BRUNSWICK — Orean Dionne, or MeMee to friends and family, sat in the front window of her Church Road home, waving as cars drove by, honking happy birthday greetings. She sat down at 7 a.m. and, aside from brief trips to the bathroom or a few 20-minute power naps (during which she directed a family member to man her station), she stayed at her post all day.
“It’s like I’m some sort of celebrity,” she said, smiling and waving as another car passed with a honk.
Dionne celebrated her 100th birthday on Thursday and family, friends and a couple hundred strangers made sure it was one to be remembered.
Plans for a large, lavish, roaring 20s-themed birthday party had been in the works for months, and family from all over the country cleared their schedules for MeMee’s 100th.
Then, the coronavirus pandemic reached the United States, and plans came to a screeching halt.
Family scrambled to find a different way to celebrate. They placed 100 pinwheels in her yard and put up signs asking people to honk as they drove by. Family members brought signs and stopped for a chat from the window.
Her cousin, Pauline Nadeau, donned the flapper costume she originally purchased for the party and decided to bring the party to her. They shared her story with friends and the media, and soon hundreds of well-wishes came pouring in.
They came in the form of a stranger bringing by some flowers, of an entire second grade class in Virginia who paused their virtual classroom to wish her a happy birthday, and of cars honking their horns— far more than one for every year of Dionne’s life so far.
“It has been the most heartwarming day,” Kim Curless, Dionne’s granddaughter said from the front yard. “I think the silver lining in all of this is that she would have felt the love at the party, but look at what’s come out of not having it.”
For Dionne, it’s a little overwhelming.
“Oh my goodness, I don’t know,” she said when asked how she was feeling. But she kept smiling.
She and her family planned to sort through the birthday messages on social media after all dinner on Thursday, but it may take a little longer than that.
“This is the beauty of our love for her,” Curless said.