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A 104-year-old’s secret? Be kind, she says, after receiving more than 1,500 birthday cards

By Garrett Barry

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    Clarenville, Newfoundland and Labrador (CTV Network) — Louise Pelley asked for 104 birthday cards for her 104th birthday on Feb. 1, 2024.

Members of her community and from around the world smashed those expectations after she was showered with more than 1,500 notes and cards.

Her secret? Be kind.

“I got a lot of friends,” Pelley said. “Everyone here, as far as I know, is my friend.”

The Clarenville Retirement Home in eastern Newfoundland is receiving cards every day. Around 100 more arrived on Wednesday, staff at the centre said, who are taking the time to read each individual note to Pelley, even if it takes weeks.

“She’s a wonderful person,” said Bonita Taylor, who works with Pelley as a personal care attendant in the retirement home.

“She’s very easy to get along with. She loves everybody, does not have a bad word to say about nobody.”

The staff have been stunned by how many birthday wishes have arrived — from as far away as Dubai, Germany and Alabama.

The first ones started arriving shortly after the retirement home posted Pelley’s birthday wish on their Facebook page in early January.

“I thought if they want to send me a card, send them!” Pelley said. “I love it. I love the birthday cards.”

There are cards from relatives, a letter from Newfoundland and Labrador’s Lieutenant Governor — but Pelley’s favourite are the notes from children in schools.

Pelley’s lived near Clarenville her entire life. She had been married and owned two large stores in the region.

“It was just her and her husband,” Taylor said. “Very well-known from everybody, I think, around this part of the peninsula.”

She is a lover of church and its music — she first started playing Organ in a church when she was about 12.

“I played organ for Easter Sunday,” Pelley explained. “I took it over then, and I kept it over. They wouldn’t let me leave.”

She even took her organ with her to the Clarenville Retirement Centre when she moved in, and continued playing — on an electric piano, after her organ broke down — until she was 100.

Her personality still shines, staff at the centre said, lighting up a room whenever she walks in.

“I can’t even describe,” Taylor said. “Like she’s one of those residents that you will never, ever forget. Like she’s just an extraordinary woman all around.”

She doesn’t have a secret for a long life, Pelley said, just advice to how to treat others.

“Be kind to people and they’ll be kind to you. That’s my secret.”

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