By Stacy Smith

It was a cotton-picking life. And, Cora Steen made many good memories and laughs through it all.

“During my lifetime, all I can remember is working. I was four years old the first time I ever picked cotton,” explained Steen.

Growing up, her parents moved back and forth from Alabama to Arkansas working fields picking cotton. She met her husband in Arkansas where they farmed together.

Steen can be a prankster. She recalls one day after her son Ronald was born. “My husband and I were out picking cotton. I placed Ronald in his pick-sack. Ronald’s hair was as white as cotton. So, my husband couldn’t find him. I laughed so hard seeing him look for Ronald. It is important to laugh,” said Steen.

“My parents convinced us to move back to Alabama by my Mother agreeing to watch the children while I attended college to become a nurse. My husband continued to work in the fields,” said Steen.

Even though she worked, she made sure to be active in her children’s school functions, and to be an active member in church.

“I truly admired my mother, Viola Toney. She was a strong woman who worked in the hot cotton fields just like everyone else, but she also made sure that everyone had eaten and was cared for. She instilled in me the traits of stubbornness, being independent and always working hard,” said Steen.

When she was 35 years old, Steen became a certified nursing assistant (CNA). She worked for 22 years as a CNA in a nursing home. “I absolutely loved it!” said Steen.

“Cora Steen worked in a nursing home as a CNA, and now lives in a nursing home. She is spunky and never meets a stranger. Sometimes she sits on the front porch greeting families,” said Johnna Roland, Activity Director at Cottage of the Shoals in Tuscumbia.

At 83 years old, Steen enjoys visits from her four children, 13 grandchildren, 11 great-grandchildren, and 12 great-great grandchildren to Cottage of the Shoals, where she has lived for three years.

“I love living at Cottage of the Shoals because it has allowed me to live an active lifestyle. Daily, I attend activities such as creating crafts, playing bingo or playing Rook. Living at Cottage of the Shoals allows me to keep my independence and go feed the birds, plant flowers and stroll among the grounds talking with other residents,” said Steen.

Steen has found her best friend, Margaret, at Cottage of the Shoals. “She depends on me to help her, talk with her and encourage her to attend activities. I love the feeling that I’m getting to help her, but in reality, she is helping me because she gives me a reason to keep pushing myself,” said Steen.

Editor’s note: This is the third story in a 10-part series about the finalists for the 2017 Ms. Alabama Nursing Home Pageant. On July 20, we’ll post a story about Ms. Folsom Center for Rehab & Health Care Miriam Kelley.

Stacy Smith, APR, is a freelance writer based in Birmingham, Alabama.

For more information about the pageant, click here.