Widower, 95, receives 400 cards from strangers after he is forced to spend birthday alone

·2-min read
Aoife Malone and Tommy Houston (swns)
Aoife Malone and Tommy Houston (swns)

A widower has received 400 birthday cards from strangers after he was forced to spend his birthday alone due to the lockdown.

Tommy Houston from Galashiels, Scottish Borders, received a windfall of cards from as far away as Japan and Jamaica, as well as 20 gifts.

The act of generosity was organised by his friend Aoife Malone, 24, who now lives in New York.

The two met after dad-of-three Houston lost his wife Margaret in 2014.

Malone, originally from Belfast, was then a student and working in a bookmakers and the pair struck up a conversation when Malone noticed he would place 2p bets.

The friends bonded over their love of feminism.

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Tommy Houston with some of the 400 cards he received for his 95th birthday (swns)
Tommy Houston with some of the 400 cards he received for his 95th birthday (swns)

Malone now works in marketing in the US and said she knew how hard this year had been for Houston being alone during the pandemic.

The pair speak every day but she said she knew how much the retired taxi driver would treasure any cards or gifts sent to him.

She said: “Tommy has around 300 - 400 cards and 20 packages, it's crazy. He’s so excited he can’t wait to open them all on Saturday.

“There’s going to be hundreds even next week.

She had put out an appeal on Instagram which touched the hearts of social media users.

Malone wrote: “He’s had an incredibly lonely year as you can imagine and has barely been able to see any family at all.

“On November 21 he’ll be turning the big 95 and I’d love it if he got a few more birthday cards than usual this year.

“He keeps all the cards me/my mum/friends send him and goes back and reads them again so I know he would be so buzzing if he got some kind words from people from all over the world.”

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Tommy Houston before the lockdown (swns)
Tommy Houston before the lockdown (swns)

The post got 12,000 likes, and initially, Malone thought it was just people she knew who wanted to help but she soon realised strangers were touched as well.

Houston had previously taught her to drive and attended her graduation.

He would also drive Malone into her studies in Fashion Communication at Heriot-Watt University in Galashiels every day and also cooked her dinner.

Malone had an emotional farewell with Houston before she left for America where they both cried.

She added: “When I left we couldn’t stop crying, we sat in St Andrews Square in Edinburgh and listened to New York, New York by Frank Sinatra before I left.”

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