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Blog: The Queen of Maple Ridge

         A letter from Lisa Ursini, Manager, Maple Ridge Retirement Community

Like probably many of the RLC communities, we at Maple Ridge decided to throw a Mardi Gras-themed party this past February. We even had a float parade where we marched, rolled and danced down Main Street, celebrating with our residents.

Millie is 104 years old. She’s special not only because she’s our oldest resident, but because she is kindness personified - to the other residents, to the staff, and to her neighbors.

We decided we wanted to include her in our parade as the Queen of Maple Ridge.

I have to admit when we first approached Millie with the idea, she was skeptical. She asked, “What do I have to do?” She was worried about walking. Also, being the center of attention was hard for her to accept. She explained it would put her in unfamiliar territory.

But we told her, “Millie, you deserve this. We’ll make sure you are safe and secure, and Johnny and I will do all of the work. All you have to do is sit and enjoy the beautiful time. You deserve this Millie! You are wonderful and your neighborhood loves you.”

So she agreed.

John, my husband, constructed a float out of a wheeled cart and we secured one of our comfortable heavy arm chairs on top. Then we decorated it with colored paper. We put signs up with Millie’s age in years, months, days and minutes. She was given a crown and candy to hand out.

When it was time, John pulled the float of the parade queen, with Millie on her throne, down Main Street while I threw candy from the back and everyone clapped and waved. Millie smiled like a brand new homecoming queen, waved, and the Maple Ridge family and guests blew horns in her honor and shouted their congratulations.

The parade was a great success. Residents really got into the spirit of the day. But it was only when the parade was over that something truly magical happened.

“This is why we do it!”

Millie was still on her throne while we were beginning to clean up. I wanted to make sure she had as much fun as we did so I started by asking her for a hug. When we had first approached her she seemed really shy about wanting to be noticed and recognized. Afterwards, I just wanted to make sure she was comfortable.

So I bent down and held on tight to her but when I pulled away, I could see that she had tears in her eyes. That’s when she spoke in a shaky but sure voice, as though she’d been waiting 104 years to say it.

“Lisa, I have felt inferior my whole life. I was forever in the background. Today, you made me feel truly special.”

She didn’t want to get off that float. She was so beautiful and I could see that she was so touched. I kissed and hugged her again - and she soon went off to join the others for dinner.

As a manager, it made me feel so good. This one special moment that Millie thought we were giving her, she was in fact giving me. It made me feel like we were doing exactly what we should be doing - making a difference in peoples’ lives. Touching isn’t even the word. It was profound. It was also the best Mardi Gras I’ve ever been to!


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