Centenarian: Lower School Honors 102-Year-Old

When the Lower School celebrated the 100th day of school on January 28, kindergarten teacher Diana Lucas set out to identify a local centenarian who would be willing to connect with SMA students. After checking with three different nursing homes, Mrs. Lucas finally located a resident who was 100+ years old.

Plans were made for the Lower School children to create cards for the woman, who had recently turned 102, to wish her a happy birthday and acknowledge her long life. As the project unfolded, Mrs. Lucas was delighted to discover a special connection that existed between her and the honoree, Mrs. Kathryn Turnell.

100th day of school
Mrs. Kathryn Turnell with some of the cards sent to her by SMA Lower School students.

“Once we identified a centenarian to celebrate, our students began creating cards to send to her in the nursing home,” Mrs. Lucas said. “We wanted to learn more about her, but it took a while for the nursing home to talk to her family and get back to me.”

When the staff did report back, Mrs. Lucas was able to contact Mrs. Turnell’s daughter. “I didn’t know I had any connection to our 102-year-old honoree, but I was thrilled when her daughter asked me if I had taught her granddaughter years ago, and indeed I had! She sent me a recent photo of my former student with Mrs. Turnell, her great-grandmother, and it was wonderful to see it.”

Centenarian and great-granddaughter
Mrs. Turnell with her great-granddaughter, who SMA kindergarten teacher Diana Lucas discovered was a former student of hers.
Centenarian: Born during Spanish Flu Epidemic

Kathryn Turnell was born in 1918, the year of the Spanish flu epidemic. Her mother passed away when she was only 7 years old. She would later have two stepmothers. One passed away during childbirth, and the other lived to be in her 80’s.

When Mrs. Turnell married in 1937, she picked cotton to earn money for a wedding dress. She was an amazing seamstress, making most of her daughters’ clothes. She was also a proficient gardener, tending flowers, vegetables, and fruit which she froze or canned for the family’s meals every year.

Centenarian at 19
Kathryn Turnell at age 19 with her husband.

“She loves God and taught my sister and I to love God,” Mrs. Turnell’s daughter reported. “My father was also a good Christian man and a very hard worker, who passed away at the age of 90.”

Centenarian: Sweet Spirit at 102

Mrs Turnell suffered a stroke 16 years ago that made it hard for her to use the right side of her body. “It was very difficult for her to adjust to because she was always the greatest hostess and always wanting to do for others,” her daughter said. “She has such a sweet spirit, though, and she has made it through this tough time to 102. I appreciate the Academy students acknowledging her.”  

Centenarian with 100th day of school cards
From her nursing home room, Mrs. Turnell enjoys some of her hand-drawn cards.

This was the third year for SMA students to connect with a local centenarian as part of their 100th day celebration, which Mrs. Lucas organizes each year. Below is Mrs. Lucas (center) with her kindergarten class and student teacher at this year’s event (more photos at Smiles @ SMA)

100th day of school celebration
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