Senior Adults Honored During Friday’s 16th Annual Adult Services Expo at Boone Mall

Published Monday, May 14, 2018 at 2:52 pm

: Recipients of the 2108 Celebration of Living Awards, and/or family representatives, are from left: Robert Calhoun, Sanda Cooper, Martha Gentry, Melvin Norris, and accepting on behalf of their mother, Anna Lou Beasley are Peggy Beasley and Jacque Williams.

By Sherrie Norris

The 16th Annual Adult Services Expo attracted a large crowd to Boone Mall on Friday, May 11, during which several seniors were recognized, local agency representatives shared valuable information and others came to learn more about available services in the High Country.

Now in its 16th year, the expo is always held in May, which is celebrated across the nation as Older Americans Month. The event, free and open to the public, is hosted annually by the Adult Services Coalition of Watauga County.

“The Adult Services Coalition is a group of service agencies — non-nonprofit organizations and businesses — that work with aging adults,” said Charity Curlee, with Watauga County Project on Aging, who helped serve as emcee on Friday. “Many years ago, we decided to form a group as a way to better educate each other on resources available. Monies raised through the expo registration and sponsorships go back into the community by helping fund programs that benefit aging adults and the disabled population through small grants we award annually.”

Always a highlight of the event, the Celebration of Living Awards were presented at noon to honor outstanding individuals in several categories, and included the following, along with the nominations/descriptions of why they were chosen for the award:

Facility Resident of the Year: Melvin Norris, currently residing at Deerfield Assisted Living, was described as “ a delight to everyone around him,” who, as a former regular participant at the Lois E. Harrill Senior Center, “left an empty spot,” when he moved to Deerfield. He made the decision to move, in order to get the best possible care for his sweet wife, Rosalee. Happily married for 72 years, they began dating when Melvin was 16 and Rosalee was only 13.
Norris was also described as a “93-year-old hero,” who served his country proudly in the US Navy, both during World War II and the Korean War, and continued to serve in the Navy reserves until his retirement. He worked for many years with IRC/TRW, and has also been active with the Masons and Eastern Star, having served as deputy grand patron, as well as community ambassador, for both organizations. Upon accepting his award, Norris shared a bit of his history, and in particular, his military service.

Centenarian of the Year: Anna Lou Evans Beasley, a Louisiana native, residing at Deerfield Ridge Assisted Living, was married at 18 to Howard Beasley who died at the age of 101. The couple had been married 73 years. Beasley raised five children who have brought her much pride through the years. In addition to being a work-at-home mother while her children were young, she worked two jobs past the age of 40 to help send her younger three children to college. She retired at the age of 85 from her job as teacher assistant to help care for her husband. She had a reputation of being tough and firm, but loving, to her children and to the hundreds she taught in public school. Her loyalty to her church at First Baptist was of great importance to her, as was her teaching all children right from wrong. She is known for her youthful appearance, even today at 100. Unable to attend the event, her daughters Peggy Beasley and Jacque Williams, accepted her award on their mother’s behalf.

Caregiver of the Year: Martha Gentry has spent her life in service to others. She has been a pastor, worked for hospice and is now a full-time caregiver for her mother, who is in declining health, dropping everything when her mother needed her, moved in with her and now cares for her 24/7. Martha has her own health issues, but selflessly gives of her time to her mother. Martha is a very self-sacrificing and loving person, who has a special way of loving and caring for others as needed, and especially, her mother.

Individual with Disability of the Year: Robert Calhoun, prior to losing his vision in 2015, was an avid writer, teacher and a professor of American history. A loving husband, father, church member and friend, Calhoun has authored seven books and many essays and articles. He was an avid jogger and hiker. During his 45 earlier years in Greensboro, he travelled to Boone and Valle Crucis annually and fell in love with the area. In 2010, he purchased a farmhouse in Sugar Grove and began the process of moving to the mountains. In retirement, he taught two classes at Appalachian State University. He enjoyed volunteering around the High Country, and helped build the trail at Elk Knob, and loved watching wildlife from his porch. When he lost his vision, from a condition called temporal arteritis, although it was a big transition, he continued to enjoy speaking to friends about history, politics and religion, walking in local parks, attending the Church of the Holy Cross, voting and dining out. He was firmly positive and gently philosophical in facing this big change, saying, “I can think about all the things I wrote and thought before, and it’s wonderful.” His acceptance speech on Friday included lengthy quotes from Lincoln and Churchill.

The Hearn Volunteer of the Year Award, adapted to honor the memory of recently deceased Dick Hearn — and to honor his wife, Joan, both longtime volunteers, community activists and great supporters of the coalition and expo — went to Sanda Cooper. “Sanda selflessly volunteers several hours each week in the community and with Deerfield Assisted Living. She leads a Sunday School class for the residents in the memory-care unit, and a Bible Study for other residents. She calls bingo games and assists with crafts. She has become a cherished friend for the residents and a family member for those in need. She also has delivered in-home meals through Project on Aging for 20 years. She has definitely made a difference in the lives of those around her.

Remembering Dick Hearn

The absence of Dick Hearn was certainly felt by the regular participants at this year’s Senior Expo, but none more so than by his wife, Joan, with whom he volunteered countless hours each year as an advocate for the young, old, the environment and the community, in general.

“Dick Hearn left behind an example of life best lived, by giving and caring for others in this community,” said Curlee. “Born in 1930 in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Dick served in the United States Army and spend this career at State Farm Insurance. He and Joan made the High Country their home 25 years ago, and became champions of volunteer work. Dick’s obituary listed 27 different avenues of volunteerism, which he embraced in the community he loved.”

Joan Hearn was presented a token of appreciation for their combined services to the area.

“Joan has worked alongside Dick all these years. We are honored any humbled to not only present this year’s volunteer award in loving memory of Dick Hearn, but also to name the award after the couple who taught us that everyday life may be lived to its fullest, when it is lived in giving.”

Surrounded by members of the Adult Services Coalition, Joan Hearn reacts with surprise and gratitude when recognized during Friday’s Adult Senior Services Expo at Boone Mall.


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