By Stacy Smith

A beacon of hope, Gwendolyn “Gwen” Haney is Ms. Wiregrass Rehabilitation Center & Nursing Home 2019. Born in Cottondale, Florida, her hometown is Samson, Alabama.

“I want to shed light on real life at the nursing home, to be an encourager and a beacon of hope. I want to show that there is so much to do, and that you can continue to make a difference every day that you draw breath,” said Haney.

When she came to the nursing home last year, Haney explains how she felt lost and useless.

“But, everyone here has been so kind and helpful. It restored my confidence. I have a purpose,” said Haney.

She enjoys the daily interactions, leads a monthly Bible discussion group, and is president of the Resident Council.

“It is my goal to make an impact for the positive on nursing home residents,” said Haney.

“I was a pastor’s wife for 42 years, and we were married for 62 years before he passed away. I miss him every day. I know I still have purpose, and plan to continue,” said Haney.

She recalls one Halloween as a teenager walking down the side walk from her school’s carnival. Coy Haney drove up in a car beside her and said, “hello there, red coat.” He drove her home that night, and they were together after that almost every day.

“My favorite color is still red,” said Haney.

He asked her to marry him in December. Then, he left for the service in May. They were married the following November. That was 1954.

Before being called to the ministry, her husband served in the military. They lived in numerous places including in Florida, Texas, Nevada, and Alabama. They lived in an historic three-story castle in Dunmow, England.

“My youngest child was born in England, and has dual citizenship,” said Haney.

They owned several bakeries. The most successful bakery was in Las Vegas, Nevada, where they had a military contract to supply baked goods for three bases.

Haney truly admires her husband, and says he never started anything he did not achieve, and never let anything stop him.

“I told his sister that when Coy went for something he went with everything and kept going until it was accomplished. That is why I had five children in five years,” said Haney.

Haney has four children, six grandchildren, 15 great-grandchildren and five great-great grandchildren.

She enjoyed being a pastor’s wife, working with her husband side by side as his helpmate and confidant.

“We were a great team. I was so scared when he was called to the ministry. My fears were just doubt in our abilities,” said Haney.

Their first church was small. It was May of 1974, and they had homecoming services with 18 attending.

“The next year, homecoming had 86 attending. I never looked back or questioned again,” said Haney.

She played piano at church and sang in the gospel group. She considers her ministry as being there for her husband, helping in any way that she could, being there for anyone in need, and being a voice where one is needed.

Activity Coordinator Teresa Hogan of Wiregrass Rehabilitation Center & Nursing Home said, “She talks about her husband being a go-getter. Well, I’d say she is just as tenacious. Her family is very important to her, but so is her family here at Wiregrass Rehab. She often comes to the activity office to offer kind words, encouragement and to pray with and for us. She is a treasure.”

“I feel that God is using me, given me a ministry to be an encourager. This is one more step on my journey. I don’t know where all the journey will lead, but I’m ready. Importantly, I feel that I have lived, not just existed. I have a great life, and enjoy it as I plan to continue,” said Haney.

Editor’s note: This is the ninth story in a 10-part series about the finalists for the 2019 Ms. Alabama Nursing Home Pageant. On July 26, we’ll post a story about Ms. Woodland Village Rehab & Health Care Center Ann Trucks.

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

The Ms. Alabama Nursing Home Pageant is July 29. Click here for more information.