Coronavirus doesn’t stop family from celebrating grandmother’s 99th birthday

Surprised by her Birthday celebration.
Surprised by her Birthday celebration.
Seeing her family help celebrate.
Seeing her family help celebrate.
Enjoying Birthday cupcakes.
Enjoying Birthday cupcakes.
Personal Elvis performance from Chris Wright.
Personal Elvis performance from Chris Wright.

Even a Coronavirus pandemic couldn’t prevent Nona Mae “Peg” Johnson’s family from wishing her a proper happy birthday on Friday.

Restrictions on visits to all residents at the Village at Skyline Pines assisted living center in Rapid City have kept family members and friends from personally greeting Johnson, but her family found a way to make it a special day anyway.

On a spring-like Good Friday morning, Johnson’s daughter Peggy Brengle of Sturgis and more than a dozen other family members gathered near a custom-made sign reading “Happy 99th Birthday, Grandma, Mom, Peg” in 3-foot-tall letters staked into the lawn, where Johnson could see it from a nearby window.

Johnson smiled from inside the building as the family (briefly defying strict social distancing guidelines) gathered behind the sign and sang Happy Birthday.

Inside, there were cupcakes for Johnson to enjoy with her lunch.

“One thing I would have done differently was to have ordered more cupcakes,” Brengle said. “We could have all been standing outside the window eating those cupcakes.”

Inspiration for the sign, produced by Sign Dreamers of Rapid City, came from Brengle’s friend in Sturgis, who had a similar birthday greeting placed in her yard last week.

“I thought this was a fun way to show her that we cared as long as we can’t all be there,” Brengle said.

She said the family usually celebrated Nona Mae’s birthday with a pizza party since she and her husband Lyle Donner moved into the Village at Skyline Pines in October 2017.

Donner, 97, passed away on Easter Sunday a year ago.

Brengle said she has reverted to daily phone calls to her mother since COVID-19 restrictions have put a halt to in-person visits.

“I had been visiting her every two or three days since she moved in there, but not during this,” she said.

Brengle said she hoped the idea of a more public display would brighten the day for anyone seeing the sign, which was expected to stay up though the day on Friday.

“All of our news is virus and bad things,” said Brengle. [We thought] “maybe it would be fun.”

News article attributed to the Rapid City Journal and Jim Holland.