A happy birthday surprise

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A grandmother and her granddaughter who are born on the same day 49 years apart received birthday wishes from across the globe. 

Dolly Edwards was born on Aug. 24, 1922 and her granddaughter, Katja Starkey, was born exactly 49 years later to the day. Fast forward another 49 years to the present day and they are celebrating their birthdays together, Edwards turning 98 and Starkey turning 49.  

“Isn’t it crazy that I was born when she turned 49, now I am 49 and we are celebrating together,” Starkey said. 

Dolly grew up on a farm just north of town. She then moved to Creston, where she spent most of her life and raised her children, before moving to Rochelle, where she currently lives. Edwards’ daughter Bonnie grew up in Rochelle, graduated from Rochelle Township High School and eventually gave birth to her daughter Katja, Dolly’s granddaughter.

Starkey was a schoolteacher for 17 years, but she also did relief work from 1999-2003, traveling to 38 countries helping out those in need. During her time abroad, she formed many close relationships with the individuals she helped, causing her to form the non-profit organization Touch the Nations when she returned to help those who have nobody to advocate for them.

“Our organization has started schools, given scholarships so kids can attend a local school and started four orphanages,” Starkey said. “I didn’t mean to start the organization, I just could not help it. Our motto is a Bible verse and it says, ‘Do not withhold good from those who deserve it when it is in your power to act.’” 

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Children from the Touch the Nations orphanage wished Edwards and Starkey a happy birthday via video call on Monday.

One of the orphanages started by Touch the Nations is named after Bonnie Edwards, who passed away. As a way to honor Starkey and wish her and her grandmother a happy birthday, the children at the orphanage video called and sang them the Happy Birthday song. 

“Just talking about it chokes me up because we are just regular people and this is so humbling,” Starkey said. “If you just do a little something or just think outside yourself, regular people can really make a big difference. We are also so appreciative for all of the support from the surrounding community. This is a birthday that will be unforgettable.”