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Monday, May 2, 2016

Family reverses birthday card tradition

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

There are a lot of things to be said in support of longevity.

After all, you can use old age as the reason for your crankiness, nobody expects you to do the dishes at family get togethers and you can laugh a lot every month when it's time for you to deposit your Social Security check.

You can also make out like gangbusters when special holidays...say your birthday, for instance, roll around.

When that birthday does kick in every year, as birthdays have a tendency of doing on a more or less regular basis, it's also a cause for a bit of celebration.

Hey, you've clocked up another one and are still beating the odds of the Biblical promise of "three score and ten."

Oftentimes, those landmark birthdays also have a way of touching others.

Take Helen Mansfield, for example.

When this Marcus resident celebrated her 97th birthday a few weeks ago, the whole thing had a sort of ripple effect that affected a number of people beyond the scope of her family and friends.

For one thing, it was the cause of a bunch of smiles plastered across the faces of a lot of purveyors of greeting cards.

Unfortunately, it also left a number of mail sorters, handlers and other U. S. Post Office-type people worn to a frazzle.

The whole thing started way back in 1950 when Helen's first grandkid, Janet Ireland celebrated her first birthday.

To commemorate the event, Helen bought a birthday card, enclosed a crisp dollar bill, sealed it up and shipped it off to the youngster.

By this simple act, the new grandmother was unaware that she had just established a new family tradition, one that would keep the cash registers ringing for the next 50 years.

When each ensuing grandchild came along, Helen added that name to her list, ensuring that the latest family scion would also receive his or her fair share of cards and dollar bills on future birthdays.

Over the years, the Mansfield family continued to grow. Eventually, Helen's direct descendants would tally up to 11 children, 40 grandchildren, 76 great-grandchildren and 28 great-great grandkids with four more on the way.

A diligent grandmother, Helen faithfully remembered each and every birthday, a labor of love that had the accumulative effect of a whole lot of birthdays, a mega-stack of cards and one impressive pile of one dollar bills.

Last spring, with Helen's 97th birthday looming on the horizon, her daughter Linda Flewelling of rural Cherokee, (who is responsible for seven of Helen's grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren,) decided to turn the tables on the doting grandmother.

Contacting the other members of the family, the plot was quickly formulated.

As Helen's own birthday of June 12 neared, the powers-that-be at the Marcus Post Office were surprised to discover themselves on the receiving end of an impressive influx of incoming mail.

Following a variation of that family tradition established so many years ago, all the grand-children and other assorted great and great-great grandkids reversed the whole process, remembering their grandmother's birthday with a greeting card containing a dollar bill.

At the final count, Helen ended up receiving 123 birthday cards, an impressive stack of correspondence.

Since Helen Mansfield's family had spread out across the country to both coasts and all points in between, including Alaska, Louisiana, Texas and Oregon, the postmarks on the cards and letters read like the index of a Rand-McNally Road Atlas and contained enough dollar bills to keep any Chip 'n Dales club going for a week.

Also impressive was the fact that there were only three duplicates to be found in the stampede of birthday cards.

The dust from that old nine-seven birthday has now settled and the cards, after being displayed and admired for a week or two, have all been stored away.

One must wonder, however, with Helen's century mark just around the corner, if any thought is being given to that birthday.

"My kids say they're working on it even now," Helen said. "I'm sure it will be a good one."

"I can hardly wait," she said enthusiastically.

As a final side note of interest, there is absolutely no truth to the rumor that the flames from the candles on Helen's birthday cake set off the sprinkler system, precipitating a visit from the Marcus Fire Department.

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