Regina veteran gets bagpipe serenade for 100th birthday

After COVID-19 restrictions led Gladys Kennedy's family to cancel plans for her 100th birthday party, the legion stepped in to help give the Regina woman a safe and distant serenade.

Legion stepped up after COVID-19 forced her extended family to cancel 100th birthday party

Gladys Kennedy watches from her apartment patio as local legion branch president Ron Hitchcock plays Happy Birthday and other songs on the bagpipes in honour of her 100th birthday. (Trent Peppler/CBC)

After COVID-19 restrictions led Gladys Kennedy's family to cancel plans for her 100th birthday party, the legion stepped in to help give the Regina woman a safe and distant serenade.

"Of course, it isn't every day you get to be 100," Kennedy said Tuesday afternoon from her retirement residence apartment in Regina.

Kennedy has been spending most of her time at home during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Her son, Harlan Kennedy, said Gladys normally has quite an active social life. She takes part in many clubs and games with other residents around the common areas of her home.

Gladys Kennedy was able to don a mask, and wave at her son and her friends from the legion as she listened to her birthday bagpipe serenade. (Trent Peppler/CBC)

Harlan said the extended family was planning to get together to celebrate Gladys's 100th birthday, but had to call it off due to the pandemic.

"Given the era of social distancing, we're forced to make some compromises on birthday celebrations, but we didn't want this occasion to go without some kind of a do," he said. 

A distant birthday 'do' 

100th birthday bagpipe serenade

CBC News Saskatchewan

1 year ago
After COVID-19 restrictions led Gladys Kennedy's family to cancel their plans for her 100th birthday party, the legion stepped in to help give the a Regina woman a safe and distant serenade. 0:55

Harlan's sister in Vancouver got in touch with the legion. Gladys served in the women's army corps as a medical records technician and was an active legion member in Regina.

Legion representative Olga Dmytro says the group normally plans a party of some sort for a veteran's milestone birthdays, so she made arrangements for an outside celebration in earshot of Kennedy's patio door. 

"The president of the local legion, Ron Hitchcock, is also a piper. So the legion arranged for a piper to come and play several songs for my mother, including Happy Birthday," Harlan said while keeping a safe distance from the piper and his mother's door.

Harlan Kennedy says he's glad his mother could have some kind of recognition on her birthday. (Trent Peppler/CBC)

Bittersweet birthday wishes

Gladys looked on and donned a mask to watch, wave and listen from outside her door. 

"I just, was surprised, because I figured I was pretty ordinary and didn't need any special attention, but I guess my son thought I needed a little," she said via phone afterward.

She had seen Harlan waving from outside and figured he must be in on the surprise. 

"That was good, but it would be just special to have him here. And unfortunately my daughter couldn't come because of the virus." 

Harlan said it was similarly bittersweet for him. He took video of the whole thing to share with the rest of the family.

"I sure wish I could've gone and hugged her, but i understand. I'm out in the world and she's not, and she's 100 and for her protection, I can't go and see her. But it does, yeah, tugs at the heartstrings a bit, that's for sure," he said. 

Kennedy said the whole family still planned an online visit to mark the milestone.


Tory Gillis


Tory Gillis began work as a journalist with CBC Saskatchewan in 2012. You can hear her deliver the afternoon news on weekdays on CBC Radio One in Saskatchewan. She has also worked as a reporter, and as an associate producer on CBC Saskatchewan's radio shows, The Morning Edition, Bluesky and The Afternoon Edition.

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