It was Alma Buechler Day in Pierre and across South Dakota and they threw a party for her at Maryhouse, the senior residence where she lives across the street from Avera St. Mary’s, with balloons and a parade of well-wishers. She turned 108 on Wednesday, May 20, and as the second-oldest person in South Dakota, she deserved a day of it all.
The mayor and the governor proclaimed it her day.
Alma wore a shirt proclaiming: “I’m celebrating my 108th Birthday in Quarantine 2020.”
Granddaughter Tina Douglas said it was big fun.
“We did the drive-by parade today,” she said of cruise down Dakota Avenue by Maryhouse with some turning into the parking lot. “It turned out great, about 60 cars were in the parade.”
“I called her this morning to say Happy Birthday,” said daughter Daph Richards. “And I told her, ‘You can’t say you’re 107 anymore.’ And she said ‘No, I’m getting old.’”
Like so many living in senior homes, Alma has gotten lonely during the COVID-19 pandemic, with visits banned and not able to see the many family members who normally visit her, say her children and grandchildren, who have resorted to standing outside her window and talking to her by phone this spring.
Richards said the staff workers at Maryhouse “did a really good job” for the big birthday.
There was coffee and cake and balloons fixed to street signs. Grandson Karl Richards rolled Alma out on the sidewalk to see the parade and the balloons.
In addition to the parade, “they had several seniors sitting outside there with pointed birthday hats on,” Daph Richards said. “That was kind of cute.”
Or as Alma might say: “Youngsters these days.”
According to LuAnn Severson, spokeswoman for the South Dakota Health Care Association who oversees the South Dakota Century Club, Alma is junior statewide only to Vivian Glover of Rapid City who turned 109 on Feb. 20.
The club tracks the state’s most senior people and has a dues-free membership for all who turn 100, sending them a framed certificate, Severson said.
The association began the Century Club in 1997 and has recognized just short of 1,500 centenarians since. At any one time, the club has, aptly, about 100 members, she said.
The club is not exactly an official government agency, but they try to keep apprised of all those who hit the 100 mark. “We give them all plaques and we need to be notified when someone is no longer a part of the Century Club,” Severs said.