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A star turns 103

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molly_story.jpgFor several months, Trudy Bleier and Rita Drutz have been going to the Baycrest parking lot early in the morning to wave greetings to their mom, and let her know she is not alone. On a recent morning, Drutz attached balloons to her car and wrote Happy Birthday in chalk on the pavement before waving up to her mother Molly Starr in the window of her 5th floor suite at Baycrest.

It set the stage for an eVisit birthday party later where the entire family doted on the “Starr” attraction who was turning 103. “That’s a beautiful picture of them,” Molly exclaimed with delight as Zoom squares of her family flashed up on a screen operated by Sabina Ntim, a therapeutic recreationist at Baycrest.

Three younger generations took turns paying tribute to the smiling, lively bubby seated regally in a chair with flowers beside her and a birthday banner on the wall. “I thank you for your wonderful words!” Molly said.

Drutz and Bleier said it meant the world to have an eVisit celebration.
“It was an opportunity for her to see everybody close up. The video was so powerful. She was just so grateful for all the people that were in the video. Her family is so, so important to her.”

Molly waved enthusiastically at her great-granddaughters, including a youngster who visited regularly before pandemic-related restrictions. The at-the-time 102-year-old and two-year-old would toss a beach ball and explore the 30-or-so colours of nail polish that Molly keeps in her room. 

Baycrest President and CEO Dr. William Reichman also stopped in via Zoom to extend birthday greetings and asked Starr for advice on living a good life. Her reply was a simple: “I’m here!”

Drutz laughs that her mother’s longevity likely isn’t due to her fitness choices or a “meat and potatoes” diet in earlier days. Rather, she points to her resilience and determination.

Molly, who was born in Welland, Ont., had to quit school when she was 13 to help support her family. She was a chicken plucker and then went to the Reliable toy factory in Toronto at age 14, rising through the ranks from the assembly line to become the only female executive. During the Second World War, she organized and shipped monthly care packages to employees who were posted overseas to fight. She also sold war bonds and volunteered as a nurse in a downtown hospital. She eventually married and turned her focus to raising two daughters.

The love of colour seen in Molly’s nail polish collection, wardrobe and lipstick is also expressed in a new talent that emerged when she moved to the Apotex Centre, Jewish Home for the Aged.

“She never held a paintbrush until she went to Baycrest. She didn’t have the luxury of art class in school,” said Bleier in her speech. “Her favourite thing in the whole world at Baycrest is painting and colouring. She has flourished.”

Before the Zoom call ended, nurse Semone arrived bearing gifts and a cupcake. Molly was animated as she unwrapped new colouring books. Then, together in their own locations, the family blew out the candles.

EVisits are supported by donors and facilitated by the Telemedicine Rapid Implementation (TRIM) team, which is using technology to reduce social isolation and help deliver medical care at Baycrest and in the community.

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