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Parade honors South Deerfield resident’s 105th birthday

  • Stella Connor of South Deerfield waves from her porch on her 105th birthday to a vehicle parade of police cruisers, fire engines and plenty of family and friends on June 19. STAFF PHOTOS/PAUL FRANZ

  • Marie Welch, left, with her mother, Stella Connor, of South Deerfield, who waves from her porch to a vehicle parade on her 105th birthday. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Stella Connor, of South Deerfield, who turned 105 on Friday, was treated to a vehicle parade led by police cruisers and fire engines. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Connor was visited by her great-nephew, Massachusetts State Police Officer Dean Lambert, who led a vehicle parade in her honor Friday.

  • Massachusetts State Police Officer Dean Lambert, who is the great-nephew of 105-year-old Stella Connor, led a vehicle parade in her honor Friday morning. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Stella Connor, of South Deerfield, who turned 105 on Friday, was treated to a vehicle parade led by police cruisers and fire engines. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ



Staff Writer
Tuesday, June 30, 2020

SOUTH DEERFIELD — When Stella Connor greeted her great-nephew on her porch last Friday, she didn’t miss a beat.

“You’re going to put me in jail?” she asked him, grinning at the Massachusetts State Police officer in front of her.

Connor, who turned 105 years old Friday, was surprised to find a convoy of police, fire, ambulance and other local officials parade past her home in South Deerfield in celebration of her birthday. Police cruisers, fire engines and ambulances were decorated with balloons; family and friends drove past with posters wishing the lifelong Franklin County resident a happy birthday.

Even Smokey Bear made an appearance.

Her great-nephew, State Police Officer Dean Lambert, led the convoy of vehicles from all over Franklin, Hampden and Hampshire counties.

“It’s the least I can do to give back,” he said.

The parade began at 11 a.m. on Merrigan Way before it proceeded down Sugarloaf Street and Thayer Road.

“I told her to have her hair done, and we picked out an outfit … so she knew something was up,” said her daughter, Marie Welch.

But as far as Connor knew, she was just going to have a few visitors outside.

As vehicles drove past, Connor waved from her porch, blowing kisses in thanks.

The idea for the parade was spearheaded by Lambert, who lives in West Springfield. Lambert said he and his wife make every effort to visit his great-aunt each year for her birthday, and this year was no exception. The celebration for it just looked a little different.

Still, he said celebrating Connor was especially important in light of the pandemic.

“(The elderly) have really been hit,” he said.

For his great-aunt in particular, the company of others has always been particularly important.

“What’s kept her going is being active, being around people,” Lambert said.

Since the pandemic began, Lambert said to maintain the communication he has always had with Connor, he often leaves cards in her mailbox when he’s in town for work.

Welch said she also attributes Connor’s long life to her faith in God and “a lifetime of hard work,” noting that Holy Family Roman Catholic Church on Sugarloaf Street has been a big part of Connor’s life.

Connor grew up on a farm and married a farmer, Welch said. After she tended to the farm, she went inside to do housework.

Connor, who has lived in South Deerfield since 1985, has three children — one daughter and two sons — three granddaughters and one great-great daughter.

Veronica Mard, one of Connor’s nieces, helped to organize the parade in her aunt’s honor.

“She has lived through two pandemics,” Mard said. “She’s lived through the World War. … It makes you stop and think about the things she’s seen in her lifetime.”