Wilhelmina E., 81, from Brookdale Columbia in South Carolina, grew up the youngest of 5 kids. Wilhelmina’s father was a traveling salesperson, so her brother, Brinson, not only served as a good friend but also father figure. Wilhelmina recalls Brinson as a “prankster” and still laughs about his shenanigans. Although Brinson grew up a prankster, Wilhelmina said “Brinson was born to be in the military.” At age 22, Brinson joined the Air Force and served in the Korean War. He retired as a decorated Colonel after about 30 years of service. In 1982 at the age of 50, Brinson died suddenly from a massive heart attack. Wilhelmina was able to attend the funeral, but was never able to see Brinson laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery. Wilhelmina wished she could visit his grave.
Wilhelmina has had to overcome various obstacles throughout her life; however she is currently battling what she considers her biggest obstacle. About 8 years ago, Wilhelmina was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. Not only has Wilhelmina had to work hard to prevent the progression of the disease, but she was also diagnosed soon after her husband passed away. Even though this lifestyle change was difficult, Wilhelmina has persevered and continued to give back to her community.
Wilhelmina was a den leader for the Boy Scouts when her sons were young, and dedicated her time to teaching Sunday school at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church for several years. As a member of the Red Hat Society, Wilhelmina has helped raise funds for various charities. She has also volunteered her time with the Columbia Senior Center by decorating for functions and events. Today, Wilhelmina serves as a Brookdale ambassador and procures volunteers to read stories to residents.
Wish of a Lifetime and Brookdale Senior Living were honored to send Wilhelmina and her son, Hammond, to Arlington National Cemetery on June 17, 2017. Wilhelmina said “I am getting older and often think of my family. I have fond memories of Brinson and time gone by. I have always regretted not being able to be there [at his grave]. This wish will give me some closure and lift an emotional burden I’ve been carrying.” Hammond said “I can’t tell you how happy and pleased my mom is. It turned out to be a true Wish of a Lifetime.”
Photo credit: Nessa Kessinger, Nessa K. Photography