The 85-year-old retired nurse got on the phone and started inviting people to her annual neighborhood block party scheduled Saturday evening. She can barely walk but she won’t cancel her party.
This party is special. It’s the 25th year in a row she’s invited everyone over to her cozy little cottage for food, friendship and fun.
“I bought this house in 1987 and the first thing I did was have a block party,” Theresa said, flipping through albums to find a photo of her first party.
“I knocked on peoples’ doors,” she said. “I told them: ‘Hi, my name is Theresa Ferguson. I’m your new neighbor. I’m going to have a block party and I want you to come.’ And that’s how I met everyone.”
Her first party attracted six or seven neighbors. This year’s party is expected to draw 60 or 70 people, neighbors present and past, to celebrate with Theresa.
“I’ve been her neighbor 10 years now,” said Laura BenAmots. “I’ve gone to her party every year but one. Everybody comes. It’s quite wonderful. Generations of residents return. I’ve met two former owners of my home at her parties. We’re like a big family.”
Laura said she and the others look up to Theresa and all she’s accomplished in her life . . . graduating from nursing school in 1947, working full time and raising four children as a single mother and homeowner.
“We call her Grandma Theresa,” Laura said. “We think of her as the mayor of the Westside. Her home is the hub of activity in the neighborhood. We come over and have coffee with her in the morning. She keeps us all in line.”
Laura said people gravitate to Theresa for very personal reasons.
“She’s a role model for me,” she said. “She is so full of wisdom and joy and life.”
Theresa credits her extended family for lifting her during the weeks leading up to her surgery on Monday.
“I’d have died without my neighbors,” she said, struggling to stand and walk on her injured hip. “They’ve done so much for me. Even getting ready for my party. One neighbor pulled weeds. Another mowed my grass. One is bringing over a big banquet table to hold all the food. They’re just great.”
After briefly considering cancelling the party, Theresa now is looking forward to it.
“The air at the party always sounds like ‘happy voices’ to me,” Theresa said. “Everybody is just happy to see everybody else.”
Many of the children at the first party are now adults with their own kids who return each year.
Laura described it best:
“It’s a special time when people come together and celebrate community, their memories and celebrate Theresa as somebody who is very important to all of us.”
The neighbors are very important to Theresa, too.
“I like everybody,” she said. “I’m grateful for them. This party will be special.”