Local women celebrate each other’s birthdays for 50 years

GLADSTONE – “Listen Honey…everyone has birthdays; I’m just glad this one’s yours.”

This is the message on the flower-filled mug that is being passed multiple times a year to the ladies who belong to a birthday club that has been ongoing for the past 50 years.

As each woman’s birthday rolls around, the group gets together at a local restaurant for a celebratory dinner and the replenished mug is then the centerpiece at the dinner table.

With their average age in their 80s, the total age of the current seven members is 595 years. The members are Lorraine Green, Elaine Sigan, Carmel Cannon, Katie Van Donsel, Irma Sigan, Bernadette “Buck” Verhamme, and Louise LeGault. Bernadette, who is 88 years old, is the most senior member. The youngest is Louise at age 78.

Although the group has been celebrating each other’s birthdays for 50 years, the mug didn’t enter the scene for 13 years.

According to Lorraine, the mug was first given to her 37 years ago by Elaine. She then kept the mug until it was time for the next member’s birthday and refilled it with fresh-cut flowers and presented it to the “birthday girl” who kept it until the next member’s birthday.

All the ladies agreed that the hardest part of the tradition is locating the mug when it’s needed for the next recipient.

When the ladies first got together, they exchanged presents, but as the years went by, they decided it was more fun to give the mug and buy lunch for the birthday girl.

While the women have remained friends over the past 50 years, many of them were friends long before when they were children. Lorraine, Katie, Elaine and Carmel were friends since they were 8 years old and attended many birthday parties together. Bernadette and Louise joined the group in later years.

Four other members, including Pearl Schram, Edith Griffith, Doris Becvar, and Mary Burroughs, are now deceased.

“Six of the seven of us that are here now grew up in Gladstone and graduated from Gladstone High School,” Lorraine explained. “One graduated from Escanaba High School. Among the seven of us, there are children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Six of us still live in Gladstone and one in Escanaba.”

Discussing the appropriateness of their congenial mug, Lorraine summed up their thoughts by adding, “That mug has been in the local floral shops more often than we have.”