The Guinness Book of World Records recognized 95-year-old Winifred Ann Kelly as the world’s oldest dwarf, but her accolade didn’t come with any special treatment. In fact, she was immobile, unable to leave her home in Strongsville, Ohio, without help. Little did she know, a group of strangers had caught wind of her predicament. And one day they showed up on her lawn, ready to change her life.
Kelly, known as Winnie to loved ones, grew up in Parma and Cleveland, Ohio. She gave little attention to the fact she was shorter than her classmates. “It never even occurred to me that I was different. When I was in grade school, I was one of the gang,” she told Fox 8.
But Kelly’s dwarfism naturally prevented her from reaching the same physical heights as her friends and family members. More than 200 different conditions can contribute to the condition, which nonprofit organization Little People of America defines as adults under four feet and ten inches.
Kelly measured in at three feet and eight inches. But her short stature never stopped her from accomplishing all she wanted in life. She earned a degree from Case Western Reserve University, and later did a master’s in psychology.
After that, Kelly followed a fruitful career path. “I worked for the Federal Reserve bank as a research assistant and then, 25 years later, I went to the Veterans’ Administration,” she told Fox 8. And she never stopped learning, either. She first got behind the wheel of a car in her 70s, for instance.
In March 2017, Kelly could add another accolade to her incredible life. Two years after applying for the honor, the Guinness Book of World Records confirmed that she was, indeed, the “oldest little person in the world.”
At that time, Kelly credited her extra-long life to her hobbies, which included reading, watching the news and drinking the occasional beer. Just a year later, though, it became clear that life wasn’t as simple anymore for Kelly.
A car accident had left Kelly wheelchair-bound a few years previously. She did have a carer in her niece, Mary Beth Petro, but Kelly said was sad that her immobility kept her stuck at home. She could only leave if she had help, after all.
A ramp out of Kelly’s home had been built previously, so that she could move more freely. However, it didn’t end well for the 95-year-old. “[When] I tried to go down, I fell flat on my face and ended up in the hospital,” she told Fox 8.
Without assistance, Kelly was once again trapped inside of her Ohio abode. Carer Petro began to share her aunt’s struggle with others – and the story fell onto the lap of Bill Squires, who wanted to do something about it.
Squires said to Fox 8, “[Kelly] was in the house and not able to get out and that just bothered me and she’s a nice lady.” So, he planned to build her a new walkway that led from her front door. This would finally make the property – and the outdoors – accessible for the 95-year-old.
But Squires wasn’t the only one moved by Kelly’s story. Some of the team members at a nearby Home Depot store found out what he was planning, and they, too, volunteered to provide their expertise to the project.
Considering Kelly’s bad luck with her first walkway, the team promised to build something safe for her to traverse in her wheelchair. They gathered in the 95-year-old’s front lawn and got to work, digging into the land and laying the framework for a flatter, stylish new design.
“I can’t believe it, look how far it goes,” Kelly said to Fox 8 as she watched the workers’ progress. Volunteer and Home Depot staffer Carrie Tilley told the network she was simply thrilled to be able to lend a hand.
Tilley told Fox 8, “I’m just happy she’s going to be able to go outside whenever she wants to go out. If there’s an emergency, it’s not going to be an issue: it’s just really good to know she’ll be able to get some of her mobility back.”
The completed pathway had a gentle slope, and the smooth paving material would make it easy for Kelly to wheel over it without problems. That clearly put her in the mood to celebrate. The first trip out of the house would involve a round of margaritas, she told Fox 8.
On a more sentimental note, Kelly said how much the project – and the team’s efforts – meant to her. She said to the network, “I could feel their love and concern and their wanting to do something to help my situation.”
And, in today’s world, Kelly said that selfless efforts like this are harder to come by. “It’s so amazing to meet people like that [nowadays],” the 94-year-old added. And those who read her story online agreed with her sentiment.
“These are the kinds of stories we need to see more. God bless those involved,” wrote Facebook user Lynda Sichner Czika. Dave Stuber agreed, writing, “This is news we want to see and hear […]. There are still a lot of compassionate and giving people in this world.”
As for Kelly, Fox 8 came and checked in on her as she celebrated her 95th birthday in July 2018. As promised, she used the ramp to go out for one of her favorite beverages. She said with a smile, “I can get down to the vans that come to pick me up and then I can get a margarita.”