BRISTOL, N.H. — A turtle given to a bedridden little boy in New Hampshire back in 1968 celebrated her 50th birthday with party hats, a sheet cake with the right number of candles, and many well-wishers.
Diane the Turtle was given to Jim Tonner when he was 12 and being treated for hip arthritis at his home in Braintree, Massachusetts. Years later, Jim, and his twin brother, Brad Tonner, opened a gift shop in Bristol, New Hampshire, which became Diane’s home. Her tank is surrounded by photos of store visitors.
On Saturday, the store was crowded with visitors singing “Happy Birthday” to Diane, who wore a tiny party hat.
“Another animal might put their head back in their shell,” Jim Tonner said Monday. “Her head went straight out. It’s one of the funniest things you’ve ever seen.”
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The brothers have written and illustrated books about Diane and set up a turtle webcam in their shop.
Tonner said when he was a child, turtles like Diane were popular pets, but many didn’t live that long. That’s why she’s so unusual, Jim Tonner said.
Today, the 4-pound turtle is thriving. Her favorite foods are strawberries and romaine lettuce. But don’t worry about the ban on that salad green; Jim Tonner grows his own romaine.
“That’s why she’s 50 years old,” he said with a laugh.