Nelva Reed began her life on a Lawrenceburg, TN farm in 1928. Her daddy raised corn and hay, and trained horses for farm work. At the time Nelva finished high school in the 40s, the Seventh Day Adventist Church had a school and teaching hospital in Lawrenceburg. Nelva became a RN there, and felt she got excellent “hands on training” at the hospital. When the County built its own hospital, it put the SDA hospital out of business.
It was in her nurse’s uniform, just prior to an 11pm-7am shift at the SDA hospital that she went with a fellow nurse to a square dance at the National Guard Armory, and saw this handsome man. “He was so good looking, I thought for sure he must be married,” she told me. He asked for her phone number, but that time she declined. She found out from a friend of his that he was available, and went back to the dance. Newt Reed swept her off her feet, and she stayed swept for 30 years before he passed away suddenly. They dated for about a year, and for the “fun of it,” she said, they married on Halloween.
We all know of stories where people providentially get their “house in order” before they die, and she was grateful that just prior to his heart attack he told all 4 kids and Nelva that he loved them. They had been able to buy and pay for a beautiful piece of land in Pulaski, build and pay for their home, and live the American dream for 30 years.
Suddenly she was a widow and a single mom, and was devastated. She had lost the love of her life. She went back to work as a charge nurse in the OB/Gyn unit, and told me she wished she had kept track of how many babies she saw come into the world. She was very careful to give God glory for supplying help for her and her family in the form of a woman who agreed to take care of the kids, and the first day she came home from her first hospital shift after Newt died, Nelva said with a smile, “She had the house spic and span, and dinner was on the table.”
She moved to Athens when she was 66 to be near her kids and grandkids. For 12 years she lived at the Branch Creek Apartments, and came to Athens Rehab and Senior Care last year. She told me she “loves it here.” She plays Bingo on Thursday nights, “but I don’t win very often,” she said. She also enjoys the cooking class available at the facility. Tuesday night she joins the singing provided by Market Street Church of Christ, her church for many years. She told me a story of one of her former roommates at the Center. “When she came here, she couldn’t talk, couldn’t walk, couldn’t eat, and in six weeks she got so much better that she as able to leave.” The “thumbs up” Nelva gives is from the standpoint of being a nurse as well as a resident. “Everybody has been good to me,” she said. Her favorite staff person is Sara Wallace, the administrator, and Nelva added, “I like the food.”
Speaking of food, the day I interviewed her, the kitchen prepared her favorite: turnip greens and cornbread. Other “favorites” are listed below:
Musicians? Loretta Lynn, Tammy Wynette, Marty Robbins, and of course, Johnny Cash
President? “Ronald Reagan, because he was fair and honest, and knew how to talk to people.”
Scripture? “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart, and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths.” (Proverbs 3:5-6)
Biggest change in your lifetime? Most of the time that is answered by things like, “landing on the moon,” or “the Internet.” But Nelva’s tender response was, “losing my husband.”
Advice to young people? “Trust the Lord and try to be good to everybody. Follow the Golden Rule.”
Timeless words from a dear woman, who then reached into her bureau drawer and handed me a blue and brown large crocheted square she had made herself. We parted with her telling me to let her know when anyone near me is going to have a baby, because she’d make a receiving blanket, and I promised her I would.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner