BEACHWOOD, Ohio – Harriet Prochaska loves to surprise people.
So, once a year, the Beachwood native gets out the stamps and sends an anonymous letter to people on her favorite holiday.
“I’m the Valentine Fairy,” she said. “I send them about 150 Valentines and I put in a dollar and with them a ‘Happy Valentine’ from the Valentine Fairy.”
Yet, this year, Harriet was the one in for the surprise, though it wasn’t in a little envelope.
Dozens of others gave back to Harriet with the celebration of a lifetime, just in time for her 101st birthday.
“She can’t believe she’s 101,” said her youngest daughter, Mary Beth Sammon. “She really can’t. She still thinks of herself in her 60s. Even though she’s 101, she’s still a fashion plate and she’s such a fun person. We wanted to take her on this little trip.”
Sammon, her two sisters and her daughter joined Harriet on the short trip to Cleveland.
It’s only fitting that strangers like Marc Garofoli wanted to join in on the fun.
Garofoli provided a limousine ride, compliments on his restaurant, Goodfeller’s, located across from Progressive Field.
“We just wanted to make it a special day for her,” he said. “Who wouldn’t want to ride in a limousine on her 101st birthday or their 50th birthday for that matter, but 101? That’s amazing.”
Harriet’s second oldest daughter, Louise Prochaska, was moved by Garofoli’s gesture.
“It’s lovely that there are so many generous people in Cleveland and in the city that get a kick out of honoring a woman that loves life, that loves Cleveland,” she said.
After lunch, Harriet’s biggest surprise of the day was in store: a trip to Cleveland’s Casino. She’s wanted to go there ever since it opened.
“I like gambling,” she laughed. “I’m anxious to see what it’s like. I play the slot machines.”
But the dealers better watch out.
Harriet has had years of training. She expects it’d be tough to read her poker face.
“I only lost once, either even or I win,” she said. “When I lost once, I didn’t lose very much. Maybe $7 or $8.”
For the Valentine Fairy who loves to place her bets, others are glad they could play their hand and make her wish come true.
“I’m excited. It’s a very good birthday,” Harriet said.