Living 50 Plus Magazine October/November 2021

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Steps away from Rhodes Ferry Park and the Tennessee River, our Wilson Street building is perfect for those who want a more independent lifestyle, but may want access to the services at Riverside Senior Living. Studio, One Bedroom, and Two Bedroom Models individual climate control, private bath, ample storage, full kitchens, housekeeping and laundry services, three chef-inspired meals daily, social and recreational activities, relaxing garden areas

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Why turn to MarMac Real Estate?

If you’re thinking about selling your home. Maybe you’re retiring, downsizing or a major life event has made you consider a move. MarMac Real Estate has unique training and experience in helping home buyers and sellers in your situation.

Why ask a MarMac Real Estate REALTOR® to assist you? MarMac Real Estate understands that the decision to sell can be difficult.

MarMac Real Estate can draw upon a network of other professionals focused on 50+ customers.

Selling a home can be an emotional time, potentially involving other life decisions. A MarMac Real Estate REALTOR® understands the issues facing older adults. By taking a no-pressure approach, we can help you navigate your choices and may be able to suggest alternatives that help you stay in your home.

It’s important to have a network of professionals, and that’s exactly what we’ve built over the years. Whether it’s tax counselors, financial advisors, or estate planners who can help you understand the financial consequences of selling your home, to trade contractors to get your home prepared for showings, estate sale organizers, and senior moving specialists - we’re connected to those that can help you.

We take the time needed to make you feel comfortable with the complex selling process. A MarMac Real Estate Professional understands the demands a sale can make on you, and works hard to minimize them. They will tailor the marketing process to your specific needs and be there when you need them. MarMac Real Estate will be with you throughout the entire process. A MarMac Real Estate REALTOR® is interested in looking out for your best interest through all aspects of your transition, not just the sale of your home. We’ve invested the time and resources to be knowledgeable before, during, and after your transition.

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Broker / Owner 256-466-4470


MarMac Real Estate can patiently support you through each step.


Visit us at HOW TO REACH US For story ideas or comments: Bruce McLellan 256-340-2431 For distribution questions: Rebecca Braun 256-340-2414

For advertising questions: Baretta Taylor 256-340-2370 For website questions: Daniel Buford 256-340-2408 Published by Decatur Daily Tennessee Valley Media

ON THE COVER: Decatur resident Cameron Reeder stands at Garden of the Gods, a registered National Natural Landmark with 300-foot rock towers, during his 3,800-mile trip through the Midwest. 4 Decatur Living 50 Plus

Some accounts of the first Thanksgiving celebration in Plymouth, MA describe a collaborative feast enjoyed by both European pilgrims and Indigenous Americans.



ost of us celebrate Thanksgiving with turkey, pumpkin pie, and football, but how did these traditions come about? Have you ever wondered about the origin of Thanksgiving Day? Here are 10 fun and educational facts about Thanksgiving that will give you more insight into the origins of the holiday and the traditions associated with it.  The first Thanksgiving took place in 1621.  Every Thanksgiving, the current U.S. president pardons a turkey.  Macy’s has put on a parade every Thanksgiving since 1924.  Thanksgiving is the biggest travel day of the year.  The foods eaten for Thanksgiving dinner haven’t changed much since 1621.  Americans eat over 280 million turkeys every Thanksgiving.  Cranberries are native to North America.  There is an official Thanksgiving postage stamp.  The wishbone tradition is much older than Thanksgiving.  Watching football is an integral part of most Thanksgiving celebrations.

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Admire the beauty of fall with Alabama’s color trail By ALABAMA TOURISM


labama is beautiful throughout the year but especially in the fall. As the greens of summer surrender to glittering yellow poplars, scarlet dogwoods, orange maples and golden hickories, Alabama unfolds its patchwork quilt of color. This blend of brilliant autumn foliage, coupled with cooler temperatures and an occasional gentle breeze, makes for an unforgettable experience. Fall colors will begin showing in the mountains of North Alabama

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in early October and then sweep across the region. Colors will be at their peak from late October to early November. At Oak Mountain State Park in Pelham, take in the view from Peavine Overlook and Peavine Falls. Head north to Oneonta/Blount County and enjoy the color from Horton Mill, Old Easley or Swann covered bridges and Palisades Park. Take the drive on I-59 up Whitney Mountain near Oneonta, and proceed up U.S. 231. In Cullman/Cullman County, the Ave Maria Grotto and the 277-foot-

long, 90-foot-high Clarkson Covered Bridge offer excellent views, as do scenic drives U.S. 31 and 278. From Bankhead National Forest, take AL 195 to Double Springs, to AL 33, then take Forest Service roads 249, 262, 245 and 255 to CO 63 and back to AL 33. Developed from a network of Indian trails between Natchez, Miss., and Nashville, Tenn., the Natchez Trace cuts diagonally across the northwestern corner of the state. Follow the entire 33 miles of the Trace through Alabama and head

