HONORA BAY – Age may be all in our heads, as boomers in denial tend to suggest, but arrival of a 60th birthday is usually greeted as a significant milestone by friends and family happy to have had the celebrant in their lives for a full six decades. But turning 60 in the age of COVID-19 can bring with it more than a smidge of melancholy, unless those friends and family are blessed with caring hearts and just a wee bit of ingenuity.
Honora Bay’s Carole Labelle was really looking forward to the occasion of her 60th year on April 21. Her husband Maurice had booked the couple a trip to Puerto Rico, her vast collection of friends would be sure to come and help her celebrate, but all of that was put off the table by the pandemic and social distancing. Ms. Labelle is very active in the community, including working with a number of church organizations on their fundraising efforts with countless bake sales, seasonal teas and dinners and hosting musical events at the family’s shoreline retreat. She is also a major player in the Burn’s Wharf Theatre productions and has been deep into learning her lines and songs getting ready for rehearsals of this year’s offering.
Ms. Labelle still found time in her busy schedule and room in her spacious heart for her family and friends, with whom she has to maintain a significant physical distance.
In a word, Ms. Labelle is the very epitome of a social human being. The coming of the pandemic totally upended her life. Did we mention melancholy? Not on your life!
“I had pretty much come to terms with it all,” she laughed when contacted by The Expositor a couple of days after her birthday. “We just go with the flow. I figured, ‘oh well, I guess I will just celebrate this year by having a spa day at home.’ I told my husband ‘I’m taking the day off’.”
She got up in the morning, went to look out upon the waters of the North Channel from her window and got the surprise of her life. There, festooning tree branches across the lawn heading down to the water’s edge were brassieres of all shapes, colours and sizes—a full 60 in number.
“It was awesome,” she laughed. But the best was yet to come. As she went outside in her housecoat, nearly forgotten coffee in hand, a procession of 14 vehicles, also of all shapes and sizes, bearing friends, family and plenty of balloons and signs processed past down Lakeshore Drive. Not bad a bad showing for 10:45 on an early spring Tuesday morning.
“They stopped all the cars in a long line and sang happy birthday to me,” said Ms. Labelle, her voice just slightly cracking as she relayed the memory, even a few days after the fact. “It was so amazing.”
As she later explained to a friend, “it was WWT.” For the uninitiated outside the francophone community, that acronym stands in for “whoa, whoa, tabernac.” Mr. Labelle captured the event on video, copious tears and all.
“She is a great volunteer,” said Linda Diebel, a friend who organized the distance celebration. “She is the one who usually gets us all together. I thought it was fitting that we find a way to get together for her.”
Ms. Labelle’s children would normally have been home for the occasion but were able to be at the procession. “Her son Eric even had made a card with a little toilet paper roll on it,” laughed Ms. Diebel.
“She really deserves it,” said Ms. Diebel. “She is always the first person to be there for someone else, this was the least we could do for her.”
Ms. Labelle said that she is grateful to everyone for helping make her 60th birthday a special one. “They certainly made it a day I will never forget.”