fond memories of her dad driving their school bus.

She graduated in 1949 from Newbury High School.

“I grew up on a farm with nothing added to our food,” said Hein, who lives with family now and continues to take great care in what she eats. “I continue to stay on the good path.”

She enjoyed seeing old friends she hasn’t seen in a long time at the event Sept. 13, as well as hearing former classmates’ names being read.

“Oh, it was fabulous,” Hein said. “I can’t wait until next year.”