Fall into Nature: Places to soak in the changing colors in north Alabama

Fall into Nature:

to Joe Wheeler State Park. Admire the view from the Joe Wheeler Dam near the cabin area on the Lawrence County side. After leaving U.S. 72, take a fourmile scenic drive into the park’s resort area on the Lauderdale County side. In Huntsville, Monte Sano State Park offers beautiful foliage on Warpath Ridge Trail and its overlooks. Take scenic drives U.S. 72 out of Scottsboro and U.S. 431 out of Guntersville. A recommended viewing spot in Scottsboro/Jackson County is Russell Cave National Monument. Scenic drives: AL 79 across Skyline Mountain, AL 279, AL 65 through the Paint Rock River Valley, and U.S. 72. See Lake Guntersville State Park from the lodge atop the mountain, then take AL 227 through the park and into Buck’s Pocket State Park and nearby DeKalb and Etowah counties. In Gadsden/Etowah County, Noccalula Falls Park provides a bounty of fall color, as do drives on

US 278, 11 and 411. Head to Ft. Payne and check out DeSoto State Park and Lodge, DeSoto Falls and Little River Canyon. Lookout Mountain Parkway, DeSoto Parkway and Old DeSoto Parkway provide lovely views. AL 176, part of Lookout Mountain Parkway, includes scenic overlooks of Little

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River Canyon. Finally, Cheaha State Park is the highest point in the state at 2,407 feet above sea level. Enjoy fall color from Bald Rock and Pulpit Rock trails as well as Talladega Scenic Drive, Skyline Drive and Skyway Motorway. For more information, go to www.

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breast cancer diagnosis can be a devastating blow. Upon receiving such a diagnosis, people may begin to ask questions about treatment and the impact cancer may have on their personal lives. Many people who are diagnosed with cancer also begin to wonder about their mortality. This year, an estimated 281,550 women in the United States will be diagnosed with invasive breast

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cancer, and 49,290 women will be diagnosed with noninvasive (in situ) breast cancer, according to www. Currently, there are more than 3.8 million women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer in the United States. The good news is that breast cancer incidence rates began decreasing in 2000 after increasing for the previous two decades. In addition, death rates from breast cancer have been decreasingly steadily since 1989. The number of women who have died of breast

cancer has decreased by 41% from 1989 to 2018 thanks to early detection and treatment improvements. As a result, more than 403,000 breast cancer deaths were prevented during that period. Increased knowledge about breast cancer, early detection through examinations and mammography and improved treatments are helping to drive up the survival rates of breast cancer. Although this does not make diagnosis any less scary, it does offer hope to those recently diagnosed. Breast cancer is sometimes found after symptoms appear, but many women with breast cancer have no symptoms. This is why regular breast cancer screening is so important. Finding breast cancer early and getting stateof-the-art cancer treatment are the most important strategies to prevent deaths from breast cancer. Breast cancer that’s found early, when it’s small and has not spread, is easier to treat successfully. Getting regular screening tests is the most reliable way to find breast cancer early. The goal of screening tests for breast cancer is to find it before it causes symptoms (like a lump that can be felt). Screening refers to tests and exams used to find a disease in people who don’t have any symptoms. Early detection means finding and diagnosing a disease


earlier than if you’d waited for symptoms to start. For screening purposes, a woman is considered to be at average risk if she doesn’t have a personal history of breast cancer, a strong family history of breast cancer, or a genetic mutation known to increase risk of breast cancer (such as in a BRCA gene) and has not had chest radiation therapy before the age of 30. (See below for guidelines for women at high risk.) The American Cancer Society has screening guidelines for women at average risk of breast cancer, and for those at high risk for breast cancer.  Women between 40 and 44 have the option to start screening with a mammogram every year.  Women 45 to 54 should get mammograms every year.  Women 55 and older can switch to a mammogram every other year, or they can choose to continue yearly mammograms. Screening should continue as long as a woman is in good health and is expected to live at least 10 more years.  All women should understand what to expect when getting a mammogram for breast cancer screening – what the test can and cannot do. For more about breast cancer from the American Cancer Society and other guidelines they suggest, go to

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10 Decatur Living 50 Plus

Women diagnosed with breast cancer may each face a different battle, as there are many different types of the disease.



illions of women are diagnosed with breast cancer every year. According to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, more than 2.3 million women across the globe were diagnosed with breast cancer in 2020. The BCRF also notes that breast cancer is the most frequently diagnosed cancer among women in 140 of 184 countries worldwide. Breast cancer statistics can give the impression that each of the millions of women diagnosed with the disease is fighting the same battle, but breast cancer is something of an umbrella term. In fact, there are various types of breast cancer, including

Ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) DCIS is a non-invasive cancer that is diagnosed when abnormal cells have been found in the lining of the breast milk duct. The National Breast Cancer Foundation notes that DCIS is a highly treatable cancer. That’s because it hasn’t spread beyond the milk duct into any surrounding breast tissue. The American Cancer Society notes that roughly 20 percent of new breast cancer cases are instances of DCIS. Invasive ductal carcinoma (IDC) IDC is the most common type of breast cancer. The NBCF reports that between 70 and 80 percent of all breast cancer diagnoses are instances of IDC. An IDC diagnosis means that cancer began growing in the milk ducts but has since spread into other parts of the breast tissue. This is why IDC is characterized as “invasive.” Though IDC can affect people, including men, of any age, the ACS notes that the majority of IDC cases are in women age 55 and older.

