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Friends, family celebrate Helen Patterson’s 104th birthday

Elisabeth Slay
The Shawnee News-Star
Family, friends and members of the Sallateeska Baptist Church gathered to celebrate the 104th birthday of Shawnee resident Helen Patterson.
Family, friends and members of the Sallateeska Baptist Church gathered to celebrate the 104th birthday of Shawnee resident Helen Patterson.
Family, friends and members of the Sallateeska Baptist Church gathered to celebrate the 104th birthday of Shawnee resident Helen Patterson.
Family, friends and members of the Sallateeska Baptist Church gathered to celebrate the 104th birthday of Shawnee resident Helen Patterson.

Family, friends and members of the Sallateeska Baptist Church gathered Sept. 11 for a drive-by parade to celebrate the birthday of Helen Patterson, a Shawnee resident and mother of 10 who turned 104 Sept. 10.

According to Patterson’s daughter Marti Johnson, every year family members from around the country come to Shawnee to celebrate Patterson’s birthday.

“With the COVID-19 risks associated with travel and gathering, Helen didn’t want family to take those risks, nor did they want to risk bringing the virus to her,” Johnson said.

Despite COVID-19, Patterson’s other family members and church family wanted to safely celebrate and commemorate Patterson’s milestone birthday.

“Cards began to arrive two weeks ahead, with each day’s stack of cards getting bigger and bigger,” Johnson said. “Family members sent a series of gifts each day keeping the postman and delivery drivers busy.”

In addition to cards and gifts, Johnson said members of Patterson’s church organized a parade the day after her birthday.

“That morning, when Helen looked out the window, she was surprised by a huge Happy Birthday sign on the lawn,” Johnson said. “Calls and texts were coming in from friends and family (and) more cards and gifts arrived in the mail.”

In addition to the parade and gifts from the mail, Johnson said several people stopped by Patterson’s house to drop off birthday greetings and talk to her through the glass door.

“Extended family gathered on Zoom to wish Mom, Grandma, Great Grandma and Great Great Grandma a very Happy Birthday,” Johnson said.

Johnson said that evening many people from Patterson’s church family drove by in a parade to wish her a happy birthday.

“What a parade it was. A police escort with sirens, a fire truck and friends driving by with balloons, signs, streamers and decorations,” Johnson said. “They were honking horns and shouting out birthday greetings: ‘Happy Birthday, Grandma.’  ‘Happy Birthday, Mrs. Patterson.”’

Johnson said Patterson was quite surprised at the parade and very grateful to her family and friends for celebrating her birthday.

“She was delighted and amazed at all that had been done to make her day so incredible,” Johnson said.

Johnson said the family would like to thank Sallateeska Baptist Church, as well as the many friends and acquaintances who took the time and effort to make Helen’s 104th birthday a joy to remember.