MacDonald surrounded by loved ones, animals at 100th

MacDonald surrounded by loved ones, animals at 100th

At a 100th birthday party for Norma MacDonald, front right, Claire MacDonald, Glen MacDonald, and Taryn MacDonald pose with some of the animals that were brought in to surprise the birthday girl. (Valley Breeze photos by Jessica Boisclair)

LINCOLN - Lincoln native Norma MacDonald was stunned after walking into the day room at Arbor Hill Assisted Living Community in Providence last week to find family, friends and a dozen or so farm animals eagerly awaiting her arrival.

They had gathered on this special day to celebrate MacDonald's 100th birthday.

Donna Allard, director of activities, said when she asked MacDonald what she wanted for her birthday this year, she answered, "animals."

To fulfill her wish, Allard hired Farm-Visits Traveling Petting Zoo, which showed up with a baby pig, a goat, chickens, bunnies and ducklings.

MacDonald cuddled each animal and said, "They are all so beautiful. I just loved the animals."

MacDonald, who has been at Arbor Hill since 2012, sat quietly in front of her guests as four girls from the Federal Hill House brought up a gift that paid homage to the woman.

As she unwrapped the package, a framed photograph of the girls and MacDonald made the 100-year-old gasp with delight.

According Allard the girls visit the patrons of Arbor Hill once a month and "they love Norma."

She said that MacDonald's nickname is sunflower because "August is the month of sunflowers, but she also brings a ray of sunshine into our lives."

MacDonald was born on Aug. 3, 1914, in Lincoln.

She started school at the age of 5, continuing her studies at Tolman High School in Pawtucket, where she graduated at 16. At the time, students in the Fairlawn section of Lincoln were bused to Tolman for schooling.

After high school, MacDonald attended Catherine Gibbs Academy before going on to work as a secretary for the late U.S. Sen. Claiborne Pell.

MacDonald continued her career at Brown University in the sociology department, where she stayed until retirement.

In 1945, MacDonald married her childhood sweetheart, John Wallday MacDonald, at the Smithfield Avenue Congregational Church, where she has been a member for 78 years.

Because of her work alongside the late Sen. Pell, his grandson, Claiborne Pell IV, visited MacDonald at her birthday celebration to thank her for her hard work.

She joked around with the younger Pell, explaining that when she worked for his grandfather he was "Mr. Pell," not senator.

"I always worked for him a few days, and when it was payday, he didn't have the money, so he'd say 'you'll have to go to my wife,'" she said, laughing.

Pell told MacDonald "It's an honor to be here on behalf of my family and I want to say thank you and I hope you have the happiest 100th birthday."

Surrounded by three of her family members - son Glen, daughter-in-law Claire and granddaughter Taryn - MacDonald said this was the "best birthday ever."

She also has another son, Craig, daughter-in-law Helen, granddaughter Calligh, and two grandsons Justin and Giles, who could not make the event.

Norma MacDonald has fun with BoBo the Clown during her 100th birthday celebration, wearing the balloon hat he made for her.
Norma MacDonald gently holds a baby goat during her 100th birthday celebration last week.