A Century of Caring–Willows at Meadow Branch
By Christy Brudin
One of Gertrude (Trudy) Virginia Chedister’s earliest memories is of caring for her siblings. Nearly a century has passed since that time. Now 100 years old, Trudy proved to be a natural caregiver, and she still puts the needs of others first.
Born in Salem, West Virginia, Trudy was the second of nine children in her family. As she grew up, she became a caretaker for her younger siblings. “I helped take care of the children under me, and I loved that job,” Trudy remembered. While her older sister preferred to spend her time reading, Trudy always welcomed the opportunity to care for her siblings. “I ended up taking care of the children the most because my older sister didn’t like it, and I really did,” she explained.
Trudy’s partiality for child care served her well later in life. “I happened to make a good wife when I got married,” she smiled as she recalled. “And I had three children, and I’m proud of them all.”
When Trudy was widowed at just 46 years old, she became the sole caregiver for her two younger children. “Mom moved back to where her parents lived and bought a house after she was widowed,” recalled Trudy’s eldest daughter, Jo Ellen Covell. “I was 18 at the time, but my sister was 11 and my brother was 5. She raised them by herself.”
While parenting on her own was undeniably challenging at times, Trudy always remained positive. “My husband was very good, but the Lord helped me get through losing him, and I’m still going,” she said.
Judging by the deep devotion she has inspired in her children, Trudy did a lot more than just survive; she thrived. “She gave us a wonderful life,” said Jo Ellen. “She was the best mother anyone could have ever had. She cared for us. She taught us things. We owe her so much.”
As her kids grew up and Trudy grew older, she was determined to never be a burden on her family. She also wanted to plan her own retirement, so she took the initiative and moved to an assisted living community near her long-time home in West Virginia when she was 85.
Trudy enjoyed the fact that she no longer had to worry about lawn or home maintenance, and she was happy in her new home. However, after a few years, Jo Ellen convinced her to move to be closer to family. “We wanted to see her more often and be close enough to help out more,” Jo Ellen said.
Jo Ellen started searching for an assisted living community in Winchester, Va., near both her home and her sister’s. “I looked at every place in the whole area, and I brought Mom to see the ones I hadn’t eliminated,” she recalled. “We knew we wanted The Willows at Meadow Branch, but they had a waiting list.” Just weeks after placing their name on the waiting list, the family was surprised to get a call from The Willows informing them of an opening.
That was nearly 13 years ago, and Trudy has made the most of her life at The Willows. From sitting on the large front porch in the summer to participating in a range of activities throughout the year, she takes advantage of everything that community life has to offer.
“I really love everything about The Willows,” Trudy said. “They are so good to me, and they meet my needs, whatever they might be.”
Of course, for a person who has always loved others, getting to know so many new people is one of the perks of her new home. “Everybody here is my friend,” Trudy smiled as she said. “And I’m a friend to everybody, and I help people when I can.”
For Trudy’s family, having her close by has been wonderful. “It’s so amazing that I can stop in and see her anytime, even if it is just for 15 minutes,” Jo Ellen said.
Their close family ties have served Trudy and her children well. “I think it’s essential to maintain a strong connection to your parent,” Jo Ellen explained. “People who don’t see their parents are missing a blessing because they have a lot of wisdom to share and a lot of encouragement and love to give.”
Beyond the close proximity, Trudy’s family also benefits from the security of knowing that their mother — who dedicated so much of her life to caring for others — is well cared for at The Willows. “The staff here is just amazing,” said Jo Ellen. “They keep in touch with me and give me updates. They offer advice about how to handle things and will even suggest I should call her doctor.”
Still a natural caregiver, Trudy modestly underestimates how much she has given to her family and friends. “I just tried to treat everybody like I’d like to be treated,” she said of her life of service. “I also asked forgiveness if I needed to, and I helped anybody anyway I saw that I could.”
Trudy’s simple ideals and positive nature are perhaps best exemplified by her poetry. A lifelong lover of plays and poetry, she commemorated her move to The Willows with a short but poignant poem:
“I moved to The Willows to enjoy life.
No more packing, moving or strife.
The next time I move, I won’t have to pack.
I’ll just follow Jesus and never look back.”
Trudy is certainly enjoying everything life at The Willows has to offer. And, true to form, she continues to give all that she can to her new friends and neighbors. After all, Trudy’s second century of caring just began.