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Barrel full of greetings


Birthday card challenge for Alice Nettnay exceeds expectations



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March 20, 2019
CAPAC AREA— The mail carrier was pretty busy last week at the Foley Road home of Alice Nettnay.

As her birthday approached on March 14, handfuls of cards were stuffed into her mailbox on an almost daily basis.

That was no coincidence. There was an effort underway to see to it that Alice receive 90 cards in celebration of her 90th year on the planet. Turns out, the plan was underestimated. By last Thursday—the anniversary of Alice's birth on March 14, 1929—she had received 116 greetings from friends, family and even strangers.

The beloved lifelong resident says she was thrilled to be remembered by so many, adding that it was fun to go to the mailbox each day.

"I just thought it was so nice to get all these cards from all of these people, some people that I don't even know," she says. "It's been fun, too, and I'm just so thankful for all of this."

Sending well wishes to Alice is easy for those who know her—and there are many who do. For 43 years, Alice was a familiar face at Van Poppelen's Drug Store in downtown Capac. She worked there during the summer when she was still in high school.

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Alice Nettnay celebrates her 90th birthday with 116 cards she received to commemorate the milestone occasion.

She didn't work again until after she got married and had a child. To earn extra money, she was selling boxed Christmas cards and thought Van Poppelen's Drug Store might be interested. She walked into the store and asked Mr. Van Poppelen if he'd like to purchase any cards. His response was direct—and surprising.

"He said 'why would I buy your cards when I have a shelf full of them,' and then he said 'but I'll give you a job,'" Alice recalls.

From there, Alice found her calling. She says she looked forward to going into work each day to help out in the pharmacy, dust shelves and help customers.

"I loved every single minute of it, and I still miss all of the customers daily," she says. "I was always happy to go to work every day. Some days I'd even go out in the street and sweep the gutter."

She ended up retiring at the age of 62, though she and her husband Don didn't slow down much. Together the couple raised five children, and ended up having nine grandchildren and 16 great-grandkids. They also enjoyed carving and painting ducks, and made enough to give away to their family members. Don passed away on October 6, 2017.

Alice says she's grateful for her children—Lynn Shlom, who lives in California; Lori Potter and her husband Dennis of Capac; Nancy Badder and her husband Doug of Imlay City; Karren Harris and husband Scott from Port Huron; and Jim and Tanya Nettnay from St. Clair.

"I love all the kids so much," she says.

She's also grateful for her long and happy life, adding that her only wish is for better health.

"I have rheumatoid arthritis and other little ailments but I try to stay very active," she says. "I still live in my home and enjoy it very much, and I have a lot of company, which is very nice."

Alice says keeping a good attitude is key.

"My advice for a long happy life is to do a lot of smiling and do a lot of loving, and enjoy life," she says.

Catherine Minolli is Managing Editor of the Tri-City Times. She began as a freelance writer with the Times in 1994. She enjoys the country life, including raising ducks and chickens.
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