Widow celebrates her 101st birthday surrounded by 700 cards from strangers

Irene Downes, who lives at Woodlands Residential Home in Wakefield, West Yorkshire, wasn’t able to celebrate her 100th birthday down to Covid restrictions

Irene Downes opened more than 678 cards
Irene Downes opened more than 678 cards

A widow has turned 101 surrounded by nearly 700 birthday cards from generous strangers.

Irene Downes said she felt “overwhelmed” by the kindness of those who sent her a greeting card to the care home where she lives.

Woodlands Residential Home in Wakefield, West Yorkshire, was disappointed that Irene’s 100th birthday was ruined because of coronavirus restrictions, so they set about making this year’s birthday extra special.

The care home launched an appeal on social media and manager Vikki Banks even appeared on local radio to encourage more people to send cards.

And, yesterday, Irene opened more than 678 cards from people across the country.

Irene’s great-grandson William helped her open cards


Lee McLean/SWNS)

She said: “I just want to say thank you to everybody for being so kind.

“I’m overwhelmed by your kindness. Thank you very much – I’m famous now.”

Leeds lass Irene has been at the care home since September.

She met her late husband, Frank, when she was just three years old at Sunday School and the pair married at 21 and had two sons, Geoffrey and Stephen.

She was sent a card from the Queen for her 100th birthday, which is now framed and has pride of place on the wall of her room and she greets it every day with a royal wave.

Sprightly Irene, who has five grandchildren and two great-grandchildren, said she loves visits from her family and even has a dance routine she does with the staff.

Irene wasn’t able to celebrate her 100th birthday because of covid restrictions


Lee McLean/SWNS)

She added: “I am quite in time with the routine – not bad for 100 years young!

“My mother Florence lived until she was 104 years old and I looked after her through her later years – this milestone age must be in the blood!”

Vikki said the response was “amazing” and added: “My overall aim was to make her 101st birthday one to remember as Irene couldn’t celebrate her 100th birthday due to covid and I want to make this year memorable for her.

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“It’s just amazing. Her family were here and straight after that, school children sang happy birthday.

“They were on the patio with the doors open.

“She’s received 678 cards in total, but we are going to have a recount because they are coming in thick and fast.

“It’s been overwhelming, she is just overwhelmed. When she was opening the cards, she was saying how “lovely” it was.

“But she’s been quite speechless throughout it all.”

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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