By Stacy Smith

Born in Thermal, California, Dora Estes took a long route to get to Camden, Alabama, and reign as Ms. Camden Nursing Facility this year.

Estes has lived in many states from Washington to Maine. Her husband, Jim, was a carpenter. They moved for his job in construction helping build dams during the 1960s – 1980s. She particularly remembers their living a year in New York while Jim was working on the Saint Lawrence Seaway between Canada and the United States.

The 87-year-old fondly recalls the pets she loved, referring to them as smart, dumb, and ugly. They had three small dogs, a rat terrier, a dachshund, and a Chinese pug. They referred to them as the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.

She tells residents and her grandchildren that she has been blessed with love and laughter by the men in her life. When her sons Dan and Bill were about 10 and nine years old respectively, the two were arguing about something. Dan tried to win the battle against his younger brother by telling Bill he was adopted. Estes was cooking supper when Bill burst into the kitchen upset to report that he was adopted. She assured him that he was not adopted, but advised him to tell his brother that, “Mother wants to know how you found out that we were both adopted?”

That got Dan running into the kitchen next. This is one of many instances of them all laughing together.

She was 16 years old when she married Jim Estes. After they raised their two sons and at age 40, she attended nursing school, graduated, and worked for two years as a Licensed Practical Nurse. Then, when Wallace Junior College (presently Wallace Community College Selma) began its Registered Nursing program, she graduated in the first class.

“My mother-in-law encouraged me to go to school. She told me how glad she was for me, and she knew I would pass the state boards,” said Estes.

Estes did easily pass the state boards and worked as an RN at Vaughn Hospital in Selma until she retired.

“I put myself in a nursing home. I had reached a place in my life when I could not care for myself and my home. I feel I did the right thing for my children,” said Estes.

Charlotte Johnson, Social Services at Camden Nursing Facility, said, “Mrs. Estes is an encourager to all our residents, and she is always trying to talk her friends into coming to live here. We said that we needed to put her in marketing!”

“The food here is great! There is not a restaurant in Camden that has better!” promotes Estes.

“Since our first meeting over a year ago, Ms. Estes has always had a smile, and is thankful to enjoy life. She is such a breath of fresh air,” said Eldridge Stewart, Administrator of Camden Nursing Facility.

Dora Estes loves collecting costume jewelry, and has enjoyed adding the Ms. Camden Nursing Facility banner and crown to her collection.

Editor’s note: This is the first story in a 10-part series about the finalists for the 2018 Ms. Alabama Nursing Home Pageant. On July 17, we’ll post a story about Ms. Cherokee County Health & Rehab Center Freda Smith.

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

The Ms. Alabama Nursing Home Pageant is July 30. Click here for more information.