By: Rebecca Miller
How many times do we hear statements such as, “People today just don’t honor the elderly like they used to!” Well, that is changing, much to the efforts of a generation in their 50’s and 60’s who have begun to realize the treasure we have in what has been called “The greatest generation.” Many of them have passed on, but here in this corner of the world, we continue to find them and do what we can to let them know how special they are to us.
On Monday, August 26, 2019, a group of people from Northwest Ohio, joined by some American Legion members from Washington D.C., who came by for this moment, marched together to the home of Bryan resident Roena Bayes, whose one hundred and first birthday was August 27th. What surprise and what joy she exhibited at the loving gesture to her of how special she is. The group formed up and sang Happy Birthday to her around 6 p.m. at her home. The High School Band played it for her as well.
American Legion SS Jones Post 2 of Washington D.C. is the only post that is all women and Roena held the position of President at that post, during WWII. Miss Bayes was a school teacher before serving in WWII and spent time during the war in England, Germany and France. She has been an American Legion member for 75 years. Adjutant George Roundtree, who said he has known Roena for six years, expressed his disappointment that he could not be there personally, due to a family situation, but he was thrilled with the turnout and the joy that he saw in the pictures.
Kyle C. Pierson, Sergeant First Class, U.S. Army, who is a Recruiter in Defiance, Ohio sent out a message on FaceBook inviting anyone who would like to come and participate, to join in. He had been contacted by George Roundtree, National Executive Committeeman, Adjutant of the American Legion Department of the District of Columbia, to inform him that a very special member of theirs would be celebrating 101 years of life, and to ask if he could round up anyone who would love to join in, to make the day amazing. In his post, calling for all to come, Pierson said, “I’m sure it would mean the world to her,” and he was right!
Those exact words came out of her mouth as she stood with her walker in her front yard, sporting a dashing pink sweater, barely able to contain her joy and wonder at the outpouring of love. “I could not have had a better life than I had with my legion post in Washington D.C. Post Number 2. Post number 1, though, served my purpose until I went to near Washington to live and work at National Institutes of Health”.
“This has been the greatest privilege one could have,” she said with pride in her voice. “I’m so grateful! I never expected this. It is just beyond comprehension to have all of you come and stand out here with me and be with me here on this day. I thank you.” Bayes went on to say that when she served and was Commander of Washington D.C. Post 2, they had over 500 members and it went up to over 1000 at one point. She shared how she went to the funeral for a female veteran who was 110 when she died, and had faithfully served in Post 2 for many, many years.
Having a wonderful captive audience who wanted to hear whatever she wanted to say, Bayes relayed some stories of other incredible women who belonged to the same post and some of the great things which they accomplished or influenced. Her memory was sharp with names and events that have happened during her years. “No grander group of ladies ever lived than those women of WW1 that so influenced my life and gave me so much.”
Those in attendance applauded for her as she finished and again she expressed her amazement and joy at what they had done for her. Amongst those who gathered were Bryan Mayor Carrie Schlade, Bryan High School Band members, some American Legion members on motorcycles and some walking, as well as many community members, including a couple girl scouts who gave her some of her favorite cookies for her birthday.
Five veterans from Washington D.D. who had come over to Bryan on their way back home from a Legion Convention in Indianapolis, were happy to be there. As part of the celebration, Mayor Schlade proclaimed August 26, 2019 to be Roena Bayes Day, much to everyone’s delight. A big birthday cake was cut and shared with all who came.
Rebecca can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org