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August 22, 2019 - 1:44pm

Submitted photo: Mary Tuttle celebrates her 95th birthday at a luncheon at Fortune's restaurant at Batavia Downs.

When Frances Ford was preparing to celebrate her 100th birthday several years ago, her wish was to have lunch at Fortune’s at Batavia Downs Gaming and Hotel.

Her celebration started a tradition which the Office for the Aging continues today.

Each summer for the past four or five years, one or more members of the Senior Center’s Quilters have celebrated a milestone birthday at Fortune’s.

Because Ford was going to be 100, Barbara Matarazzo, receptionist at the Senior Center, arranged for her to be transported to lunch in a Mustang convertible. This was repeated for her 101st.

“Unfortunately, Frances never saw 102,” Matarazzo said. “After that, we began celebrating the birthdays of seniors who were 90-plus. That included Mary Tuttle and Madeline Harding. We planned to celebrate Madeline’s 91st birthday in July, but she passed away just a few weeks before her birthday.”

The latest lunch celebrated the 95th birthday of Mary Tuttle. Harding’s family also attended the luncheon and her name was included on the birthday cake, with a sign made by Mary Bucceri, group sales manager at Batavia Downs Gaming and Hotel. 

“I know in spirit, Madeline was part of the celebration,” Bucceri said. 

Batavia Downs' Fortune's has always been the Quilters and the birthday celebrities first choice in where they wanted to go and celebrate, Matarazzo said. 

“I can honestly say that working with Batavia Downs has been a privilege, especially with Mary Bucceri, who is always my contact person,” Matarazzo said. “Between Mary and the Batavia Downs staff, they make the birthday celebrations a memory for all of us.”

“I think the most important part of my job is knowing I’ve made someone’s day extra special,” Bucceri said. “When I hosted Frances Ford’s 100th birthday in 2016, I learned so much about her lifestyle that day, it was totally amazing.”

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