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Cherished Christmas Memories from Yesteryear

Gifts of time and love are surely the basic ingredients of a truly merry Christmas.

~ Peg Bracken

It’s a time to be cherished as we laugh, smile and even shed some tears of joy with family and loved ones while celebrating the holiday season. And it’s these heart warming moments we will look back on and cherish one day. For many of our elders, Christmas brings back treasured moments and traditions spent with family. Some heartfelt and some funny, but all these precious memories will warm the heart. During the month of December we wanted to showcase our residents’ memories of Christmas in our #31DaysOfGrace. These are a few of their stories.

A December birthday makes this story even more special! Happy Birthday to Jessie Lingenfelter, an elder at The Brookfield, who turned 103 years young on December 11th. “I always remember Christmas being a special time; going to the school house to sing and getting to wear the pink silk dress my mother had made for me. The prettiest dress at school,” she said. Jessie also shared with us a memory from her childhood about how her family would all go down to the creek to cut down a Christmas tree. They would then drag it home and decorate it with popcorn and cranberries. One of her all-time favorite gifts you ask? “When my grandmother got me and my sister a porcelain doll. I named her Pansy,” she shared. Such wonderful memories! Thank you Jessie for taking the time to share them with us.

When asked about a special Christmas memory, Iva Appleton, a resident at Grace Living Center Buffalo replied with a story about a Christmas surprise. Iva grew up in a small farming community outside of Buffalo, Oklahoma near her extended family. As soon as she graduated from high school, Iva Chase, married the love of her life, Joe Bill Appleton. Soon after, her husband Joe was sent to World War II where he served for more than 3 years. During that time, their first child was born. “My father-in-law would come to the house and say it’s time for you all to come stay with us,” shared Iva. Her family would tell her the same thing. Iva would spend time with both her husband’s family and her family which was a huge blessing. “I was so fortunate and blessed for the help my extended family provided during those years,” she shared. Iva stayed in touch with her husband Joe Bill while he was serving overseas by writing letters and sending photos of the baby so he would know his son. One special Christmas, Joe Bill was able to come home since his tour had ended. Iva’s sister somehow connected with him and was able to coordinate picking him up from the bus station on Christmas without anyone knowing. Her sister brought Joe Bill home and surprised everyone! “There were lots of tears that Christmas, but more joy than can be put into words,” said Iva. Thanks so much for sharing this heartfelt story of yesteryear!

A Santa tale told by resident Mary Toliver and her brother Kevin Long! One Christmas long ago, Kevin decided to buy a Santa suit to dress up for his nieces and nephews on Christmas. He loved the joy it brought to the family so much, he decided to do it again the following year. Now every year Kevin dresses up as Santa and even rides around in a corvette! His sister Mary really enjoys seeing her brother's custom made costumes each year. Kevin (we mean Santa) helped spread Christmas cheer to all of our elders this year at Plantation Village Nursing Center!

What makes this season so special for many people is the time spent with loved ones! Same goes for Everette Smithson, a resident at Grace Living Center NW 10th. When asked about his favorite Christmas memory from yesteryear, he replied "being around family." He was very excited for this family photo taken this season surrounded by his kids, grandkids and great grandkids! "Not bad for almost 90," he shared! Beautiful family, Mr. Smithson!!

As the saying goes, a photo is worth a thousand words. We currently have 3 generations at Grace Living Center Del City. Ms. Luther Simmons is one of our residents, her daughter Tracey Roberts and granddaughter Shemika Simmons both work for Grace Living Centers. They all agree, the best thing about Christmas is the time they spend together. One of their holiday family traditions is making homemade Gumbo and biscuits. Sounds delicious! 



Volunteerism: Giving The Gift of Time

Volunteers from Timothy Baptist Church visit The Springs in Muskogee

Help change the life of an elder by giving the gift of time!

Volunteering can mean many things to different people but the one constant is the gift of time every volunteer offers. As we travel through this holiday season, many people are looking for ways to give back. We see your interest each week in our Grace Living Center communities as you call, email or stop by offering to help our elders have a brighter day. There are so many ways you can give: from adopting a senior to bringing a group in to sing Christmas carols, from sitting and talking with an elder to lending a helping hand with our various activities. All of these contributions are meaningful and make a bigger impact than you might think.

As a volunteer, talking and listening is what most of of elders wish for. A lot of our residents do not have family that can visit on a regular basis and seeing a volunteer brings them such joy. You wouldn’t believe how much it helps when people just have time to sit and talk.

- Crystal Landers, Activity Director at Grace Living Center Clinton

Angel Garland at Rebold ManorWhether it’s in a long-term care community, church or a community outreach program, there are several ways you can help make an impact upon the lives of Oklahoma seniors. One of the first steps is to simply pick up the phone and call a local organization or a nearby long-term care community. Then ask, how you can help or even offer up an idea you may have. One of the best ways to give back to our elders is to be a listening ear since so many of our elders don’t have loved ones who visit regularly. You’ll also receive invaluable gifts along the way from valuable stories, lessons and experiences of yesteryear shared by our elders.

