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Columbus resident, 99, named Ms. Georgia Nursing Home in surprise announcement

Columbus Ledger-Enquirer - 9/12/2022

Sep. 8—Joy Graham and fellow Spring Harbor at Green Island retirement residents were invited to gather in the facility's lobby Thursday to celebrate her being a finalist for the title of Ms. Georgia Health Care Association, formerly known as Ms. Georgia Nursing Home.

It was a ruse.

The news was even more impressive.

In a surprise announcement, GHCA officials presented Graham with a crown, sash, trophy and flowers as she was declared the 2022 state winner.

"It feels wonderful," Graham, 99, told the crowd. "... I'm just real honored to represent Spring Harbor. I love this place."

And "this place" loves her.

Residents elected Graham as Ms. Spring Harbor last month. Administrators chose three residents to put on the ballot.

"We wanted someone to be able to speak for themselves, someone with a good reputation and just an overall good person," Spring Harbor healthcare activities manager Jacquelyn Burroughs told the Ledger-Enquirer.

Graham and her husband, Jim, were married for 37 and a half years before he died from cancer and she moved to Spring Harbor as one of the approximately 125 founding members of the facility in 2005. She has one daughter, three grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.

Spring Harbor now has more than 230 independent-living residents and approximately 65 residents in the health center. The health center has three levels of assistance — personal care, memory support and skilled nursing — and those are the residents who voted for Spring Harbor's representative in the GHCA competition.

"She has been a pillar of our community," Burroughs said. "... She's always giving peppermints to the staff... She has a beautiful sense of humor. She's just lovable."

Shane McDougall, executive director of Spring Harbor, told the L-E that Graham embodies the essence of continuing care.

"She started out in independent living, but she continues to engage in our activities every day in skilled nursing," he said. ". . . She has been through the full scale, from the doors opening to this honor. ... We're probably more excited that she chose to be a resident with us than she is to be here. Our staff absolutely adores her."

Spring Harbor healthcare administrator Kelsea Garrett described Graham as "the sweetest soul."

This is the first year Spring Harbor nominated a candidate. GHCA officials encouraged Spring Harbor to apply, Garrett told the L-E. Due to COVID restrictions what normally is an in-person GHCA pageant was conducted virtually. The 13 candidates nominated by their nursing homes competed for the state title by having a video and application about them submitted to a GHCA selection panel.

In the YouTube video about Graham, she says she enjoys the activities at Spring Harbor, such as Wii bowling. She plays the organ and exercises. But she appreciates the people most of all.

"I have more friends now than I've ever had in my life," she said. "They've been dear friends. The people in Spring Harbor are super."

GHCA represents 353 nursing homes, 96% of such facilities in the state, Sylvia Barnes, the association's director of assisted living and affiliates, told the L-E.

Barnes called Graham "remarkable. I mean, she's 99, cognitive, alert. Just her outlook on life — very inspiring. The video I watched I'm sure was a key factor in (the selection panel's) decision."

This story was originally published September 8, 20224:20 PM.


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