Wales Home resident celebrates 108th birthday with a virtual party

By Matthew McCully

When Sara Lebourveau was told by her family that they wouldn’t be able to get together for her birthday party this year because of COVID-19, she replied, “Oh well, that’s not a problem, don’t worry, there will be others.”
On April 30 Lebourveau, who resides at the Wales Home in Richmond, turned 108 years old. Her family organized a surprise party via videoconferencing to celebrate. As luck would have it Lebourveau’s great-granddaughter Becky Gilchrist happens to work at the Wales Home and is assigned to her floor. “We’re so blessed to have my daughter working there,” explained Carolyn Leonard, Lebourveau’s granddaughter.
With a bit of tech support and a lot of organization, members of ­Lebourveau’s family from all over the country joined the virtual birthday party.
It wasn’t easy organizing the time, Leonard said, because there is family in PEI, BC and Alberta. They opted for 5:45 on Wednesday, April 29, the evening before Lebourveau’s birthday to surprise her.
Her great-granddaughter was on hand to help with the set up. Lebourveau has seven ­grandchildren, 11 great-grandchildren and six great-great-grandchildren. The youngest generation ranges in age from three months to 10 years old. Only two family members were unavailable because they had to work. Leonard said the family went by age from oldest to youngest, taking turns to share a birthday message with ­Lebourveau.
“She amazed people,” Leonard said, “it’s very rare for someone to be 108 years old with a mind that sharp.”
Lebourveau has trouble hearing and seeing, and can’t walk, “but she has a good appetite,” Leonard said, “and she knows what’s going on.” According to Leonard, during the call Lebourveau reminded her grandson Peter of the time he drove his car into the brook. “That was over 50 years ago,” she said. Lebourveau also remembered to thank another family member for sending chocolates. Leonard said it was important for the family to make an effort to reach out because there is a lot of anxiety these days surrounding COVID-19. “She certainly realizes it’s serious,” Leonard said, because all the caregivers are wearing masks. “I’m not worried, I’m not sick,” Lebourveau told her granddaughter.
Lebourveau was living on her own in an apartment until she was 105 years old. “She’s been really strong,” Leonard said, describing her grandmother as a remarkable woman. “She was widowed over half her life, both her children died, she’s outlived pretty much everyone around her,” Leonard explained. “She doesn’t ask for much,” Leonard said, adding her caregivers agree she is pleasant to work with. When she was in her 90s Leonard said Lebourveau had a bus pass and used to travel all over Sherbrooke.

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