Inflammatory breast cancer (IBC) The NBCF describes IBC as an “aggressive and fast growing breast cancer.” notes that IBC is rare, as data from the ACS indicates that only about 1 percent of all breast cancers in the United States are inflammatory breast cancers. Many breast cancers begin with the formation of a lump, but reports that IBC usually begins with reddening and swelling of the breast, and symptoms can worsen considerably within days or even hours. That underscores the importance of seeking prompt treatment should any symptoms present themselves. Metastatic breast cancer Metastatic breast cancer may be referred to as stage IV breast cancer. When a woman is diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer, that means the cancer has spread, or metastasized, into other parts of the body. The NBCF indicates that metastatic breast cancer usually spreads to the lungs, liver, bones, or brain. Symptoms of metastatic breast cancer vary depending on where the cancer has spread. For example, if the cancer has spread to the lungs, women may experience a chronic cough or be unable to get a full breath. These are not the only types of breast cancer. A more extensive breakdown of the various types of breast cancer can be found at symptoms/types.


ductal carcinoma in situ, invasive ductal carcinoma, inflammatory breast cancer, and metastatic breast cancer. Learning about each type of breast cancer can help women and their families gain a greater understanding of this disease.

Decatur Living 50 Plus 11

‘ADDICTED TO TRAINING’ Sam Beadle, right, and Keith Graham install vinyl siding on a Habitat for Humanity house in Hartselle. [JERONIMO NISA PHOTO]

In addition to staying physically fit, Charlie Gover finds time to serve on the Falkville Town Council.



harlie Gover isn’t about to slow down at age 70. The former high school coach who serves on the Falkville Town Council has just begun taking scuba diving lessons. He’s fitting the lessons in between weightlifting, pickleball, table tennis, archery, bicycle riding, spelunking and running. Gover goes out of his way to stay in good physical shape. When he’s not exercising and competing, he’s busy cutting grass and doing lawn care for extra money in his retirement. Staying active is nothing new for Gover. He played football and basketball at West Limestone High where he graduated in 1970. He ran track at Calhoun Community College and then Austin Peay University in Clarksville, Tennessee. After college he taught at Danville High for 26 years while also serving as an offensive and defensive line coach, strength coach, cross-country coach and track coach. He later coached cross-country and taught health at Sparkman High. At Austin Peay, Gover outran several Southeastern Conference runners and set records in the indoor mile, outdoor mile and outdoor 2-mile race. An injury playing softball hurt his running times, he said, so he turned his attention to weightlifting. At the age of 53, at a meet in Talladega, Gover said he set records in the 195-pound class. He said he lifted 400 12 Decatur Living 50 Plus

ALREADY A RUNNER, ARCHER, WEIGHTLIFTER AND CYCLIST, FALKVILLE COUNCILMAN CHARLIE GOVER IS TAKING UP SCUBA DIVING AT 70 pounds in the dead lift, 200 pounds in the bench press and 265 in the squat. “I’d like to think I can do it again,” he said. At age 60, when he was teaching health at Sparkman High School, he said he was doing 55 pushups, four times a day. Don Chavers of Priceville, left, prepares Charlie Gover for a scuba diving lesson.

Charlie Gover, 70, of Falkville says he lifts weight at least three times a week.

Gover, who is married with two grown twin daughters, said he tries to lift weights Monday, Wednesday and Friday and bicycle at least 10 miles every Tuesday and Thursday. His high-energy level comes from his desire to compete and watching what he eats, he said. “I like to compete. It hurts me to lose,” he said. “I quit running for competition in 1995 when I finished fourth in my age division. I play to win. If I can’t win, I find another sport.” He knows the importance of staying away from certain foods. “No soda, no candy,” he said. “I drink a lot of water, lemonade and Gatorade. I eat oatmeal or bananas just about every morning. Everybody is addicted to something. I’m lucky to be addicted to running, addicted to training. My body couldn’t handle alcohol. I try to lay off sugars. But I will visit Morgan (Price) Candy for chocolate once or twice a year.” “It’s important to keep moving, keep the body weight down.” Falkville Mayor Ken Winkles said Gover, who is in his third term as a councilman, is serious about his fitness. “When I was a police officer in Falkville about 20 years ago, I’d see him out running every day,” said Winkles, 60. “He was running in the rain, running in the snow, running in the heat. He’s so dedicated to being physically fit.” Winkles said Gover brings that energy to the council meetings. “He attends about every meeting,” Winkles said. “He’s obligated to the town. He’s out mowing grass around town.” So why has scuba diving caught Gover’s fancy lately? He said a fellow spelunker, Don Chavers,

74, of Priceville, is teaching him the basics, and Gover hopes to be certified through an area dive shop by next summer. “I want to scuba off of Key West (Florida). That is where the gold is,” Gover said with chuckle. “It’s a great way to help me stay fit, too. It’s a good exercise for older people. It works the arms and legs and lungs.” He’s not a complete scuba diving rookie, however. He said on vacation in 2001, he did a dive on a tour along the Great Barrier Reef northeast of Australia. The Great Barrier Reef is the world’s largest coral reef system with nearly 3,000 reefs and 900 islands. Gover also said he remembers attending a short scuba class in the Calhoun Community College indoor pool in 1985. Calhoun Athletic Director Nancy Keenum said the college closed the pool for good in the early 2000s. The college bookstore now sits where the pool was located, she said. Chavers said Gover is doing well after two lessons in the water. “He’s setting a good example at his age,” Chavers said. “He’s athletic and that helps him.” What advice does Gover offer others wanting to stay fit? Eat berries and research the latest diet and fitness methods, he said. “Eat good, eat less and keep active,” he said. Charlie Gover has recently started taking scuba diving lessons.