They should start with the Volunteer Coordinator, but it differs in facilities. That person should have volunteer applications, similar to employment in the way they’re handled for background, etc., and schedule a brief volunteer orientation upon approval of the application. They can establish preferred visiting times and be assigned duties or recommended tasks during the orientation. I also have a volunteer book that has a list of residents with no family involvement and suggested/approved activities for those individuals.

- Alan Washington, Social Services and Admissions Coordinator at Grace Living Center Wildewood

Angel Tree at Grace JenksMost Grace communities have partnered with local businesses and charities during the holidays for programs like the Angel Tree at Grace Living Center Jenks. Here’s how it works: Each resident gets to fill out a list of what they hope to receive, similar to a Santa list. Someone picks the angel off a tree then buys the items listed and returns the unwrapped gifts. Those gifts are then wrapped and delivered to our elders. 

Our facility has had the blessing of having an Angel Tree from the Community for the past 10 years. It’s such a joy to see the smiles and the residents light up when Santa, Mrs. Clause and his elves show up to hand out their gifts. During this time snacks are served around a Christmas tree. Residents have said it feels like they’re at home during Christmas. It’s truly a heart warming time for everyone involved.

Peggy Henningsen, Activity Director at Grace Living Center Jenks

We Need Volunteers Year Round!

The holidays are a time when many individauls, families and organizations take time out of their schedules to volunteer and give back but please know the need is great throughout the year. Whether you find an extra hour here or there each month or week to spend with a senior – or you’re cleaning out a closet or downsizing your book collection and would like to make a gift of your gently used items for the benefit of seniors who are in need, your generosity is welcomed with gratitude at each of our Grace Living Center communities throughout the year. 

Items always needed by our seniors:

  • Socks
  • Blankets
  • Clothes
  • Candy, snacks & soda
  • Books (reading & activity)
  • Art supplies
  • Puzzles
  • Hygiene products (shampoo, toothpaste, deodorant, etc.)

A Veteran's Story: David Bard

Father, husband, son and Veteran

It’s not every day you get to meet someone who went to morse code school. In fact, most younger people may be unfamiliar with what it is. Morse code was used over radios during WWII, the Korean war and the Vietnam war, sending messages via combinations of dots and short dashes that represented letters. 

On this Veteran's Day, in honor of Veterans everywhere, we’re featuring one of the many Veterans we serve each day at our Grace Living Center Communities. David Bard, a resident at Grace Living Center NE 21st, started his journey in the military at the young age of 18 in 1954. “I took basic training at Fort Chaffee Arkansas. From there I went to Germany,” shared Bard. He served after World War II during the occupation in Germany. He started out stringing wire and climbed telephone poles for a short time until they found out he could type. Then his job duties shifted and Mr. Bard would go to supply to type requisitions. He had only been doing this job for a short while when he was told to report to the Battalion Colonel Officer. “He said I want to tell you a little story. When we went to field this last time, it was getting late and their Captain said to stop at the guest house and I’ll buy us a steak. They went in and had a nice steak. And when the came out, the jeep wouldn’t start. It was the worst running jeep in the unit and I don’t know how far they were from where we camped. The captain told the driver he would start walking and if he got the jeep started, to pick him up. The driver got the jeep going, but ran over the Captain while driving back to camp because he didn’t see him. The Captain wasn’t hurt, but after that he wanted to change the driver,” shared Bard. This short story was the Captain’s way of asking Bard to be his new driver. He accepted, but before he could leave, “he says Bard and I said, yes sir. You just remember I’m particular about who runs over me,” Bard shared while laughing.

David BardHe served as the captain’s driver for around a month before being asked if he would like to go to morse code school. Bard was sent to the Army Base in Baumholder Germany for three months to learn the morse code. “I graduated the top man in the class. There were 35 of us that started and there were 15 that finished school. I can understand, you would learn a rhythm. Morse code is a rhythm, it’s dots and dashes and some people just can’t keep up with it.” From there he served as a morse code operator for the remainder of his time in the service. “Without satellites, morse code was the only way you could send messages over a great distance. At that time, we were very valuable. We had only five men in the battalion that could do morse code. And we had a 24 hour a day station. So they put us in the attic of the barracks because we had someone sleeping most of the time,” stated Bard. Each person would work two separate four hour shifts, 6 days each week because somebody had to be on the radio all the time. 

David Bard with his brother Richard.Once Mr. Bard was on U.S. soil after serving abroad, he married his first wife and started working at Tinker Field in Oklahoma City like he had before being deployed. He then moved on to a job at the Daily Oklahoman as a typesetter. The newspaper business must have run in the family because his father worked as an Editor for several years at various newspapers. Mr. Bard also developed a love for flying and obtained his pilot’s license in 1970. At one point, he would travel around with the Air Shows and learned how to do all the stunts. Today, David is 82-years-old and the proud father to two wonderful children, a son and daughter, and two delightful grandkids.

Thank you for your service Mr. Bard - and thank you to all of the men and women who have served our country so valiantly! 


