Betty Cochran, a resident of Serenades Memory Care in the villages, turned 101 on October 31. If you recognized my name, Karen Cochran Beaulieu, you might have guessed correctly that Betty is an amazing mom!
Born in 1920, the year women gained the right to vote, Betty grew up in the Depression and played the violin in her school orchestra. As a young counsellor, she bravely sang with terrified young men as she leads them to safety during an angry hurricane that devastated their camp. During World War II, she worked on the catering board, never giving up hope that her husband, Jim, would come home. He was an Army Air Force bomber, the Germans shot down his B-17 and his crew and parachuted out of their damaged plane. He was missing at work for a year until he was rescued by a Belgian underground and smuggled to the United States, where he was awarded the Purple Heart and happily reunited with his wife. We have enjoyed 51 years of marriage as a married couple. During the 1950s, my mom and dad raised three daughters, Betty also led the Scouts, inspired church women and spent hundreds of volunteer hours preparing “Meals on Wheels.”
Betty is often asked the secret to her longevity. Her response is always “I love life!” She has learned how to live a full and active life loving God, loving family, and loving others by her example, and this positive and honest approach is one of the methods I continue to share now as I serve my caregivers and loved ones.
Her birthday and Halloween fall on the same day, so costumes, fun, and special treats have been part of her celebrations for 101 years. One of Betty’s favorite things is to get her three daughters together. On Saturday, October 30, her mother/daughter lunch celebration began. Wearing funny little witch hats, her three daughters, the eldest Linda Fidler from Villages, her middle daughter, Marilyn Cochran Smith from Boston, and her youngest daughter, really your daughter from Sumter County, joined her mother for a surprise visit for her birthday.
On her actual birthday, 10 family and friends gathered for a “100 & ONE-derful” party. Betty was amazed when she entered the room and saw beautiful butterflies hanging from the ceiling. She wore a butterfly headdress, the guests had butterfly fans and the men wore butterfly antennas. The group played instruments and joined Betty as she sang her favorite old songs. Each guest chose a word from the butterfly grid and played the “Stump the Speller” game. Betty has been a spelling champion since grammar school, so words like “celebration”, “butterfly” and “decoration” were no challenge to her! (Games that boost self-esteem are highly recommended for those with amnesia.)
Later this month, I’ll be making a keepsake album with photos, cards, and party favors, so my mom can enjoy her birthday over and over again. (Repetitive images and flashbacks are an excellent technique that helps preserve memory for people with dementia.)
Her last 101St His birthday celebration took place in Summerfield at the annual Village View Christian Academy of Trees. Since 2017, children dressed in VVCA have been trick-or-treating and providing music programming for her and other residents of Buffalo Crossings. This activity across generations has created many enjoyable and successful moments of interest to both students and seniors.
100 for herNS It was Christmas in 2020, but there was no big party due to COVID-19 visitation restrictions. However, she enjoyed a Halloween parade of dressed-up people singing “Happy Birthday” by her window, and kids from the academy made her cards and posters. More than 50 decorated trees were displayed in the 2020 School Holidays extravaganza and we sponsored a Christmas tree in honor of 100 of them.NS Christmas. Betty was thrilled to support and thank the kids for their years of birthday wishes.
Last week, a colorful “100 & ONE-derful” butterfly honoring her birthday tree was displayed at the school’s annual party. After the festivities, it was donated to a family with little girls who otherwise wouldn’t have a Christmas tree.
Betty Cochran is truly a “single” woman and the best mom ever! She is the cover girl in my book Significant Moments and I have had the great pleasure and honor of looking after her over the years. (Caregivers can learn how to spend both the everyday and great moments of their loved one at www.moment-making.com.)