OTTUMWA — Pauline Stice turned 90 years old Tuesday. She did not have a traditional party. Neighbors surprised her by holding up balloons and singing Happy Birthday from a distance.

“I never had this much excitement before,” Stice said with a wide grin. “I wasn’t expecting this. It was a total surprise.”

The fire department even drove by and waved to Stice. Stice’s smile widened as she also waved, speechless from the excitement and love from her neighbors.

Stice’s neighbor, Kerry Wulff, wanted to give her a worthwhile celebration. She coordinated the surprise with neighbors and became the “birthday fairy,” handing out wrapped chocolates and sugar cookies to everyone who came.

“Everybody kinda decided on it. We just decided that we had to do something,” Wulff said. “Everybody pitched in and decided to do something. They brought balloons and everything. I’ve known Pauline for years. She’s a really fun person and even gave me Barbie dolls. She always had pop, cookies and treats. She’s always been well loved. So this was for her.”

Before the celebration, Stice woke up around dawn to work on a quilt. She was excited for the birthday plans she had with her immediate family which included lunch, chocolate cake with cream cheese frosting and vanilla ice cream. Singing wasn’t part of the agenda.

She doesn’t normally  like the spotlight on her, but Tuesday was the exception.

“I like doing things for others, but it kills me when they have to do things for me,” Stice said. “Today was amazing though. I liked every minute. I never dreamed of anything like this.”

“It was nice for her and nice that so many recognize how she helped,” Sue Greer, Stice’s daughter, said. “She’s blessed and helps them. She’s just thankful for everything.”

Stice believed she led a good life, calling her age a milestone. She regularly passed out cookies and refreshments to mail carriers and garbage collectors.

Stice has made more quilts than she can count and has read the Bible cover-to-cover 21 times. She has more goals in store.

She isn’t sure how she’ll celebrate next year, but is focused on holding onto the memories from Tuesday.

Chiara Romero can be reached at cromero@ottumwacourier.com.

Chiara Romero can be reached at cromero@ottumwacourier.com.

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