Friends and relatives came Saturday to celebrate the 100th birthday of Thelma Luce Baird. The gathering at Windemere Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Oak Bluffs included colorful flowers and two birthday cakes, and was documented by a dozen flashing cameras.
Mrs. Baird’s centennial birthday party was a community event, a time for the exchange of greetings, memories and pictures of a changing Island.
Mrs. Baird said she was honored by all the attention and she said she liked seeing all her friends. She couldn’t thank them all enough.
Guests paid tribute to her warm nature.
“She was everyone’s babysitter,” said Lorraine Clark of Vineyard Haven. “She may have been childless but she mothered a lot of Islanders. She took care of a lot of nieces and nephews.”
More than 65 people of all ages attended the party. They seemed to have come from almost every Island town.
Plenty of members of the Luce family were on hand. Agnes Luce Blankenship came from Edgartown. Donald Luce arrived from West Tisbury.
When Thelma Baird was growing up, her parents, Harry C. and Irena Luce, ran a large farm in Oak Bluffs. Today that old homestead is Farm Neck Golf Course. Mrs. Baird has fond memories of that farm and the work of her father.
When she married her husband Raymond, the two moved off Island and spent quite a few years in Rhode Island. He worked for a firm that made ice cream.
The Bairds made many trips back to the Vineyard. When her husband died in the mid-1960s, she moved back to the Vineyard full time.
Betsy Sullivan Salmond, Thelma’s niece, was visiting from London, England, and came by to share in the festivities.
“Thelma was like a second mother to me,” Mrs. Salmond said.
Mrs. Clark said: “She is my husband’s aunt. She spent every holiday with us, every Christmas.”
Mrs. Clark, who hosted the celebration, said the event was the way to honor a woman who nurtured a growing, expanding family.
Richard Clark, her husband, had his own memory: “When she could, she would go to Linda Jean’s for lunch every single day. She would call a taxi to take her there if she had to.”
Mrs. Clark added: “Thelma could tell farm stories. She could tell old funny Vineyard stories. She knew them all.”
Mrs. Baird has been an avid reader and knitted plenty up until recently, Mrs. Clark said.
“She read seven or eight books a week only up until a few weeks ago,” Mrs. Clark said.
One of the cakes at the party was huge. Its frosted greeting read: “Happy 100th Birthday, Thelma.” The cake was flavorful with chocolate, yellow and white cake inside. A second birthday cake had a frosting color photograph of Thelma on the top. Deviled eggs were served along with other treats.
Though the party took place Saturday, Thelma’s real birthday was Tuesday. Mrs. Clark said the celebration date was changed for convenience.
Farmer Elisha Smith attended the event with his wife. He too had memories of the Luce farm where Thelma Baird grew up. And Leslie Clapp, director of the Islands Council on Aging, came by and gave Mrs. Baird a warm greeting.
Linsey Lee, oral historian at the Martha’s Vineyard Museum, was on hand sharing in the fellowship. Ms. Lee featured Mrs. Baird in her most recent book: More Vineyard Voices, Words, Faces and Voices of Island People, which was published in 2005.
“This is a real tribute to her and her family, to see that kind of spirit,” Ms. Lee said of the event.