THE LOOP — Maude Harlow has seen and done a lot in her 103 years, but despite a lifetime spent dreaming of extravagant shopping sprees on State Street, she had never set foot in Chicago until Friday.
Her hospice care service, Passages Hospice, wanted to help her finish her "bucket list." So on Friday, the health care company's philanthropic arm, Hospice Dreams, partnered with Macy's to make Harlow's dream come true.
"Can you imagine this woman?" said Kansas Swain, a spokeswoman for Passages who escorted Harlow through her event-filled Friday. "A hundred and three. Never been to Chicago, never window-shopped, and this is her last wish. It doesn't get any sweeter, any more human than that. As her hospice provider, we want to make sure that we grant her last wish."
Harlow's nurse at her live-in care facility in Downstate Wilmington — about 60 miles southwest of Chicago — notified Hospice Dreams that her patient had a simple request: to see the city and shop for a new handbag in one of the Second City's iconic department stores.
Passages reached out to Macy's, and on Friday, Harlow, who turns 104 next month, was treated to a private tour of the store at 111 N. State St.
"I got an email yesterday saying that Maude is a 103-year-old avid shopper who would love a handbag from Macy's, and she wants to take it to the mayor," said Andrea Schwartz, a Macy's spokeswoman. "And I said, 'how can we say no to that?'"
While window-shopping, she was surprised with a free handbag, a red Calvin Klein one, followed by tea service in the iconic Walnut Room — which, opened in 1907, is only two years older than Harlow.
"We're fortunate sometimes to have situations where, when we have [patients'] dreams, and we reach out to folks to tell them about it, most times they say 'oh my goodness, how can we help?' And Maude's dream is a perfect example of that," Swain said. "Everyone seems to want to help with her dream and be a part of it."
And if that wasn't enough to make her visit to Downtown memorable: After a free lunch at Sweetwater Tavern and Grille, Maude met the mayor.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel met with Harlow Friday afternoon to officially welcome her to the city.
"Are you having a good time?" the mayor asked the centenarian.
"Oh yeah!" she exclaimed.
Swain said the visit with Emanuel, which wasn't originally part of Harlow's plan, was icing on the cake.
"When they told her she was gonna meet the mayor, she was just ecstatic," Swain said of the "spry" 103-year-old, who "just want[ed] to see the sights and buy a nice purse."