The email went something like this: “A 94-year-old long time Windham resident, Catherine Bishop, is throwing herself a birthday party for her 95th birthday. I'm told she has had an interesting life, including a lot of community service. You should interview her.”
|Sunday afternoon birthday party at Unity Gardens|
It was true. Bishop, a resident of Unity Gardens in Windham, was going to do just that; throw herself a birthday party on Sunday, March 4. The fact is, a surprise birthday party was being planned, but Bishop - known to have a spitfire personality - beat family and friends to the punch by inviting everyone she knew to celebrate her life with her.
The party occurred this past Sunday with many of her family and friends in attendance, but unfortunately, Bishop was not able to make it. She passed away quietly in her sleep on Thursday, February 22.
Approximately 40 to 50 individuals who loved Bishop, gathered together to share their favorite memories with one another while eating lunch and celebrating in her honor with a birthday cake.
“Catherine was always doing for others but never expected anything in return,” stated Gary Plummer, who served on the Windham Town Council with Bishop’s husband, John. “She and John worked tirelessly on Civil Defense, she was an active member in the Rebekah organization, and she volunteered for the police department as well as worked at many community suppers.”
Her efforts to give herself to the community and those around never ceased. After moving to Unity Gardens, she was the one who gathered all the newspapers and delivered them to the doors of all the other residents. Fellow resident and friend of Bishop’s, Marjory Cushman, delivers the papers now in her absence. “This one’s for you, Catherine,” Cushman said, explaining why she took Bishop’s place.
Although raising a family and serving the community's needs kept her busy, she always found time to have fun. Her favorite free time activities included playing Bingo, cards and cribbage to name but a few. But her all-time favorite past time was gambling.
“She loved scratch tickets,” stated Cheryl Page, of the Windham Mobile Station on Roosevelt Trail. “Catherine came in every week to purchase tickets. She was a real go-getter and loved to have fun.”
Page also shared the story from approximately four years ago when Bishop traveled to Las Vegas with her sister-in-law and a friend. “They went to gamble and have a great time. One evening, as it was approaching early evening, Bishop was full steam ahead playing at the slot machines. Her traveling companions told her it was time to go to bed. Catherine wouldn’t have any of it. She told them, ‘I’m not going to bed yet - you go on up.’”
When asked if she knew what time Bishop eventually went to bed, Page responded, “I don’t know but it wasn’t at 8 p.m. like the rest of them.”
Her son, Joe Bishop, also recalled fond memories he has of his mother. He was quick to mention that she made sure he, as well as his brothers John, Jr. and Bruce and sister, Mary were good, well-behaved kids. “She was our disciplinarian,” Joe stated. “We never once heard, ‘You wait until your father gets home.’ That never happened. And, she always spoke her mind. You never were confused about how she felt about something.”
Joe spoke about the wonderful meals she made for them. “My mom’s biscuits were to die for,” Joe began. “She was an exceptional cook. Well, not liver. She didn’t know how to cook liver.”
But most importantly, Joe will always look back on his childhood with love and admiration for both his mom and his dad. “We really had a great childhood.”
Joe and his family wish to thank all those at Unity Gardens who made Sunday’s party such a special event. “They were a godsend.”
There will be a graveside service for Catherine in the spring at Smith Cemetery in Windham. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in Catherine’s memory to Volunteers in Police Service, Cumberland County Sheriff’s Department, 36 County Way, Portland Maine.