Ginny McCalla, 101, gets a window visit from her daughter, Stacy Allen. SUBMITTED

What a difference a year has made for Ginny McCalla who turned 101 on July 15.

Last year, the resident of The Hearth at Hendersonville received a surprise visit from Hendersonville Mayor Jamie Clary a few days before her birthday, as he presented her with a special proclamation that declared July 15 as Ginny McCalla Day in Hendersonville.

In addition to the city proclamation, McCalla also received a proclamation from Kevin Stitt, the Governor of her home state of Oklahoma, to add to the proclamation she had received earlier from the State of Tennessee. She also received 150 birthday cards, including a 5 X 7 card from the White House in Washington, D.C.

This year, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, her daughter Stacy Allen pointed out that all senior living facilities were still locked down by the state of Tennessee, with no outside visitors allowed, including family, because the senior citizen population is among the most vulnerable. 

“Needless to say, at 101, this isolation has taken a toll on Mom’s faculties, she has declined,” said Allen. “She is still extremely pleasant and feisty, but many memories escape her now. I have started dropping off daily notes at the entrance for her so she is reminded of the day and year, along with any family news. The Hearth of Hendersonville is doing a great job keeping her safe, so I can’t begrudge them. She has a bird feeder attached to her first floor window, so when I bring a ladder to refill it, we have ladder visits through her window.”

Allen said that McCall’s residence has been COVID-free, but noted that everyone was served meals in their room and all activities were suspended for about four weeks.

“Some constraints have lifted,” Allen said. “Only two people per table in the dining room with assigned meal times, social distancing for Bingo with limited seating.”

Allen said that in addition to over 100 birthday cards, her mother had received a number of special birthday gifts that include flowers from Allen’s Sunday School class.

“Most members have lost their moms so I share her with everyone,” Allen said. “She received a calendar listing the birthdates of all her family, residents and siblings, hoping that will stir some memories.  She also received chocolate covered strawberries, as well as a box of See’s dark chocolates that was a family indulgence her brother used to mail from California.”

McCalla is also very popular with the staff members.

Amy Wilson, assistant activities director, said she has known McCalla for many years.

“She is always pleasant,” Wilson said. “She always has a smile on her face. There’s never a bad word, no ill or snide remarks.”

McCalla attends many of Wilson’s classes such as Bingo, exercise, and crafts classes.

“She is slowing down a bit,” Wilson said. “On the day of her birthday we would take pictures of her as gifts were open and then send them to Stacy. Stacy visits everyday at the window to her room. It takes a ladder to reach the room where she fills her Mom’s bird feeder and talk to her mom.”

Wilson said that the entertainment area for the facility was opened to residents on McCalla’s birthday to have cupcakes to celebrate.

“She still participates in activities,” Wilson said. “Exercise, bingo, trivia, think more which is helping you to recall, crafts classes, and she also comes out for happy hour for wine on occasion.

Wilson noted that McCalla has not physically touched family since March.

“We’ve been her family,” she said. “And we are blessed to have taken her under our wing.”

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