Decatur Living 50 Plus 13



ndulging in a morning cup of coffee is a beloved ritual for millions of people across the globe. The rich, bold flavor of coffee has created devotees in all corners of the world, all the while laying the foundation for a lucrative market. In its recent “Global Coffee Market - By Product: Global Industry Perspective, Comprehensive Analysis and Forecast 2020-2026” report, Zion Market Research estimated that the global coffee market is expected to reach $155.64 billion in annual revenue by 2026. Though the flavor of coffee is what compels many people to pour that morning cup o’ Joe, others crave coffee in the mornings because of the jolt it can provide at the dawn of a new day. Caffeine is responsible for that jolt, and devoted coffee drinkers, and individuals who prefer other caffeinated beverages, may have come to rely on the boost caffeine provides to kickstart their day. Researchers have studied the effects of caffeine on the human body to great extent. Many studies have concluded that modest consumption of caffeine is safe for healthy adults. In fact, the Mayo Clinic notes that up to 400 milligrams of caffeine per day, which is just about the amount of caffeine in four cups of brewed coffee, appears to be safe. But adults may want to learn more about the effects of caffeine on their bodies as they try to determine just how much they should consume each day.

14 Decatur Living 50 Plus

· Caffeine and the heart: According to the Heart Foundation NZ, most studies that examined the potential correlation between heart disease and coffee intake found no association between the two. In fact, the Heart Foundation NZ points out that plant sources of caffeine like coffee provide a host of other compounds and nutrients, including antioxidants, that can positively affect heart health. However, the online medical resource Verywell Mind notes that the stimulant effect of caffeine speeds up the heart rate. Healthy adults who drink coffee or other caffeinated beverages in moderation likely won’t have to worry about their heart rates after consuming caffeine, but people who are prone to anxiety may be vulnerable to panic reactions if they consume caffeine. · Caffeine and sleep: Caffeine consumed during certain times of day may interfere with a person’s ability to get a good night’s rest. The Mayo Clinic notes that even small amounts of sleep loss can disturb daytime alertness and performance. · Caffeine and medications: Adults currently taking certain medications or supplements should speak with their physicians about any potential interactions between those substances and caffeine. For example, the Mayo Clinic notes that mixing caffeine with the herbal supplement echinacea can increase the concentration of caffeine in the blood, potentially exacerbating the unpleasant effects of caffeine intake. Adults who consume caffeine should always do so in moderation and only after giving due consideration to the many ways that caffeine can affect their bodies.

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Leaving a legacy is something people start to think about as they grow older, but it’s easy to start planning a legacy regardless of your age.





t is customary for people to take inventory of their lives as they grow older, wondering about their impact on the world and the people closest to them. A legacy is often the story of one’s life and the things he or she did through the years. The good thing about a legacy is it is never too early to begin planning. The following are some guidelines that can help people establish lasting legacies. · Keep track of your story. Grab a journal and start jotting down events that occur in your life. Mention particular achievements or notable things that occur from day to day. Pepper these accounts with stories of your family and childhood to start establishing an autobiography of sorts. · Consider your daily actions. Even though people may imagine it is the grand gestures that are remembered most, quite often it’s the simplest acts that make the most impact. Think about the way you treat others each and every day. Smile at people, compliment others and offer positive advice when it is sought. · Research investments that are profitable. If the goal is to make money to leave for future generations, investigate



your options. These include assets that can retain their value. According to and Stepping Stone Financial, Inc., vacation homes mean a lot to families and they also can be a source of future revenue should they be rented or sold. Speaking with a financial advisor also can be a sound way to invest the right way to accumulate assets that can be passed down as a legacy. Name children or other relatives as beneficiaries on Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs). With Roth IRAs, distributions are tax-free as long as the person who set up the IRA met the five-year holding period for contributions and conversions. Beneficiaries can have five years to take out money from the account; otherwise, they can convert the plan to an Inherited IRA, which stretches out distributions over their life expectancy, according to Investopedia, an online financial resource. Write a legacy letter. A legacy letter is a way to speak directly to loved ones and say all those things that you had wished you told them earlier but maybe didn’t find the words or perhaps never had the time, according to Forbes. The letter ensures others know just how much joy they brought to your life and the pride you had in knowing them. Decatur Living 50 Plus 17

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ets are valued members of many families, and their owners typically do everything they can to ensure their furry friends live as comfortably as possible. Care becomes even more important as pets get older. Just like people, aging pets may eat less and sleep more. They may have reduced stamina and even experience stiffness when getting up from sleep. Certain pets may experience failing eyesight, hearing loss and/or incontinence. According to an American Pet Products Association survey, 67 percent of U.S. households have a pet and will have to cope with that pet becoming a senior at some point. Senior animals might need a little extra help as they age, particularly with regard to comfort. These tips can help. · Visit the vet more often. Senior pets may need to see the vet more frequently than they used to. Pets typically visit the vet every year. Senior pets may require two visits per year. Speak with a veterinarian about how often your aging pet should come in for checkups. Checkups can help identify illnesses earlier and ensure any aches and pains are addressed immediately.

