By Stacy Smith

Returning to her hometown of Greenville with a police escort last August, the newly reigning Ms. Alabama Nursing Home Association 2016, Millie McDonald, joyfully embraced the service opportunities associated with her newly awarded title.

Ms. Millie, as her friends call her, enjoyed the paparazzi, and used the opportunity the title afforded to share encouragements with all who she touched. Her reach went far.

The Greenville Advocate reported that, at her Celebration Reception, her blue eyes sparkled almost as much as her tiara, as family, friends, former music students, local dignitaries, and fellow Crowne Health Care residents and staff lauded her with congratulations. Those attending included friends from across the state, including some who drove three and a half hours from Huntsville.

McDonald taught music and voice in Butler County Public Schools for 45 years, and continued working part-time with schools throughout the county after her retirement. She also performed as a guest vocalist at many area churches, and as the music director for numerous area revivals.

With this in mind, Butler County School System Superintendent Amy Bryan decided to surprise system employees at the start of school in-service training in 2016 with a special address from Ms. Millie.

McDonald’s remarks included, “Some say the students are our future. But I say, ‘You are the future now.’ Our students do not have a future without you, the employees of the Butler County School System.”

Her remarks earned an extraordinary standing ovation by the more than 200 public school staff and board of education members, and quite a few hugs.

Ms. McDonald spoke to the Kiwanis Club in Greenville.

Ms. McDonald spoke to the Kiwanis Club in Greenville.

She has fulfilled requests to speak to a Kiwanis Club, a Civitan Club, and at the Alabama Nursing Home Association’s Annual Convention and Trade Show.  Last December, she helped officiate the annual Greenville Christmas Parade riding in a sporty two-seat convertible decorated with red ribbons and gold twinkle lights.

“I have been working in nursing home healthcare for 25 years. For 17 years, I have coordinated our Ms. Crowne Health Care of Greenville pageant. I knew we had someone extra special with Ms. Millie.  She was my choral music teacher. I’ve known her practically my all my life. I feel honored to have gotten so close to her this year, and to support her every step of the way,” said Sandra Gibson Medley, LBSW, Director of Social Services, Crowne Health Care of Greenville.

McDonald remarked, “Her name is Sandra Medley. ‘Medley!’ When I first had her in school chorus, she said she wasn’t important. But, of course she was and is. When the church choirs come to the nursing home, I recognize so many former students of mine. I am proud of each one of them, and love to hear them sing.”

For a few weeks in January and February, McDonald was ill with bronchitis which turned into pneumonia. While she paused her in-person speeches to focus on recovery, she turned more to her Facebook account.

“Then, they got me back up,” McDonald said of the Crowne Health Care staff. “I’m back walking with my fancy walker now.”

“I do receive friends’ Facebook messages and pictures on my page. My granddaughter Shanna helps me by letting me know they are there. To keep my spirits up, I often check my Facebook page to see what my former students are up to,” said McDonald.

Ms. McDonald celebrating National Donut Day.

Ms. McDonald celebrating National Donut Day.

Back to her queenly duties, for National Donut Day in June, she duly celebrated over stacks of the hot glazed treats with her fellow nursing home residents, and, of course, made a tiara-clad Facebook post in praise of the doughnut.

This year, McDonald was elected Resident Council President.

“Ms. Millie is a very positive influence on all of our residents here. She is very concerned if she sees a change in someone, and brings it to our attention,” explained Medley.

“They don’t care just for me, the kindness and courtesy is here all around. I am truly grateful for everyone here for nominating me for Ms. Alabama Nursing Home. I am grateful for those events that I did attend. May the 2017 winner enjoy it as much as I have,” said McDonald.

“This year has been just so awesome. I encourage the next Ms. Alabama Nursing Home to relax and enjoy it. It’s been wonderful,” said Ms. Millie.

In late June, McDonald said she had the chance to sit down and play her keyboard for the first time in a while. The beautiful music that has surrounded her whole life before and during her reign as Ms. Alabama Nursing Home plays on.

The 2017 Ms. Alabama Nursing Home pageant will be held at the Hyatt Regency Birmingham – The Wynfrey Hotel in Birmingham on July 31, 2017. Visit http://anha.org/pageant/ for more information. The top 10 finalists for the 2017 Ms. Alabama Nursing Home Pageant will be announced July 13 on anha.org.

Editor’s Note: Stacy Smith, APR, is a freelance writer based in Birmingham.