Photo by Kathryn Menue
From left: Doris Rands, 100, Thelma Newcomer, 104, Darlene Esmond, 100, Mary Liss, 105, Sara Rosner, 100, and Dorothy Blackman, 103 all celebrate their birthdays together at Maplecrest of Belvidere on June 2 at 1 p.m.


By Kathryn Menue
BELVIDERE – On Tuesday, June 2, Maplecrest of Belvidere held a birthday party for six deserving ladies.
Amidst a room full of balloons, party hats, coloring books, flowers, and magic birthday wands, these ladies sat together with their close families celebrating the lives they have led. The celebration featured a Disney princess theme for six princesses all 100 years of age or older.
Doris Rands, 100, Darlene Esmond, 100, Sara Rosner, 100, Dorothy Blackman, 103, Thelma Newcomer, 104, and Mary Liss, 105 gathered around a table adorned with a Cinderella table cloth and white carnations for their conjoined surprise birthday party.
The room was filled with a picturesque scene as the six ladies sat around their birthday surprise with a banner reading, “Aged to Perfection,” framing them from the background.
None was more surprised than Sara Rosner who said, “If I had known [about the party] I would have worn a different outfit.”
The celebration commenced with the arrival of ice-cream and the announcement “Party time.”
Each lady gleamed like a true princess when they were served a dish of ice-cream with six different toppings available, and a glass of tropical fruit punch from their children and from staff members.
When every lady was served properly, the room filled with the celebratory notes of “Happy Birthday to You.”
The notes ringing through the air brought out the notes of a different song from Mary Liss. Liss loved to sing and dance all her life and began to sing one of her favorite songs, “I want to go back to Michigan” also known as “Down on the Farm” by Irving Berlin.
The song always meant a lot to Liss who was born and raised in the upper peninsula of Michigan. Although she has lived over a hundred years, Liss can still remember her youth of being one of 13 children and living to see her older brothers return home from World War I.
All of the ladies have lived through historic times and have lived to see the creation of great inventions and new technology.
Sara Rosner’s son commented on his mother’s amazement at the GPS system in his car. She told him she didn’t even have a bathtub in her house growing up, and now a computer can tell people where to go because of the satellite system.
Not only were the birthday girls in awe of the historical leaps the world has made over the years, but they were also amazed by each other as well.
Doris Rands was so surprised to hear Mary Liss’ age that she said, “Oh, she [Liss] gained a couple of years.”
Some individuals were more optimistic about their age than others.
“Oh, I’m the baby of the group. I’m starting my second childhood,” said Rosner. “And may everyone here have many more happy birthdays.”
Doris Rands wasn’t as enthusiastic about her age though.
“Who wants to live to be 100?,” said Rands. “Don’t live to be 100. There are too many aches and pains.”
Despite the aches and pains, each birthday princess enjoyed the festivities by receiving balloons on their wheelchairs, a carnation corsage, a princess tiara, and a present made by Mary Liss’ daughter-in-law. The ladies homemade gifts consisted of a door-hanger that read, “Centenarians have stories to tell” with their names and ages on their hanger.
This party could never have occurred if Sue Berendes hadn’t gone through files and seen that they had a staggering six ladies who were all 100 years of age or older. Berendes commented that they had five people 100 years of age or older at one time before, but never six.
So, Berendes made it her mission to celebrate these six women who have conquered so many years on this Earth. Berendes contacted family members and received special donations from Pacemaker of Belvidere, Dean’s Foods of Belvidere, the Salvation Army, and Snyder’s Pharmacy of Poplar Grove who all helped make the party possible.
The six women felt honored and were very grateful for the surprise party.
“It’s so nice of you people to go to all this trouble,” Rosner said. “Everybody’s been so sweet and nice.”
As the party slowly came to an end with the conversation, the jokes, and the laughter fading away, Mary Liss took the opportunity to join Rosner’s appreciation to the staff and family members by saying, “Thank you and God bless all of you.”

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