By Roslyn Franken
Photography by Betty Kolar
On May 26, 2020, The Royal Dalton House Assisted Living and Memory Care in Homosassa held a Patriotic Family Picnic Parade in celebration of Memorial Day. Residents gathered outside the main entrance shortly before 11:00am eagerly awaiting the parade of families and friends who they knew were on their way and could hardly wait to see. Social distancing rules were adhered to and masks were worn. By 11:00am, the first of many vehicles filled with smiling and excited family members drove by slowly in a parade waving, blowing kisses, honking their horns, shouting out and showing love to their loved ones from their vehicles. Residents waved their American flags with big smiles on their faces, happy to receive all the love and attention from their loved ones who they have been unable to see due to the COVID-19 lockdown that started in mid-March. Those who came by in their cars received a complimentary Memorial Day picnic lunch to go including a BBQ hot dog, bag of chips, a bottle of water and a homemade chocolate chip cookie.
One resident in her 90’s, Christine, sat front row and center, as her husband Henry also in his 90’s, drove by with a big banner on the side of his car that he saved from their wedding day decades ago and dug up in the attic that said “CHRISTINE & HENRY.” He stopped the car in front of her to hand a balloon and a beautiful bouquet of roses to the staff member to give to his wife. In a heartwarming moment everyone looked on as she took the gifts, smiling from ear to ear as she slowly blew him a kiss from her wheelchair. Other family members drove by in cars and golf carts decorated with big signs that said things like, “I miss you. I love you,” “Hi Joan – see you soon” and “God bless everyone.”
When asked what this event meant for her, Eleanor, proudly wearing a t-shirt with a glitzy American flag design on it, said, “Events like this makes everyone happy. It reminds us that soon the restrictions will be over. We had a parade like this a few weeks ago for Mother’s Day and loved it and today I love it too. They do so much here to keep our spirits high.”
For Ida, this Memorial Day event reminded her of the memories of her loved ones like her father who was an ambulance driver in France in World War I, her husband who was in the Army and her brother who was in the Navy. She said, “It’s sad but nice also to have this time to remember them.” Wearing her American flag earrings, she added, “I have great faith in our country. We will get back to normal soon, but better slowly and safely.”
Betty Malloy was fully dressed in red, white and blue, including a hat bearing the American flag. She is 92 turning 93 at the end of next month. Her son was in the Air Force and her husband was in the Army. Betty was a Cadet nurse in 1945 and for 30 years she took care of war veterans at the Veterans Hospital in Northport Long Island where she retired from in 1980 when she came to Florida. She said that even with the restrictions it was wonderful to see her daughter, son-in-law, great granddaughter and great-grandson again all in the car waving at her and blowing kisses.
Alyson Truong, Life Enrichment Director said, “We like doing things to give something for residents and staff to look forward to. We’re lucky that we are not one of those residences that are keeping residents in their room because we believe in socializing. Isolation causes depression which also unfortunately causes death and we’re trying to stay away from that. We want them to socialize as much as the state will allow us to. It’s things like this parade that help keep us going during these times. Having something like this to look forward to really keeps everyone going.”