Hamilton

This Hamilton woman wanted 105 cards for her 105th birthday — she got almost 2,000

A Hamilton, Ont., woman who wanted 105 cards for her 105th birthday ended up receiving roughly 2,000.

Ann Konkel, who turned 105 in July, survived the Spanish Flu and WWII bombings

Ann Konkel dons a pink birthday hat for her 105th. She hoped to received a birthday card for every year she's lived. (Bobby Hristova/CBC)

Ann Konkel wanted 105 cards for her 105th birthday in mid-July — now, her family in Hamilton says she has received almost 2,000.

"Her birthday isn't ending. To think her birthday was July 14 and they still keep coming," Robin Konkel, Ann's daughter-in-law, said.

Ann was lonely in her hospital room before her birthday, but now she spends her time using a magnifying glass to read and gaze at the cards or listening to family members read them aloud, her family said. 

The cards adorn her room, lining the walls and other surfaces.

"She sees the messages from people and she says, 'For me?' " Konkel said.

An 11-year-old girl was one of the thousands who wrote Ann Konkel a card for her 105th birthday. (Submitted by Lauren Konkel)

Konkel and family open all the cards before they bring them to Ann when they visit throughout the week.

Konkel said each of the cards are unique and have their own stories.

Many of them say Ann's story inspired them.

Some of the birthday cards Ann Konkel received included abstract art or portraits, like this one. (Submitted by Laura Konkel)

"I found it really cool how you were an operating room nurse because I had a liver transplant when I was six years old and now I'm 11," reads a card written by a girl named Olivia.

Another card reads: "My heart goes out to you; I couldn't begin to imagine how you've managed to be so strong in courageous."

Fans around the globe

Ann also received cards from around the world. The Polish government sent a card and the ambassador of the Netherlands sent a coffee table book with photos of her home country.

The CEO of Canada Post also sent one. Post offices, like one in Fort Erie, sent a card the size of two or three put together.

Ann Konkel, who turned 105 on July 14, received roughly 2,000 cards for her birthday. Her family says the cards lifted her spirits. (Submitted by Laura Konkel)

She also received cards from inmates, from people who'd never sent a card before — and even a 104-year-old according to Konkel.

One family — Bev and Ken — didn't have a return address on any of the envelopes but sent more than 20 cards to make sure Ann reached her goal.

"It reached the point where we knew it was from them by their writing on the envelope," Laura Konkel, Ann's granddaughter, told CBC.

Konkel received birthday cards from all around the world. She spends her days reading them or listening to family read them. (Submitted by Laura Konkel)

The family has tried to write back to some to express their gratitude.

"The thing that is most spectacular about the cards is how sincere and wonderful they are ... the cards are coming from both old and young with amazing stories about their own lives and how Ann has inspired them to live a full life," Laura Konkel said.

Konkel survived WWII bombings and Spanish Flu

Ann was born in 1915 in Rotterdam, in the Netherlands. She survived the Spanish Flu when she was three.

Then she live through the Second World War despite the bombings in Rotterdam. Her father died of starvation.

She eventually moved to Hamilton, Ont., with her husband and started working as an operating room nurse.

Ann Konkel and her husband, Edward, pose with their only child, Chuck. (Submitted by Laura Konkel)

Ann still lives in the same home, alone, but has been in the hospital for the past few months after a fall.

The cards have lifted her spirits.

"This is what's keeping her so happy," Konkel said.

Ann Konkel has been staying at St. Joseph's Healthcare Hamilton nursing an injury after a fall at home. But she's been through a lot worse — the Spanish Flu and the Second World War. (Bobby Hristova/CBC)

About the Author

Bobby Hristova

Reporter/Editor

Bobby Hristova is a reporter/editor with CBC Hamilton. Email: bobby.hristova@cbc.ca

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