Last Saturday, blue skies and sunshine provided the perfect backdrop for a birthday party in Alamitos Bay. Seated on the dock, two smiling 92-year-olds received socially distant greetings from visitors on the sidewalk above.
Mary Curry and Geoffrey Paterson discovered their shared birth date — April 25, 1928 — when Mary’s daughter, Pam, married Geoffrey’s son, Robin, in 2003.
“It took me 75 years to find my twin sister,” Geoffrey joked. Since then, the two nonagenarians have celebrated many birthdays together. They also share a 15-year-old grandson, Garrett.
Mary and Geoffrey both live in Belmont Shore now, but their journeys to reach Long Beach were very different.
Geoffrey Paterson’s childhood was similar to his present life; he lived near the Queen Mary and had a prolonged social distancing experience. Geoffrey grew up near the Queen Mary’s original dock in Southampton, England. In 1940, his parents shipped their sons off to live with a great-uncle in Canada for the final four years of WWII.
“We didn’t have cell phones or computers back then,” Geoffrey said. “We kept in touch by writing letters.”
Geoffrey Paterson returned home after D-Day, joined the Royal Navy, and studied architecture at Oxford. In 1956, after deciding to move to America, he flew to Philadelphia to find a home for his family. Interestingly, Geoffrey’s wife Muriel and their oldest son, John, took the Queen Mary across the ocean to join him. By the time Robin was born, the family was living in Hawaii. Geoffrey spent 50 years as an architect in the Aloha State before moving to Long Beach in 2015.
Mary Curry did not spend decades on small islands; instead, she grew up in the open expanses of Texas. After getting married, she and her husband drove a truck and trailer to the least tropical place in the United States: Alaska. Pam was born during the family’s 16-year stay in Anchorage. Later, the Currys relocated to Colorado and eventually settled in California. For the past 18 months, Mary has lived with Pam and Robin Paterson, enjoying a bedroom with a view of the bay.
“She probably goes up and down our stairs 20 times a day,” Robin said as he described his energetic mother-in law. “She never stops. She really likes helping with everything around the house — making beds, doing laundry, setting the table, and unloading the dishwasher. She’s always looking for something to do.”
“She’s very happy here, but she keeps asking if the virus is gone,” Pam said. “She misses going to church at St. Bart’s and going out to dinner. She really loves sitting in the big booths at Domenico’s.”
Mary’s birthday twin is also missing the local haunts. Geoffrey said one of the reasons he loves his apartment is its proximity to the Post Office, Rite Aid, and Quinn’s.
“My son has kept me pretty locked down during all of this,” Geoffrey said. “But, every once in a while, I put a mask on and sneak out for a walk to the bank.”
Robin said that getting out for the birthday party meant a lot to his dad.
“We drop off food all the time,” Robin said, “but my dad’s a social guy so this is really affecting him. I know he enjoyed sitting out on the dock for an hour and a half and having his friends stop by and wave from the sidewalk.”