Invest in comfort devices. Pets may need items that can accommodate aches and pains or other conditions. For example, aging pets may benefit from a high quality orthopedic pet bed. Pet strollers and raised food bowls also can make aging pets’ lives a little more comfortable. · Address mobility issues. Aging pets may need help getting around. Non-skid carpet runners in high-traffic areas can help pets walk around securely. Steps or ramps can make it easier to get on or off beds or in and out of vehicles. · Ensure ample protection against the elements. Aging pets may feel the weather more than younger pets. They may need sweaters and coats or booties to protect their paws from the snow and ice. Cooling or heating mats may improve comfort indoors. · Help the animal lose weight. Pets should maintain a healthy body weight, which can relieve pressure on joints and reduce risk for certain illnesses, including difficulty breathing and skin irritations. Speak with a veterinarian about the right foods and types of exercise for your pet to keep its weight in check. Aging pets need extra patience and care. Pet owners can improve comfort and accessibility for their senior pets.

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Decatur Living 50 Plus 19




Terry Connor puts the final touches on a painting in his apartment at Riverside Senior Living. [PHOTO BY JERONIMO NISA]

Through his art, Terry Connor has been able to touch the lives of the residents and staff at Riverside Senior Living.



any struggle to find purpose in retirement after a lifetime of hard work. For Terry Connor, retirement is a blessing that has allowed him to accelerate his art. “I’m cranking out picture after picture because I’m at peace, I don’t have to worry about work (and) I’m in an environment where I can just express it,” Connor said. After 35 years at General Electric, Connor retired and moved to an apartment at Riverside Senior Living in Decatur with his wife, Angelia, in February. Although the move was originally due to his wife’s health concerns and issues in their previous neighborhood, Connor said God has used the change for much more. “I never dreamed God would do it this way in this venue, but I have learned not to argue with God, because he can bring some of the most wonderful things out of the places you wouldn’t expect him to,” Connor said. From the age of 6, Connor has been using art to express himself, following in the footsteps of his older brothers. Even in the first grade, Connor knew his talent when his peers were using stick figures while he used full-bodied drawings. 20 Decatur Living 50 Plus

“I didn’t know how to express it or where it came from, I just knew that I was able to do things that some of the other kids couldn’t,” Connor said. Many of his skills stem from three weeks of free art classes he won in high school from Gayle Strider, a beloved art teacher from Hartselle. He went on to sell his first painting to one of his high school teachers in the 10th grade. “The lady that taught me to paint, one thing she told me is ‘Do not be afraid of color because it can be your best friend,’” Connor said. He still carries that wisdom with him in his art, using vibrant colors that he says are “alive.” Not only does he carry on her wisdom, but he continues her legacy by teaching others. Connor recalls teaching an autistic child to paint in a back room of the Decatur Public Library years ago. The child’s mother put him in classes to help with his anger and frustration. At the end of the classes, the mother thanked Connor for a painting she thought was his work and that he had sent home with her son. It turned out that her son was the one who had painted it. “Even in an autistic child, there’s a beauty and an artistry that can be brought out and captured,” Connor said.

FINDING INSPIRATION Although Connor was unable to pursue art professionally, he continued to create throughout his life by painting for his family, friends, and local churches. He said he has painted murals for several Decatur churches including Central Baptist, New Song, and LifePoint over the years. Connor’s style is a combination of naturalist and expressionist, primarily depicting lifelike images of landscapes and animals. He often prays about what to paint. He feels he received his gift from God and wants to honor God with his work. “God’s first thing he was doing is creating,” Connor said. “We all have the ability to create. We need to visualize things and create like part of being in God’s image.” One of his favorite paintings is an ode to his ancestors in Africa, with images of various animals, people and landmarks from Africa. He even included the famous baobab tree, or the “Upside down tree,” whose legend says that they were thrown by God and landed upside down in the Earth. “It’s a way to express a thank you for what they had to go through and some of the things that they still go through,” Connor says of his ancestors. “But yet they’re still such a powerful, strong people, and I wanted to convey that.” SHARING HIS TALENT Through his art, Connor has been able to touch the lives of the residents and staff at Riverside. Lisa Burns, Riverside’s activities director, has known the Connors since she was 19 years old. Her mother ran the Boys and Girls Club that the Connors’ two children attended growing up and have been close family friends ever since. She said that when she heard they needed a place to stay, she wanted them at Riverside. The walls of Riverside’s kitchen are covered in Connor’s drawings on the backs of the menus that he sketches for the staff each day. Characters like Eddie the squirrel are featured in many of them, and Burns said they make the kitchen staff ’s day. Connor also teaches art classes at Riverside to his fellow residents. Burns said she had to turn people away because so many residents were interested in his next class. “He is very very patient and talented, and he encourages us and makes us want to paint,” Evelyn Weisfeld said. Even in old age, Connor recommends that everyone try to create some type of art. He referenced world-renowned artist Grandma Moses who began painting when she was 78 years old. “You’re not just sitting there growing old with no purpose, you actually can create something that people might enjoy,” Connor said.

Children practiced reading this summer at the Maxine Ellison Youth Enrichment Learning Center. [JERONIMO NISA]

Terry Connor’s style is a combination of naturalist and expressionist, primarily depicting lifelike images of landscapes and animals.

“This painting pays homage to my African heritage,” says Terry Connor.

