By Sharon Lakey
Mary Prior loved a party. She didn’t call it a party, though. It was a soiree. Personally, I had never heard the word used in everyday conversation until she let it roll off her tongue, exaggerating the accent, dipping her shoulder slightly, her eyes sparkling. We were in the Pope Memorial Library at the time where she was the librarian.
“What does that mean?” I asked.
“You’ve never heard of a soiree!” she exclaimed. Right then, she got out the dictionary and read the definition: “an evening party or social gathering, especially one held for a particular purpose. That’s what I’d like to do for a job,” she said. “Just give soirees.”
Steve Cobb, owner of the Danville Restaurant and Inn, came one early summer day last year and after walking through the rooms, turned and stated, “I’d like to do a tea here as a fundraiser.”
That sounded great, and I agreed, but things have a way of snowing you under at Historical House. He finally took matters into his own hands and in January announced to the morning coffee group at the restaurant that he would like to pick a date for the tea, around Valentine’s Day. When Steve gets going, he moves fast, and he took many with him on his whirlwind plan-and-do adventure.
Mary would have loved the tea that was held at Historical House on February 13—a real soiree! The planning worked out perfectly with groups of volunteers bringing in tables, pressing tablecloths, setting tables, arranging flowers, donating door prizes, delivering home-baked goodies, waiting tables, washing dishes, playing live music and hanging hundreds of hand-cut hearts. And in two sittings, the customers arrived, mostly dressed in red and ready for tea and crumpets and good conversation, filling the house to the brim.
On a round, red-draped table, opposite the keyboard and glowing under the tin chandelier, was Mary’s smiling photo. During the event, President Paul Chouinard, standing near the table and opposite Winona Gadapee who was at the keyboard, said, “I only wish Mary could see this.”
Without skipping a beat, Winona replied, “Oh, she’s here.”
And, I’m pretty sure she was.
We wish to thank all of the volunteers and donors who made the tea a success. We also wish to thank all the celebrants who honored us by attending. A special thanks goes to Steve Cobb, who might have missed his calling as a general!
This article was first published in March issue of The North Monthly.
To view a photo album of the tea, click here.