CHERRYVILLE, N.C. – A North Carolina woman had her first birthday party ever at age 105 last week, and Gov. Roy Cooper even wished her well on her special day.
Line dancers and square dancers performed routines to entertain the birthday girl, 105-year-old Lorene Summey. And there was 12-year-old Lily, who brought her yellow Labrador named Nina for her to pet. Summey even got the chance to meet a miniature pony named Daniel Jackson.
When Summey’s boyfriend Joseph fell ill, his brother Ronnie Parks stepped in to do the honors of providing the first dance of the night.
Summey wanted to get 105 birthday cards − one for each year of her life − but ended up with more than 1,200 cards, with more still arriving daily, say her caregivers at Somerset Court in Cherryville.
A birthday card arrived Thursday from Wisconsin, meaning Summey has received at least one happy birthday wish from all 50 states. Other cards have arrived from as far away as England.
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A local celebrity
Cherryville Mayor H.L. Beam was on hand to wish her a happy birthday, as was Gaston County Commissioner Allen Fraley.
Beam called the Cherryville native the oldest person living in either Gaston or Lincoln counties, and the oldest member of First Baptist Church of Cherryville.
Summey wore a jeweled tiara on her head and a pink Western dress decorated with a bright, flowery design. Members of the Cherryville Police Department and town firefighters escorted her in to her party.
“I can’t believe it,” said Summey. “It’s so unreal.”
About 200 or more people attended Summey’s birthday party at the rest home where she resides. She wanted a hoe down, and staff decorated the main dining hall to look like a barn. Summey clapped along to the song “Cotton-Eyed Joe,” as she and the other residents smiled and enjoyed the dancing and music.
‘A wonderful spirit and a great attitude’
Ann Kozliner and Summey eat lunch together every day, and the younger woman was glad to see her friend having a good birthday.
“She has a wonderful spirit and a great attitude,” said the 67-year-old woman. “She’s thankful everyday to be alive.”
Summey put herself through night school and worked at the former trucking company in town, Carolina Freight, for 39 years. Jennifer High of Vale remembered how her great-grandmother loved and cared for her “PawPaw,” who died about 25 years ago.
“She was a very good caregiver. She was right there with my great-grandfather (Walt) until he passed,” said High.
Summey’s only child, 82-year-old Roger, talked about his mother as a strong woman who always showed him love, even when she was trying to get him to behave.
In 51 years of practicing medicine, Dr. Guillermo Lesassier said he has cared for patients around the same age as Summey, but none in as good shape both physically and mentally.
Summey asks questions during her medical visits and carries on conversations easily.
“She is blessed by God,” her doctor said.
You can reach Kevin Ellis at Kellis@gastongazette.com.