Decatur Living 50 Plus 21



an antioxidant found in sweet potatoes, can protect eye cells from damage. That can promote healthier eyes and potentially help people maintain stronger vision as they age. In addition, an animal study found that the anthocyanin found in purple sweet potatoes can protect brain function by reducing inflammation and preventing free radical damage. While further study is necessary to determine if similar effects can be enjoyed by humans who consume sweet potatoes, the potential to improve brain function is yet another reason to include nutrient-packed sweet potatoes in your diet. The sweet potato has a special place in Alabama. It was awarded the status of the official state vegetable last year after a home-school group from Madison County successfully lobbied the legislature to make the designation.



weet potatoes, which are sometimes referred to as “yams,” are widely associated with Thanksgiving. But these starchy tubers are so nutritious that people may want to consume them more often. Sweet potatoes are loaded with fiber and an assortment of vitamins, including vitamin A and vitamin C, as the online medical resource notes that a one-cup serving of baked sweet potatoes with the skin still on can provide as much as 65 percent of the recommended daily value of vitamin C. And the benefits of sweet potatoes don’t stop there. A study published in the medical journal Food & Nutrition Research found that anthocyanin,

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he toothy grins of jack-o’-lanterns are as much a part of Halloween as candy corn and costumes. Even though these carved pumpkins have become synonymous with Halloween, the festive gourds weren’t always tied to the October holiday. The history behind jack-o’-lanterns is not entirely known and there are multiple origin stories, but people may have been making these carvings for centuries. One tale traces the origin back to Ireland and a popular Irish myth. According to, the tradition involves a man nicknamed “Stingy Jack.” As the story goes, Stingy Jack invited the devil to share a drink with him. Being the cheapskate, his name implies, Jack didn’t want to pay for the drinks, and he convinced the devil to turn himself into a coin that Jack could use to buy the beverages. After the devil transformed, Stingy Jack instead pocketed the money and placed it next to a silver cross, which prevented the devil from changing back into his original form. Jack made the devil promise that should Jack die, he wouldn’t claim his soul. Eventually Jack freed the devil, but not before he tricked him again with another con. When Stingy Jack eventually died, legend states God would not allow such a trickster and unsavory character into heaven. The devil could not claim Jack’s soul as promised, but he was upset by the tricks Jack had played. In turn, the devil then sent Jack off to wander the dark night infinitely with only a burning coal to light the path. Stingy Jack put the coal into a carved-out turnip and has been traversing the planet ever since. Irish storytellers first

began to refer to Jack’s specter as “Jack of the Lantern.” Eventually the name was shortened to “Jack O’Lantern.” There are other origin stories regarding jack-o’lanterns. Some say the term originated in 17th century Britain, where it was often customary to call men whose names were unknown a common moniker like “Jack.” Night watchmen who carried lanterns might have been called “Jack with the lantern.” Other theories connect jack-o’-lanterns to the Celtic pagan practice of hallowing out root vegetables and carving them with grotesque faces. Illuminated by coal or candles, these items served to ward off evil spirits. When settlers came from Europe to America, where turnips and other root vegetables were scarce, they used native pumpkins instead. Jack-o’-lanterns are often seen lighting up the Halloween night. There are various theories regarding the origins of the carved gourds. While the truth may never be fully known, it’s fun to learn about the various origin stories connected to this popular symbol of Halloween.

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Decatur Living 50 Plus 23



ature’s transition to fall colors is truly breathtaking. One of the most mesmerizing fall-colored plants is the chrysanthemum, or mum. Arguably the favorite of all fall flowers, mums come in a wide variety of colors and bloom variations. When choosing a mum from the store, more goes into it besides choosing your favorite color. Timing and temperature both play a role in the longevity of the mum’s blooms. For long lasting mums this fall, Alabama Extension regional agent Mallory Kelley has the tips and tricks for all things mums. Choosing Mums “To care for a mum in hopes that it will bloom again next year requires preparation and special care,” Kelley said. At the store, it may be tempting to purchase the mum that is already in full bloom. However, for longevity, purchase those with most of the buds still tightly closed and only a few blooms open. This will ensure the longest possible bloom period. The warmer the temperatures are, the quicker the buds will open, resulting in a shorter bloom period. Therefore, waiting to purchase until temperatures begin to drop will prolong the bloom time. As the temperatures drop, this will also decrease their need for water and result in less stress on the plant. Planting Mums While many prefer to keep their mums potted on the front steps, planting mums is an alternative. To make sure they last more than one season, they will need to be planted immediately. The sooner they are planted, the better established their roots will be before winter. Begin by planting the mums in well-drained soil where they will receive at least six hours of sunshine a

day. Plant the mum at the same depth of the pot they came in. Water Water is critical to the growth and survival of mums. “They usually get too dry in the containers on the front porch, especially since October is one of the driest months of the year,” Kelley said. Mums will be damaged if they are allowed to dry out. Kelley recommends to regularly apply sufficient water to a depth of about four to six inches below the soil. “It is best to water during the day so the foliage will have time to dry off before nightfall,” Kelley said. “Moisture left on foliage can cause diseases.” For mums that are planted, placing mulch around the mums will help to hold moisture in the ground as well as protect the plant and its roots throughout the winter. Post Bloom Care After the beautiful fall mums have run their course, they will still require plenty of tender loving care to bloom again next season. First, remove all dead blooms once the mum has finished blooming. Even after removing dead blooms it is best to leave the foliage to help the plant survive the winter. Second, make sure the soil is very moist before the first hard freeze. “Apply several inches of mulch, such as straw or leaves, around the roots to protect the plant through the winter months,” Kelley said. Lastly, in the late winter or early spring, remove the previous year’s plant material and the mulch applied for winter. Then in early summer, cut them back again as needed for reshaping or for more compact growth. More Information For more information on chrysanthemums and fall flowers, visit the Alabama Extension website, www.aces. edu. Also, for garden or plant inquiries, contact the tollfree Master Gardener Helpline at 1-877-ALA-GROW.

