New royalty crowned at nursing home
by Whitney Crouch
Charlie Free and Winifred Scigliano were crowned the King and Queen of Gilmer Nursing Home during the facility’s 37th annual pageant Thursday, Feb. 27.
Residents, staff members and visitors to the facility selected four finalists for each royal category, as well as various superlative winners, in a vote held earlier this year. The contestants for the much-envied king and queen titles were announced and interviewed by activities director Tammy Baker during last week’s event before audience members voted to select the overall winners.
Administrator Pamela Cook described the event as something the residents look forward to each year and said it helps keep them invigorated.
Baker agreed, stating, “Not only is the pageant a fun event for the residents, it’s important because it recognizes their contributions, their wisdom and their wit. Their love and beauty are still there; they don’t stop just because you’ve reached a certain age. If anything, their love and character grow each year. I hope we can finish well like they are.”
The decor for the pageant was inspired by the movie “Grease,” and the nursing home’s dining room was adorned in 1950s memorabilia for the occasion. Cleve Oliver and the River Park Band provided musical entertainment.
Queen eligible to compete for slot in state pageant
Having lived at the nursing home for six months, Scigliano was pleasantly surprised to be selected as the queen.
“I love it here. Everyone I talk to is friendly and nice,” she told the Times-Courier.
The New York native dressed for the occasion in a pink poodle skirt and talked about her hobbies of sewing, bingo and talking to friends during the course of her interview.
As queen, she is looking forward to getting to know more of the residents and the possibility of attending the statewide Ms. Georgia Nursing Home Pageant, which will be held later this spring.
Scigliano is eligible to try out to be a finalist in the state competition by submitting a scrapbook depicting information and pictures about her life and the memorable events she has witnessed.
Gilmer Nursing Home has been represented at the state competition for the last eight years.
King performs impromptu song and dance routine
In the competition for the king title, Free successfully sang and danced his way to the crown.
After describing him as “a big cut-up,” Baker asked him about his musical tastes. In response, Free launched into renditions of “Honky-Tonk Man” and “I Walk the Line” and began dancing with the female representative from the American Legion Riders who was serving as his escort.
Laughing, he then told Baker that if chosen as king, he would make sure the nursing home staff members had free Diet Cokes and days off whenever they wanted.
Upon receiving the honor of being selected as king, he added that he hopes to use his time in the position to help others.
Other members of the royal court
During her interview, Sarah Phillips, first runner-up in the queen category, shared that her hobbies are walking, bingo and attending church services. She also helps to weed the flower boxes and water tomato plants at the nursing home. Phillips also told the story of how she met her husband, Leonard, while she was working in the credit department for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Debbie Bowen received the second runner-up trophy in the queen’s court. The former architect enjoyed practicing waving and blowing kisses to the audience and recalled how she used to build and sell piggy banks, which won prizes at the fair.
Third runner-up Rita Johnson talked about her love for bingo and reading. She reads every day and particularly likes mysteries but admitted stories by Dean Koontz scare her.
In the King category, Milford Farist earned the first runner-up title. He will celebrate his 96th birthday March 12 and is the oldest deacon at Ebenezer Baptist Church. During his on-stage interview, he recalled the years he spent as a farmer raising cattle, chickens and apples.
Second runner-up Pete Morgan served stateside in the Army during the Korean War. A former Baptist preacher, he retired from the maintenance department for the school system.
Bruce Patterson was named third runner-up in the king competition. In his interview he explained how he fibbed about his age when he was 17 so he could join the Air Force early. He served four years in California. Patterson also worked in the auto industry in Detroit and talked about his hunting experience, recalling how he caught rabbits, possums and the occasional snake in traps.
Over the course of the evening, other awards were given as follows: Hayes Brown, Best Personality; Betty Gilreath, Most Popular; Maryjane Spiess, Best Looking Female; Clyde Abercrombie, Best Looking Male; and Pauline Mullinax, Volunteer of the Year.