A series of misdirected emails led Jonathan Halter of Charlotte to do something he’d never done before — crash a party.
That party was a birthday tea in honor of a 100-year-old Greenville woman he’d never met.
The guest of honor, Maude Maddox, was "tickled." And Halter, who came to the party with his wife, Virginia, felt it “about the most fun” he’d had.
“Now, I have fond memories of a fun afternoon with complete strangers,” said Halter, an IT administrator at the University of North Carolina in Charlotte.
And, he said, “I don’t consider myself a party crasher because technically I was sent an invite. It was not intended for me but I got the invitation in the email.”
That invitation was in the series of emails Halter was mistakenly receiving from Ashley Waters.
Waters is the director of marketing at The Springs At Simpsonville senior living community, She also volunteers at the Sarah Simpson Gossett Home assisted living and retirement community where Maddox lives.
Waters said she was accidentally sending emails Halter. One of the intended recipients shared the same last name. A dropped letter caused the email to be sent to Jonathan Halter instead.
But Waters said she never knew he was receiving the emails she'd sent.
"He never did correct me. When I sent out emails, I just copied and pasted from the previous one, not looking through it because nobody had complained that it was wrong," she said.
Halter said he started seeing the misdirected emails in his inbox a few years ago. Initially, he thought they were coming from his church Sunday school class.
“Then I realized it was some other group in South Carolina organizing social events so I had myself removed from the group,” he said.
When the emails started coming to his inbox again a few years later, Halter figured someone had replied to an old distribution. That’s when the email about Maude’s 100th Birthday Tea came in, he said.
“I had thought it would be fun just to randomly show up at one of their events and just tell them that they’d been mistakenly emailing me over the years,” he said.
“Instead of doing that, I'd had myself removed. But when they started coming back again and especially this one, I was like, you know, this would be a party not to miss. This would be a party to actually go through with the crashing of because I’ve never met anyone named Maude and Maude celebrating her 100th birthday sounded memorable and fun.”
100 for 100
It also appeared to be meant to be when Google Maps showed that the distance from his home to The Springs was around 100 miles.
He and his wife took the afternoon off from work and came bearing gifts.
In an email about the adventure, Halter said, “I knew I had to bring a gift, but what do you get someone turning 100, especially someone whom you've never met? I came up with two specific characteristics the gift had to possess: 1) something from North Carolina, and 2) have some significance to the 100-year milestone.”
He found the “perfect” gift in a coffee table book, "Carolina Basketball: A Century of Excellence."
Maddox also thought the gift was perfect. She is a former physical education teacher whose husband played football and basketball. She lived in North Carolina for half of her married life and kept up with sports, so 'You couldn't do better," she said.
Sarah Simpson Gossett
The nonprofit Sarah Simpson Gossett Home, which evolved from the Ingleside Inn, opened in 1909 as a residence for young women who moved to Greenville to work.
It had been the Martha Davenport Home before it became the Sarah Simpson Gossett Home in 1951.
“Mr. Gossett bought into it, but he left this home in honor of his wife, Sarah Simpson Gossett. It was originally planned for independent women who were afraid to live alone when they got a certain age,” said Maddox, who moved to Greenville with her family in 1983.
She volunteered at the home for 25 years and even served as chair of the board there. She became a resident there five years ago.
Halter learned of Maddox’s background when he talked to her at the party. But getting there wasn’t as simple as he’d thought.
He said he was a little nervous, not really knowing what to expect upon his arrival.
“My wife and I knew anything could happen. We could get there and the family could say, ‘You guys are a couple of weirdos. Just go away,’ and we would hop in the car and drive back to Charlotte,” he said. “We didn’t know how good or bad Maude’s health might have been or anything."
But, he said, it all worked out, once he got to the right location.
He’d thought the party was at The Springs, due to the emails from Waters.
Waters, who had not planned to go to the party, happened to be at The Springs when the Halters showed up.
“I had too many appointments,” she said. “But when he came, it just so happened that I got done early, so I was able to meet with him.”
He shared his story, making her wonder why he’d come to The Springs. Then she realized he’d gotten the address from the signature in her emails.
“He didn’t know where to go so I said, ‘I can take you,’” she said.
Betty Farr, a board member of the Sarah Gossett Home, was preparing to share a story about Maddox when someone whispered to her that guests from North Carolina who’d heard about the party were at the door.
“I’d never been so surprised because I knew nothing about it. I said, ‘Bring them in,’” she said.
Maddox, who was surrounded by her family and friends, said she wondered who the man and woman were.
She initially thought either may have been former students from the schools she’s taught in over the years.
“It didn’t bother me. I just thought, ’well, they may have just seen the email and decided to come.' I didn’t know them, but I had a good time. I was glad they came,” she said.
Halter found Maddox and her family and friends “so welcoming.”
"They got the biggest kick out of our story and were just intrigued,” he said.
And Maude, he said, is “as sharp as a whip" and fun to talk to.
“We danced a little bit with her granddaughter playing the piano,” Halter said.
If the opportunity presented itself, Halter said he’d do it again.
“I’m not going to go out and look for parties to crash but this one found me,” he said. “Life has a funny way of happening.”
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