Patients at Chatham Nursing were honored with a performance from Elkin High School’s chorus and a visit from local veterans Monday morning, then the nursing home honored Elkin Fire Department thanks to a request and donation from a patient who died at Easter.
The choral students, along with several staff and patients of Chatham Nursing, were moved to tears as choral director Tonya Smith led the chorus during Monday morning’s performance, just hours after her mother, Kay Jennings, passed away. Jennings had been a patient at Chatham Nursing for at least three years, and Smith told those in attendance that she would want her there honoring her commitment. She dedicate the performance to the kick off of National Nursing Home Week and in memory of her mother.
Later in the morning, several members and retired members of the Elkin Fire Department visited Chatham Nursing for a special presentation.
Michael Simpson, a 12-year patient at Chatham Nursing who died Easter Sunday, was a former firefighter with Jot-Um-Down and then Elkin Fire Department. He left a donation to Chatham Nursing’s activities department, and the department’s director, Carolyn Caldwell, explained that Simpson made a stipulation that part of the donation be used to honor the Elkin Fire Department.
Caldwell took that request and honored it. During a short ceremony Monday, Carolyn Oliver, the residents council president, Caldwell, and retired firefighters George Crater and Monroe Wagoner shared memories of Simpson, both as a firefighter prior to his injury and as a fellow patient and friend at Chatham.
The ceremony included the presentation of two memorials — a fireman’s bench which will remain at Chatham Nursing, and a fireman’s prayer with a set of boots and a helmet which will later include a plaque honoring Simpson.
“He was just so generous to us,” Caldwell said of Simpson, whose brother Kevin, his caregiver and power of attorney, was present Monday for the presentation as well.
Caldwell said one of her favorite memories of Simpson was after he bought a Wii for the nursing home. He had a special adaptation made so he could play, and he would bowl and golf and play with the 80 and 90-year-old patients. She said they were so competitive.
“He’d donate generous amounts of candy for our trick-or-treaters,” she said, adding she’d give him a hard time about being a Carolina fan, and that he was a huge racing fan as well.
“Michael was so special to us,” said Caldwell.
Joking about how quiet Simpson was, Crater said, “Michael would get blamed for the noise. We’d tell him he was talking too much, everybody’d laugh and he would just look up and say, ‘I’m sorry.’ He was there for us all. He did everything he could to protect what was others.”
“Sometimes you don’t have to talk a lot to say a lot, and Michael was that kind of guy,” said Caldwell.
Following the ceremony, Chatham Nursing provided a meal for the firefighters, staff, patients and guests.
Wendy Byerly Wood may be reached at 336-258-4035 or on Twitter @wendywoodeditor.