The most uplifting birthday party in Wellesley takes place each year in a common area at the Glen Grove apartment complex. The room is decorated with flowers and balloons, a massive sheet cake takes up most of a table, and well-wishers stand ready to receive the guest of honor. At last, Herlda Senhouse makes her way confidently into the room with the aid of a walker. Wellesley’s oldest resident is ready to celebrate her 111th birthday.
Herlda, a woman of style, looked great, as always. Wearing a classic black cashmere sweater under a casual salmon jacket, black pants, gold button earrings, and a string of pearls, the Woburn High School graduate appeared both comfortable and elegant. Although Herlda was masked up, she didn’t leave her room without putting on her signature red lipstick. She’s particular that way.
Representing the Wellesley Select Board, Chair Tom Ulfelder recognized Herlda’s milestone noting that the woman “…known as ‘Aunt Herlda’ to so many continues to lead a full life, sharing her wisdom with younger generations, enjoying deep relationships with her many friends, and remaining engaged in her church and in civic affairs…”
Wellesley Historical Society’s Executive Director Taylor Kalloch brought the Boston Cane out of storage to allow Herlda to hold it for a few minutes. A quirky Massachusetts tradition dating back to the early 1900s, the publisher of the Boston Post, Edwin A. Grozier, sent an engraved gold-headed ebony Boston Cane to each of the 700 towns in the Commonwealth (no cities were included). He requested that it be presented with the compliments of the Boston Post to the oldest male citizen of the town.
In the 1930s it was discovered that women also lived to be august personages, and the “oldest male citizen of the town” idea was dropped in favor of the “oldest resident of the town.” Because so many towns have lost track of their Boston Cane, the Historical Society shines Wellesley’s up and brings it out just once a year, before spiriting it back to a super-secret storage space. Herlda has been the official holder of the cane since 2016.
Today, it’s Herlda’s 111th birthday. Tomorrow, the party continues. She and her niece and nephew and a friend are going to the Encore Casino in Everett, where she’ll play the slots. Because she doesn’t much believe in stress, Herlda and her entourage will be chauffeured to and from the casino so all can relax and enjoy the day.
Happy birthday, Herlda. You sure know how to live, ma’am.
Thoughts on COVID: It’s been, “a messy, messy thing,” and there were times when she almost felt like she was in jail, due to the many pandemic restrictions.
Advice for longevity: “Don’t live too fast.”
Advice for the future: Have something to look forward to. Herlda is anticipating a spring visit from Atlanta family members.