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Drive By Parade Honors Centenarian
On September 29th members of the Northeast Senior Center gathered in the parking lot of Grant Chapel AME Church for a surprise drive by parade to help Aulene Ray celebrate her 100th Birthday. “Big” sister Darnett Wilson (who is 101 years old) traveled from the Kansas City area to help Aulene celebrate. Reporters from all 3 news stations as well as numerous friends and family were present to mark the grand occasion. Friend and fellow center member Cynthia Nero organized the procession “Aulene is such a lovely person with an amazing life! She deserved to be recognized.”
Aulene’s life story is inspiring! Born in 1920 her parents encouraged their daughters to strive for the best life had to offer. Both she and Darnett graduated college at a time when it wasn’t common for women, especially black women, to get an education. The mother of 4, professionally Aulene was a hardworking powerhouse – raising a family and working outside the home throughout her life. She taught elementary school, ran her own salon and, in later years, worked for Montgomery Wards until they closed in the 1990s. After the store closing she promptly returned to work at Sears in Towne East. She remained a faithful employee until 2 years ago when the store closed. At the age of 98 Aulene realized it was time to retire permanently!
Aulene attended the Northeast Senior Center every day prior to the abrupt closing in March. Cynthia touches on the challenges brought on by the center’s temporary closing “I’m disabled and considered a younger member of our center. During the pandemic I’ve done everything I can to exercise and stay active. I worry about the older members who are alone. I get phone calls from people who just want someone to talk to. I thought the parade would be a safe way to celebrate and bring people together at a distance.”
Celebrating healthy lifestyles is what makes senior centers a vital part of the community and Aulene Ray exemplifies that mission. When asked what she thought of the parade held in her honor, she humbly stated “I’m speechless! I can’t believe all these people came out for my little 100th birthday.”