Birthday girl Allissa Scott, top, gets a hug from Thelma Foard, 79, at her Putnam Street home. Above, at back, Robert Smith, Brenda Smith, Britnay Slay, and Allissa's father, Rob Smith, Jr., surround Ms. Foard and Gloria Johnson, holding Allissa. The blade/amy E. voigt Britnay Slay, 16, puts up the party balloons. As a child, Britnay had to distinguish two grandmothers. Allissa has three.
Like many grandmothers, Thelma Foard of Central Toledo is the backbone of her family.
But the 79-year-old isn't just any grandmother.
Ms. Foard is a great-great-great-grandmother, making her the first generation of six living generations.
The older five generations gathered at Ms. Foard's Putnam Street home Saturday to celebrate the first birthday of Allissa Scott - a sixth-generation family member.
"God works in mysterious ways," Ms. Foard said, as she sat on her porch, surrounded by birthday decorations and balloons. "He knew I needed something to keep me smiling."
And that's exactly what the petite 1-year-old, whom the family calls "Lee Le," does.
"The baby is just as sweet as can be," Ms. Foard said. "We love her to death."
In her pink and white polka-dotted outfit, the birthday girl walked from one grandma to the next, unaware she is part of such a unique family.
Britnay Slay, 16, puts up the party balloons. As a child, Britnay had to distinguish two grandmothers. Allissa has three.
"She is a blessed child, and we're blessed for her being here today," said Allissa's great-great-grandmother, Gloria Johnson.
Ms. Johnson, who is just 64, joked that maybe they'll all be around to witness the birth of a seventh-generation family member.
Allissa's great-grandmother, Brenda Smith, said when the three grandmothers are out together, people often think they are sisters rather than mother, daughter, and granddaughter.
"We tell them we have a fountain of youth in the backyard," said Ms. Smith, who is Ms. Foard's granddaughter.
Allissa has seven grandmothers total between both of her parents and will probably have a hard time keeping them straight when she's older, Ms. Smith said.
Ms. Smith's 16-year-old daughter, Britnay, used to have trouble keeping her two grandmothers apart so she gave them nicknames - and they stuck.
She calls her great-grandmother, Ms. Foard, "big granny," and calls her grandmother, Ms. Johnson, "little granny."
"I don't know what I'll be, mini-grandma maybe," Ms. Smith said, laughing.
It's not uncommon for the whole family to get together as they did Saturday. In addition to celebrating birthdays and holidays, they eat dinner together almost every Sunday.
"It's pretty nice that, with so much going on, we stick together," Ms. Smith said. "I consider this a blessing."
The family credits Ms. Foard with keeping them all together even through tragedy. Two of Ms. Smith's children were killed in separate incidents when they were 23 years old.
It was Ms. Foard who taught her to always count her blessings.
"Without her, there would be no us," Ms. Smith said. "I love that old lady."
Ms. Foard, who sat quietly in her chair during most of the party, quickly shot back, "Watch your mouth about that old lady."
Then she gave a sly smile.
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