No hiding her age

Published 12:00 am Sunday, February 22, 2004

Suffolk News-Herald

Barbara Penn, an insurance producer for Suffolk Insurance, spent the day Friday trying to deny that she’d reached another milestone in life – her 50th birthday. She also spent the day laughing with all those who came in to congratulate her after seeing the huge public display in front of the office.

Now, lots of people want to deny their age but it was made more difficult for her by the fact that a 6 feet tall image of &uot;The Grim Reaper&uot; was stationed outside the front door of the office. Situated at the corner of Market and Saratoga, one of downtown Suffolk’s busiest intersections, it was impossible for the hordes of people passing through to miss that ugly fellow of the glowing eyes and black hooded robe. And, of course he had the symbol of doom with him; that big silver scythe.

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The huge black symbol of Death was made even more noticeable by the gathering of black balloons and a sign posted next to it, telling the entire population passing through that &uot;Ain’t it nifty – Barbara Penn is 50!.&uot; Not only was it there on the sign, but in 12 inch tall letters.

Inside the office, more black balloons and additional advertising of the birthday celebration was the first thing visitors saw when opening the door.

Mary Lee Willis, administrator of the office at Suffolk Insurance for the past 20 years, was enjoying a little &uot;payback is sweet&uot; time as she chuckled at Penn’s protestations.

&uot;She’s always playing a joke on us,&uot; Willis said through a big smile. &uot;This is one time that we got her! We’ve worked together and had lots of fun together, too.&uot;

Hunter Odom Jr., executive vice president of Suffolk Insurance, was also enjoying a laugh as Penn tried to pass herself off as &uot;only 29.&uot; Good thing she is a great sport, because it was obvious everyone knew her real age.

&uot;I think everyone has had a lot of fun with Barbara,&uot; said Odom. &uot;She has been with us for eight years and she is a hard worker as well as a great sport. We’ve had a lot of fun today at her expense and she’s enjoyed it as much as we have. Our insurance customers have loved it!&uot;