Enjoy the beautiful fallcolored mums this season and for many more to come.

24 Decatur Living 50 Plus




ending to backyard vegetable gardens can fill many hours of enjoyable downtime in the great outdoors. What’s more, the bounty produced by such gardens provides healthy, fresh foods to gardeners and their loved ones. Although spring and summer are widely seen as the peak of gardening season, the mild temperatures of autumn can be a prime time for planting vegetables as well. Certain late-season treats like carrots, kale, spinach, and turnips can thrive in fall gardens. Many different foods are quick crops that can go from seed to table in about six weeks. When sown in early fall, these vegetables will be ready to put on the table for November feasts. Beets, green onions, broccoli, and cabbages can be planted in late summer for fall harvest. Gardeners who live in hardiness zones eight through 10 (the southern portion of the United States) can plant fall vegetables as late as December. Many of these plants can tolerate light frost, which may even help sweeten the vegetables.

A handful of unique factors need to be taken into consideration when planning fall vegetable gardens. · The summertime location of the garden may still be adequate, but be sure to choose a location that gets eight full hours of sunlight per day. · If using an existing garden site, clear out any detritus from summer plants and any weeds that have sprouted. If you are planting a new garden, remove any turf before tilling the soil. · Amend the soil with sand, compost, manure fertilizer, and any other nutrients needed depending on the types of vegetables you intend to grow. · While fall vegetables can be grown successfully from seeds, it may be more time-friendly to work from larger transplants, advises the Texas A&M Agrilife Extension. · Some plants may need a little protection as they grow if temperatures begin to dip. Cover with a blanket, cardboard box or plastic tunnel to insulate. Remember to water according to the vegetables planted and to keep an eye on readiness for vegetables.

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Decatur Living 50 Plus 25



haritable organizations rely on the efforts of volunteers to meet their missions every day. People of all ages can volunteer, and a great number of volunteers are seniors. A 2016 survey from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics found that nearly one-quarter of American volunteers are age 65 and over. That was never more apparent than during the COVID-19 pandemic, when many nonprofit organizations were suddenly forced to confront a volunteer shortage due to the adoption of social distancing guidelines that were designed to keep vulnerable populations, such as seniors, as safe as possible. One study from Fidelity Charitable found that two out of three volunteers decreased or stopped contributing time during the pandemic. The rollout of various COVID-19 vaccines has allowed vaccinated individuals to return to a certain degree of pre-pandemic normalcy. However, the threat posed by strains of the virus like the Delta variant has made some seniors apprehensive about returning to volunteering. Though each individual should consider various factors before returning to volunteering during the pandemic, the following are some options seniors can consider as they aim to safely pitch in once again. · Look for contactless opportunities. Interactions with the people they help and work alongside is what drives many volunteers to lend a helping hand. That’s 26 Decatur Living 50 Plus


especially so for seniors whose children have grown up and moved out. In person interactions may be too risky during the pandemic, but seniors can still volunteer via contactless opportunities. For example, in lieu of delivering meals by hand, seniors who work with organizations such as Meals on Wheels can deliver prepackaged meals outside recipients’ residences. Pitch in with fundraising. A report from Giving USA released in 2021 revealed that Americans gave more to charity in 2020 than in 2019. That increase came in spite of an economic downturn that saw millions of people lose their jobs or take pay cuts as companies scrambled to deal with lost revenue related to the pandemic. Though giving might have increased in 2020, many nonprofit organizations, including local community theaters, likely suffered


Things to consider before downsizing your home

Real estate market The real estate market can be a seller’s friend or foe. Many sellers have a sale price in mind when they decide to sell their home, but the real estate market can be fickle, so homeowners should do their research before putting their home up for sale. Will the current market make it easier for you to get the most for your home, or will you have to settle for less than you prefer? How fast are similar homes in your area selling? When studying the real estate market, it’s also a good idea to study the market for smaller homes. If you plan on moving into a condominium but the market is not flush with properties, you might end up paying more than you want to for your new home, which might negate the savings you can expect from downsizing.

Seniors are discovering safe alternative ways to volunteer while COVID cases continue to cause concern.

due to cancellations and audience restrictions. As a result, many local nonprofit organizations are in need of financial support. Seniors who want to pitch in but stay safe can volunteer to help local organizations raise funds. Seniors can participate in fundraising efforts from the comforts of their own homes. · Offer professional expertise. Many seniors retired after spending decades mastering their crafts, and that experience can be an invaluable resource to local nonprofit organizations. Seniors can offer professional advice and mentor youths remotely via apps like Zoom without putting their physical health at risk. Seniors concerned for their safety can still lend a hand by volunteering with their favorite nonprofit organizations.

