PAWS makes trip to Bingham Farms to celebrate a special longtime fan

By: Tiffany Esshaki | Birmingham - Bloomfield Eagle | Published July 21, 2014

 Ana Whitcroft shares a moment with Detroit Tiger’s mascot PAWS as her stepchildren Glenn Whitcroft and Darline Ralston look on.

Ana Whitcroft shares a moment with Detroit Tiger’s mascot PAWS as her stepchildren Glenn Whitcroft and Darline Ralston look on.

Photo by Deb Jacques

BINGHAM FARMS — Ana Whitcroft has been to lots of Detroit Tigers games with her family over the years. But last week, on her 100th birthday, the excitement of the game came to her.

Family, friends and residents gathered for her birthday party July 14 at Arden Courts in Bingham Farms, a community for seniors with irreversibe memory loss from dementia. Sporting a party-perfect gold brocade dress, Whitcroft clutched onto her son and daughter as she greeted guests — including one in particular, Detroit Tigers mascot PAWS, who came to celebrate with the longtime fan.

As a guitarist strummed “Ain’t She Sweet” in the background, the larger-than-life mascot bobbed around the room and gave special attention to the birthday girl. At one point, he leaned over so Whitcroft could sneak him a kiss and tell him her Tigers player is still Rocky Colavito, who was traded to the team in 1960.

While Whitcroft had no children of her own, her stepchildren regard her as “Mom,” and made sure to RSVP for the special party.

“Obviously, 100 years is a huge milestone. I flew in yesterday from Florida, and I didn’t even tell anyone else I was coming. I didn’t want anyone to steal me away; I just wanted to fuss on her,” said stepdaughter Darline Ralston.

Though Whitcroft was born in South Bend, Indiana, in 1914, she moved to booming metro Detroit after World War II looking for better job opportunities. She found work in the accounting department at J.L. Hudson’s and worked there until she met her husband, Glenn. She later worked alongside him at their family-owned jewelry business, Whitcroft Jewelers, in Birmingham. The two were popular members of the Birmingham Athletic Club, and of course, regulars at Detroit Tigers games.

“We had seats behind home plate, and we got close up with Sparky and the gang pretty often,” said her stepson Glenn Whitcroft Jr., of Harper Woods. “She was a Tigers fan, and that’s something she’s kept over the years. I’m really excited to be a part of something special for her today.”

Whitcroft seemed to enjoy every moment of her celebration, despite the dementia she has that can make some days more difficult than others. But that’s why looking back made the day so much more special, according to Arden Courts Marketing Director Kathie Shaffer.

“Long-term memories are more realistic to our residents,” said Shaffer. “That’s why she’s able to remember Rocky so vividly.”

There can’t always be a 100th birthday party, of course, but Shaffer said Arden Courts tries to keep residents in the moment by making a bit of a celebration out of every day.

“Music and song are important to our residents, and we try to honor and celebrate them day to day,” she said.

This day, though, was something exceptional. Residents danced and sang along to the live music, while PAWS made the rounds and spent a little time with all of the guests. Father Dan Murphy, of St. Regis Catholic Church in Bloomfield Hills, where Whitcroft had long attended, made an appearance to deliver a blessing to mark the occasion.

Then, just before cutting into her tiered birthday cake, Whitcroft took to the microphone herself for a moment to thank the crowd for their well wishes.

“It’s so wonderful to see all these people here. I wish I could speak to you all individually,” she said softly into the microphone. “God bless you and keep you.”