Fern Tyner Nash’s family had been planning her 100th birthday celebration since early this year, and thanks to a new “Memory Making Station” at Bloom at Kokomo, it didn’t have to be canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Last Monday, on Nash’s birthday, her family filled the south side of the parking lot at the senior living facility, which was decorated with balloons, party favors, and photos of Nash from her childhood to her senior years, while Nash sat inside a three-sided wooden pod behind a plexiglass window, allowing her to safely interact with her guests.
Nash’s granddaughter, Jill McKibben, said she was grateful to be able to still throw her grandma a birthday party.
“We’re so thankful because we had a big birthday party planned at a local church, and when COVID broke out we were like, ‘Are we going to be able to do anything for her birthday?’ So I’m glad we were able to do this and be able to celebrate it,” McKibben said.
Nash's family drove in to celebrate from Texas, Colorado, Oklahoma, Virginia, and Iowa. In addition, a drive-thru was set up for additional guests to drive up to wish Nash a happy birthday. Countless guests stopped by during the three-hour event, dropping off flowers, cards, and other gifts. Nash showed her appreciation by giving air hugs and kisses to her guests from behind the plexiglass window.
Nash’s family wasn’t surprised by the big turnout, as they described her as well-liked, caring, and personable.
“People would do anything for her because she’s an angel,” said Nan Nash, Nash’s stepdaughter-in-law. “I tell her not to move too fast because she’ll bend her wings.”
Dick Nash, Nash’s stepson-in-law, said he’s never heard the woman say anything bad about anybody, and Larry Bates, Nash’s son-in-law, called her “the perfect mother-in-law.”
“The world would be a better place if more people tried to live like Fern,” said Cash Brincefield, Nash’s grandson who came in from Colorado.
Brincefield, a Tipton-native, said he had been driving back from Colorado three to four times a year to visit Nash until the pandemic hit. He was happy to be able to see his grandma once again to celebrate her 100th birthday.
Nash was born on July 6, 1920, in Howard County and later resided in Tipton County. She married her first husband, Herald Tyner, in 1940. They lived on a farm, raised livestock, and had four daughters, two of whom were twins. Tyner passed away in 1966, after 26 years of marriage, at age 46. In 1983, Nash married her second husband, William Nash, another farmer. He died in 2005.
As a farmer’s wife, Karen Adams, Nash’s daughter from San Antonio, Texas, said Nash was active in the community.
“She was very active,” Adams said. “She was a member of the Tipton County Council, the original one when they founded it. She served on that. She served on several 4-H clubs and home ec clubs and the Kokomo Doll Club. She gave speeches all around, and she used to give tours of our farm to classes, primarily kindergarten and first-grade classes and show them the animals because we had quite a number of different animals.”
Nash has six grandchildren, 13 great-grandchildren, one great-great-grandchild, four step-grandchildren, and 11 step-great-grandchildren.
Jewel Bates, Nash’s daughter from Colorado Springs, said family is very important to them.
“Family is very important in our family, and so we try to support each other and encourage each other and be there for each other when there’s a need,” Bates said. “We’re happy to be together. We don’t always all get together except for some graduations and some weddings.”
Despite difficulty planning the celebration due to the pandemic, Bates said she knew everything would work out how it was supposed to.
“As my mother says, ‘Most things work out for the best.’ And so that’s one of mother’s saying, and this has most certainly worked out for the best,” Bates said.
Bloom at Kokomo received the Memory Making Station just days before Nash’s birthday, and she was the first resident to use it. The stations had been being delivered to different Bloom facilities around the U.S., but the facilities couldn’t receive them until they had gone without any cases of COVID-19 for two weeks.
Bloom was cleared to receive one just in time for Nash’s birthday.
Brent Waymire, the executive director at Bloom at Kokomo, said he was happy to be able to offer the station to the residents, as many of them have gone months without seeing their families in person.
“Even though all of us endured some restrictions because of this, clearly with these folks, in many instances, some of them have not seen their family members unless it’s been either through FaceTime or Skype, which we can also do. But they haven’t really seen them, in some cases, for over three months in person,” Waymire said.