Physical Therapy Success: Phyllis Owen

Her children couldn’t believe her progress from one visit to the next! Phyllis Owen put off going to the doctor until the pain in her hip was unbearable. She’s now sharing her story in hopes it will help others conquer their hip pain.

Physical Therapy Success Story: Phyllis Owen

The Oklahoma Senior who shared her story in hopes of helping others suffering from hip pain.

It’s a common scenario among our elders. They start experiencing hip pain, but ignore it until the pain worsens and makes it hard to get around. Many times in this type of situation, surgery is the only option. However, for Phyllis Owen this wasn’t her first hip surgery. She had her hip replaced at the age of 59. Fast forward 25 years to today, Phyllis now 84, heard a pop, but ignored it until the pain became unbearable. “When it had popped out of place, something had broken and it had rubbed the other part of it and I guess caused an infection,” said Phyllis Owen. 

The surgery to fix Ms. Owen’s hip was only the start to her path of regaining her independence. Once the surgery was complete, she started her post hospital recovery with the skilled therapy team at The Springs. “She’s done very well since she’s been here. When she first got here, she was walking a very limited amount. She couldn’t get in and out of bed by herself or on and off a chair by herself. So, over the course of her stay here she can now get off any surface independently. She walks independently around the unit with a rolling walker and she gets in and out of bed by herself as well,” said Physical Therapist Karissa Dixon about her progress. As for Ms. Owen’s take on her progress at The Springs. “Oh yeah! My kids could even tell. I could hardly raise myself up with the walker when I started out. The people have been real nice. I’ve had real good care in therapy. They make me work, laughing, I really work,” stated Ms. Owen.

All of that hard work is paying off. With each passing day, Phyllis is getting stronger and is almost fully independent again. Her children have been very happy with her progress she’s made during her post hospital recovery at The Springs. “Well they see a lot of improvement. They couldn’t believe it from one visit to the next on how well I had done,” said Ms. Owen.


Walk with Grace to #EndALZ

Imagine a world without Alzheimer’s 

Walk with Grace to #EndALZ

It’s the 6th leading cause of death in the United States, but it’s not something you catch or can be transmitted from person to person. We’re talking about Alzheimer’s disease, the most common form of dementia. As people age they tend to become more forgetful but Alzheimer’s is not a normal part of aging. This progressive disease creeps in robbing a person of their most precious memories by destroying important mental functions. Every 66 seconds in the United States someone develops Alzheimer’s, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.

Several Grace Living Center communities – both skilled nursing facilities and Assisted Living centers – feature Alzheimer care units where our staff receives training to understand the disease process and care strategies. Debbie Hudson, the Administrator at The Brookfield Assisted Living, has seen the affects on our elders first hand. “The hardest part for anyone who works in long term care is watching elders disappear into this disease with no way to stop it, I am no exception.To watch an elder struggle with not being able to find a word or to have them upset because they have lost their favorite shoes because they don’t recognize the shoes are on their feet is hard enough to make one cry. To comfort a daughter who is in tears because Daddy no longer knows who she is even harder. To try and help an elder remember how to use a fork requires a level of compassion and patience that is something close to sainthood. The joy comes in the simplest of things; laughter over a cup of coffee, celebrating the success of folding the towels or the high five after completing a craft. The ever spiraling cost of providing the care needed to give those affected by this disease a better quality of life is staggering and that alone should be enough for us cry out for more funding for research. So that someday we will have the first person to survive Alzheimer’s,” stated Hudson. 

For some of our staff members helping others with this irreversible, progressive brain disorder is a mission close to their hearts after losing a loved one to the neurodegenerative disease. “I started out in the Alzheimer’s Care Unit in 1996 at Grace Living Center 10th," said Bill Luta, Activity Director at Grace Living Center Northwest. "For me, having a parent who lost his fight with Alzheimer’s, I’ve seen both sides of the disease. This is a devastating disease. One that erases memories. I was my Father’s favorite and I still remember the day he didn’t recognize me. It was totally devastated me. I’ve been able to take what I experienced with my Father’s battle with Alzheimer’s and use it as I care for our elders. I also can sympathize with others families and hopefully help them better understand the disease since I too have been in their shoes." 

There’s a couple of ways you can help take a stand against this devastating disease. The first is to join Grace Living Centers as we Walk to End Alzheimer’s, taking the first steps to a world without Alzheimer’s. It’s the world's largest event to fight  this irreversible, progressive brain disorder. If you don’t have the time to lace up your sneakers and hit the pavement, you can also make a donation to help a team reach their donation goal or give directly to the organization. All of the donations will help to advance Alzheimer's support, care, and research! This year there are several walks in Oklahoma and Grace Living Centers will have teams participating in the remaining scheduled walks! 


  • Lawton, Oklahoma August 26 at Elmer Thomas Park. The party starts at 7:30am and the 1.5 mile walk follows at 9am.
  • Tulsa, Oklahoma September 23 at Dietler Commons located at the University of Tulsa. All the fun begins at 7:30am with the 1.5 mile walking starting at 9am.
  • Oklahoma City September 30 at Civic Center Bicentennial Park. The party starts at 7:30am and the 2 mile walk follows at 9am.