Nonagenarian Ava Keene had planned to celebrate her August birthday with a big party, welcoming friends and family members from as far as Florida, New York, and even Canada. The coronavirus pandemic put a halt to the party, however, so Keene settled on celebrating quietly with her husband, John Tutton.
What she didn’t know was that Tutton had secretly submitted an ad to The Lincoln County News, inviting its readers to send birthday cards to Keene in lieu of the in-person party.
“I knew he was responsible as soon as I saw it in the paper,” said Keene, recounting her reaction upon seeing the ad.
The couple have known each other for nearly nine years but have only been married for one. Both were married before — Keene for 67 years, Tutton for 55. Their partners passed away within five months of one another, and in the months that followed, they found comfort, support, and romance together.
“We have a lot in common,” said Keene, listing the activities they enjoy doing together. Among them is going to church, which is where they met. “Our former mates weren’t churchgoers like we are, so it’s really nice to share that.”
Locally, the couple attend the Bremen Union Church. They spend most of the year in Maine, but travel to Bradenton, Fla. for the winter, attending church there too.
In addition to submitting an ad to The Lincoln County News, Tutton had also informed their church, the Community Baptist Church of Bradenton, of the “card party.”
Keene received 66 birthday cards total, 16 of which came from the Bradenton church. She also received cards from Washington, Colorado, and New York.
“I didn’t even know some of these people, but they said they heard about me from The Lincoln County News,” gushed Keene.
One card, from a 3-year-old in Colorado, asked what it was like being 90. Others contained heartfelt messages from neighbors and family.
When asked the secret to reaching 90 years young, Keene quickly answered, “Thinking positively.”
As for her plans for her 91st birthday?
“Hopefully we’ll have that party!” she said.