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Ethel Gilligan celebrates 103rd birthday with
a splash — a surprise celebration at the YMCA

Ethel Gilligan and her daughter, Pat Burns, celebrated Ethel's 103rd birthday at a surprise party at the Beaumont YMCA. (Photo from the YMCA)


Lexington’s Ethel Gilligan planned to spend her 103rd birthday much like she spends most weekdays — going to a water aerobics class with her daughter at the Beaumont YMCA.

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Little did she know that the class instructor, Charlesy Schroyer, and her classmates had planned a surprise celebration for her.

Gilligan and her daughter, Pat Burns, arrived to class find the Beaumont YMCA pool filled with friends and balloons.

“We opened up the door, and I’ll never forget the view that we had. There must have been a hundred people there in the pool. And they had balloons, tons of them, all different colors,” said Burns. “And she got the drift, and said, ‘Oh no this can’t be…’”

Water aerobics instructor Charlesy Schroyer and Ethel's classmates organized the surprise party at the Beaumont YMCA. (Photo from Pat Burns)

“It was such a wonderful day for her…She says she has developed so many friendships through this (class),” Burns said. “I really appreciated it. As an only child, she’s been my mother, my sister, my good friend. People just can’t be kind enough.”

Gilligan’s friends in the class sang to her and brought her a tiara to wear, and in addition to the party, gave her flowers, gifts and cards to open after class.


“She reads those cards over and over. And the bottom line in all of them, they wrote, ‘you’re a true inspiration for us,’” Burns said. “It’s great to have that memory, particularly at 103, and be able to understand how people feel about you.”

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