Celebrating 95, quarantine-style

Florence Holmes celebrates her 95th birthday as cars full of friends and family drive past her home in Valencia on Thursday, July 30, 2020. Dan Watson/The Signal
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With honks and cheers from their cars, family and friends celebrated longtime Valencia resident Florence Holmes’ 95th birthday in a drive-by fashion on Thursday. 

Though from a distance, Holmes was happy to see her family and excited to celebrate the milestone. 

“With COVID, she’s lost all her activities, so we’re just trying to do something fun for her,” said Holmes’ daughter Tricia Yamamoto.

Usually celebrating her mother’s birthdays with large parties, Yamamoto planned the drive-by event as a way to bring the celebration to her, including a surprise appearance from musicians of The Grateful Dudes and Murphy’s Flaw.

“For her 88th birthday, we had a huge luau with 150 people, a band and dancers, and so this is kind of a big letdown because she’s quite social,” Yamamoto added. 

Eleven-year-old Chocolate Labrador, Brewsky looks out the window during a 95th birthday drive-by for Florence Holmes in Valencia on Thursday, July 30, 2020. Dan Watson/The Signal

But even though this celebration was much different, Holmes was grateful.

“It’s a good day; we’re all here together,” Holmes said. “It’s different, but nice.” 

For Holmes, living to see her 95th birthday is her biggest milestone yet, but never did she think she’d be doing so in the midst of a global pandemic. “I never ever dreamt of such a thing.”

In fact, Holmes lost a brother to the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918.

“So, her oldest brother would have lived if it wasn’t for that pandemic,” Yamamoto said.

As the last of her seven siblings alive, Holmes has been living her life to the fullest, swimming at the YMCA three times a week and often going to hear bands play live or to the Elks Lodge, of which she’s been a longtime member.

Florence Holmes, left, receives balloons from long-time friend Diane Huml as she gets out of her car to celebrate Holmes’ 95th birthday in Valencia on Thursday, July 30, 2020. Dan Watson/The Signal

“She’s always on the go,” Yamamoto said.

Holmes replied, with a chuckle, “You’re supposed to be, aren’t you?”

In the past few months, Holmes has spent more time at home than she ever has before. 

“You get tired of yourself even,” Holmes added, laughing. “It’s not too bad, though. I’ve had pretty good luck keeping busy.” 

Nowadays, she spends most of her time gardening and working in the yard, pulling weeds, or doing her own house cleaning. 

“I thought she’d have a harder time going through this because she’s so busy all the time, but she’s really adjusted well and keeps busy,” Yamamoto said. “No complaining from her. She’s from The Greatest Generation, so they know not to be bellyaching.” 

Holmes is no stranger to big change, though. She and her husband, Allen, packed up and moved halfway across the country, from Iowa to California, with two young children after he was discharged from the Army Air Corps and got a job at Lockheed. 

Friend, Gloria Ordonez waves to Florence Holmes during a 95th birthday drive-by celebration for Holmes in Valencia on Thursday, July 30, 2020. Dan Watson/The Signal

“After the war, a lot of people came to California to work in aircraft, so they loaded up (my 5-year-old brother) and I was 6 months old, put everything in the car and came to California,” Yamamoto said. 

“Everybody was doing it, so it wasn’t unusual then,” Holmes added.

After growing up on a farm, coming to the big cities in California was, indeed, a big change for Holmes, as was the weather. 

Holmes has lived in her Valencia home since the neighborhood was built back in 1980, and loves that she’s close to her large family, which includes three kids, eight grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren.

“They’re a great pleasure,” Holmes said. 

Now, Yamamoto says she’s already planning her mother’s 100th birthday, aiming to have the best celebration yet. 

Florence Holmes, center, dances as musicians of The Grateful Dudes and Murphy’s Flaw play The Tennessee Waltz for her 95th birthday at her home in Valencia on Thursday, July 30, 2020. Dan Watson/The Signal

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