Good Morning and Good News! My search for information about Lillian Nicks, the author of the poem entitled “The Senior Center” is now complete because of a call made to the Center. But this is not a story I can tell, it’s one that is going to be told today by one of her sons – Johnny Cullison, who made that call.

Good Morning and Good News! My search for information about Lillian Nicks, the author of the poem entitled “The Senior Center” is now complete because of a call made to the Center. But this is not a story I can tell, it’s one that is going to be told today by one of her sons – Johnny Cullison, who made that call. And now…the story of Ms. Lillian or as her son called it – A Tribute to Mom!

“Mom was a survivor. She had plenty of reason for bitterness and self-pity, but those were not her choice. Abandoned at the age of 18 with 2 small boys, widowed at 33 with 7 children, no money, no property and no means of support, she could’ve had a great pity party. Instead, she sought ways to support herself and her children. She obtained Social Security benefits for her minor children. She took in ironing so she could be at home with the little ones. When her youngest started school she began cleaning houses during school hours, finishing early in the afternoon. As her grandsons came along she became their babysitter. She later sought regular employment and was hired as a nursing aide at Colonial Estates Nursing Home. After a while she worked in the same capacity at Shawnee Medical Center Hospital.

“After 18 years of being a single parent she met and married Buford Nicks. They developed a vision for the property she had bought on a rent-to-own payment plan. The old house was torn down and she got her new dream home. Widowed again, after 23 years, she lived in that home as long as she was able to stay alone.

“She was a caregiver. I have visions of her driving my Grandmother on errands and to pay bills with 3 little boys in tow. After bills were paid we would go to the Dairy Hut for Cherry Orchard ice cream. Mom helped with the care of her mother until she died at age 96.

“Dad would frequently bring home someone he had picked up along the highway. The guest always got a couple of meals, a bath and a bed for the night, I never heard her complain about the extra work or inconvenience.

“After Buford Hicks died, Mom began to go to the Senior Center for dancing and gospel singing. That became a very important part of her life. Three things you knew you didn’t mess with: her dancing, her gospel singing and her hair appointments. You had to have a very good reason to bump any of those off her schedule. When she could no longer drive safely her greatest worry was that she would not be able to go to her usual activities. She was afraid, as she put it, that she would “just sit at home and die”. We assured her that that would not happen and It didn’t. Mom attended the dances until she became unsteady on her feet. She was happy to tell anyone who seemed interested about her dancing – especially her heart doctor. She attended gospel singing into July.

“Mom loved her family. She was in her element when she was surrounded by family and friends – the more the merrier. She established a Christmas breakfast that lasted until a few years ago. All of the family that possibly could would gather at her house for a breakfast of ham, scrambled eggs, homemade biscuits, fried potatoes and white gravy. That sounds easy enough until you calculate what you need to feed 35 or more people.

“Breakfast was followed by the handing out of presents. Everyone got a present, whether or not she knew they were coming. There were always a few extra gifts stashed just in case. That breakfast might be the only time in the year we all saw each other. It was a time to welcome additions to the family as well as catch up with what was happening in the lives of those we hadn’t seen for a while. Mom was the anchor for that time and it was sad when she reached the point she could no longer prepare for and host such a large gathering.

“Our family wants you to know how appreciative we are of your recognition of our Mom by posting the poem she wrote about the Senior Center. We know she saw it when you put it up.”

And now back to me. There are several things that Johnny Cullison told me about that he didn’t put in his part of the column so I’m gonna tell you about them cause I think they’re important. First of all, everyone here at the Center from Director Kate to the people she met and knew her from the dancing and singing groups called her Ms. Lillian. She was an active participant and everyone knew her.

Also when Ms. Lillian could no longer drive and was concerned about what she was gonna do then her son Johnny (and that by the way is his given name, not John) and his wife Janell were the ones who made sure they got her to those activities the four times a week they were available at the Center. In fact Janell would spend most of the gospel singing hour sitting right next to Ms. Lillian and singing right along with her.

And the last thing I wanted to mention that he didn’t was about the construction of Ms. Lillian’s vision for the house that was torn down and rebuilt from the ground up. The house was designed by Johnny Cullison, his three sons Gary, John and Greg personally carried and cleaned all of the bricks that were being removed from some of the old OBU buildings and other homes that were being demolished and getting them to their grandmother’s house. Cleaning the bricks (that meant removing any of the old mortar) had to be just about the worst job and then all of them built their Ms. Lillian a house. From the framework to the finishing steps Johnny, Janell and those three teenage boys built a 1600 square foot building that their Ms. Lillian could be proud of.

Well that’s the rest of the story behind the poem on the wall as you walk through those second set of double doors coming into the Shawnee Senior Center. It was certainly not one I expected but I really am glad that Ms. Lillian’s grandson’s wife saw the column last week and asked her father-in-law to check it out. I believe he told me that was his son’s Greg’s wife and I’m sorry I didn’t get her name.

To everyone else I want to remind you that we still have a gospel singing group that meets every Tuesday and Friday mornings from 10:30am until 11:30am and they love having new people join in. Have a special favorite, let them know what it is and you can even lead the singing. Everyone is welcome and every song is special.

And, while you’re thinking about it, don’t forget we have that group called the Story Time Band that has been coming to the Center on Tuesdays and Thursdays for longer than most of us can remember and they still are a five piece band that plays that good ole country music that we all love. They take requests, like people to sing along and getting up to dance. They’re here from 1:00pm (come for lunch, stay to play) and their last song hits right about 2:30pm.

And last a reminder that Kate Joyce will be chatting with “Mike in the Morning” at 8:35am on Wednesday, the 7th of March on KGFF (100.9 FM and 1450 AM). You can laugh along with the two of them as they talk about the Center and the things to do there.

And, as always, remember at the Center “Age is just a number”. Our Facebook page is “Shawnee Senior Center” and our new and improved website is www.SHAWNEESENIORS.ORG.