Assistance League honors centenarian with sidewalk celebration

By Pamela Casteel, Assistance League of Colorado Springs

Sheltering at home for months safely away from the relentless coronavirus, Rachel Hunt peered out her kitchen window, wondering why so many cars were lining up on both sides of her quiet neighborhood street. 

“What in the world is happening?” she asked her son Bob. 

He quietly carried a chair out to her little porch, and she cautiously stepped out.

A booming “Happy Birthday, Rachel!” resonated from some 30 or so masked volunteers from the Assistance League of Colorado Springs. They were glad to be there to celebrate Hunt’s 102nd birthday and her 39th year of philanthropic service with the Assistance League. 

“I was completely overwhelmed. It’s unbelievable to be so kind to come for my birthday,” Hunt said. “I’m thankful to see and speak to so many dear friends even at a safe distance.”

This pandemic isn’t Hunt’s first. She was born in 1918 when the Spanish flu killed 50 million people globally, including an estimated 675,000 Americans. She was 11 when her parents “lost everything” during the Great Depression, and was 21 when World War II began.

Delicate but undaunted, Hunt is “blessed to be so old” and to have lived through many life-changing events. She attended Duke and Kent State universities and became a teacher. In 1940, she married Robert Hunt, Sr., a U.S. Air Force B-24 bomber pilot during World War II. They were together 73 years before he died in 2014.

Hunt described her 102nd birthday celebration as “absolutely unforgettable.” Cynthia Robinson, first violinist in the Colorado Springs Symphony/Philharmonic and Instrumental music director at Fountain Valley School, performed familiar upbeat tunes. Standing on the lawn wearing a plastic face shield, she played Irving Berlin’s “Always”—Hunt and her late husband’s favorite song. 

Boundless, brave spirits safely gathered that uncommon day. Hunt’s grit, grace and love outshines the pandemic gloom far beyond its time. Though only eyes were visible on shielded faces, they sparkled with joy and hope.

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