Leona, age 90, of Brookdale McCook in Nebraska, grew up on a farm where she helped raise cattle, hogs and chickens with her seven other brothers and sisters. During her childhood, Leona loved to dress in western clothing, listen to country music and ride horses. Ever since she was a young girl, she had dreams of going to the Grand Ole Opry to see a live show. Leona’s family listened to the music on an old battery operated radio that had to be connected to a wind charger to gain a battery life. Her father always made sure that Leona heard her favorite songs on the radio—Leona did as well, for she would sneak downstairs when everyone was asleep to listen to more!
Leona has such wonderful memories of her childhood, where music played a big role. When she was in the fifth grade, she learned how to play the harmonica, which came naturally to her—she still often plays it for her fellow Brookdale residents. Leona vividly remembers riding her horse through the pasture and singing all the songs from the Grand Ole Opry radio program that she listened to every single week. “My father said when I sang in the barn milking cows, the cows would give more milk!” said Leona. From the time she was a young girl, Leona’s dream was to become a singer and to one day, fulfill her dream in one way or another.
As time went on, Leona got married to her husband, Erwin, after meeting him at a dance. Having four children together, she worked in the school kitchen for 29 years and loved her job as well as the ladies she worked with. Leona and Erwin continued to sway together for years at the dance hall before he passed away 18 years ago. Leona claims she has a lot of memories, only remembering the good things. As of late, she volunteers at Brookdale to water the flowers and cut quilt blocks for a local church fundraiser. She also served as a member of the BFW Auxiliary and baked for bingo fundraisers. Overall, she still enjoys listening to the Grand Ole Opry every Saturday night on the radio, where she would dream of nothing less than to see a concert in person.
Over the years, Leona discovered the music of Vince Gill, and she derives great comfort in it. She asserts that “Vince Gill calms my nerves with his beautiful voice.” Wish of a Lifetime and Brookdale are thrilled to have granted Leona’s Wish on April 30th, 2016. A cowgirl at heart, Leona and her daughter traveled from Nebraska to Nashville, TN to fulfill her 70-year desire of visiting the Grand Ole Opry. On top of it all, she was able to meet her favorite musician, Vince Gill, backstage before he performed. “I never dreamed that anything like this would ever happen to me,” said Leona. She was recognized in front of the entire audience at the Opry, who applauded for her as she glowed in the spotlight.