Furniture Bob McMillan advises when downsizing to a smaller home, many couples realize their current furniture is unlikely to fit. That means couples will have to sell or donate their current furniture and then buy all new items for their new home. Another thing to consider regarding your furniture is which items you simply can’t live without. An antique dinner table might have been the centerpiece for your family holidays over the last several decades, but there’s no guarantee it will fit into your smaller home. You may want to pass this down to your son

or daughter, but that’s only possible if he or she has the room for it. Before deciding to downsize, consider your attachment to certain items that you may or may not be able to take with you to your new home and the emotional toll that selling such items might take if you’re left with no other options. Proximity to family According to Bob McMillan when downsizing to a smaller home, many couples move out of the suburbs and into cities or towns with more ready access to culture and restaurants. While that accessibility is great, grandparents may find that it comes at the cost of less time with their grandchildren. That’s a steep price to pay for doting grandparents, and it may also impact your children if they frequently rely on grandma and grandpa for babysitting. Before downsizing, consider if you’re willing to move further away from your family. If not, you likely can still find a smaller home in close proximity to your current home and any nearby family members. Medical care Many older men and women must also consider the effect that moving may have on their medical care. Downsizing to a home in the country may make it harder to maintain contact with your current physician, and rural areas typically have less medical practitioners than more densely populated towns and cities. In addition, if you have been visiting the same physician for years, you may not want to move and have to start all over again with a physician who is unfamiliar with your medical history. Consider how much maintaining your existing relationship with your physician means to you, and if your next home will provide the kind of access to medical care you’re likely to need. Downsizing a home is not just about moving into a smaller property. To ensure you’re making the right decision, many factors must be considered before downsizing.

Find the Perfect House



he decision to downsize a home is often bittersweet. Many couples who downsize their homes do so after raising a family. A home might be filled with memories, but downsizing a home helps couples save more money, and that financial flexibility often allows men and women to more fully enjoy their retirement. Bob McMillan, Broker points out there’s more than just money at stake for homeowners thinking of downsizing their homes. The following are a handful of factors homeowners should consider before downsizing to a smaller home.

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dmit it — we really don’t like trying to plan for things that seem far off. We grimace at the daunting task of planning for something that is complicated or just plain scary. When it comes to planning our lives, then, where do we even start? The Eagles, yes, the 1970s era rock band (and still going strong), have been singing about life planning for years. They can help you map out a successful life plan with class and grace. As you may remember, as kids it was often helpful to memorize important information by making a song out of it. We can use the same principle in the process of life planning. Just listen to get started. So, how can we plan for “The Long Run”? “How Long” depends on where you are right now. Maybe you are just finishing school and starting a new job. Maybe you are close to retirement already and are afraid you have “Wasted Time.” “Get Over It” and pick “One of These Nights” to get started. Whether you are the “New Kid in Town” or are living “Life in the Fast Lane,” the Eagles sang that “Love Will Keep Us Alive” but we need a purpose and money too! Whether “Life’s Been Good” or you are stuck living on “Seven Bridges Road” — just start where you are. We each have our own definition of success and now is not the time to compare ourselves to others. Remember, “Keeping up with the Joneses” is not an Eagles song! The Joneses probably refinanced with unfavorable rates, and now they have “Heartache Tonight.” So, get a plan, even if it is simply a “Frail Grasp on the Big Picture.” Start where you are. There are no wrong answers. Over time, you will learn to adjust it, improve it, change it and eventually “Take it to Limit.” Pretty soon, you will start getting that “Peaceful, Easy Feeling.” 28 Decatur Living 50 Plus

WHAT IS A LIFE PLAN? What if somehow you knew you were going to live to age 80, 90, or even 100? What would you do differently today, tomorrow, or next year? Life planning is a movement that encourages us to redefine how we think about money. Instead of accumulating money for what it can buy, more of us want to use money to live the best life possible, with purpose, with what we have and where we are – not just during retirement, but also right now. A life plan helps you make this a reality — instead of focusing just on building a nest egg for retirement, the process of life planning can help you uncover the ways your money can help you build purpose and meaning, starting now. The traditional path to budgeting, saving and investing has been primarily focused on preparing for major, future life events. We depend on numbers and rates of return and hope for the best. This approach is fine and is not going away but it overlooks our personal day-to-day life hopes, goals and dreams and the fact that we want to live well along the way. A life plan is a road map for your life that helps you prioritize what is important to you, make decisions based on your priorities and move toward the life you want. It should provide a clear path for your life, but it should also be flexible. As your life changes, your values and priorities may also change. Write your own definition of success. Get “Busy Being Fabulous” in a way that only you can do! As a life planning practitioner, I have helped many people start this process — and after seeing what it can do for people, “I Can’t Tell You Why” more people don’t start sooner! Ronald W. Stokes is a certified public accountant and personal financial specialist in Decatur.

Signs FRAUD of





iving to charity is a selfless endeavor that’s vital to the survival of countless nonprofit organizations across the globe. Without the generosity of donors, many charitable organizations would cease to exist, leaving the people they help vulnerable to illness and financial hardship. Fraud may be the furthest thing from donors’ minds, but it’s something charitable individuals must be aware of as they consider donating to charity. According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, charity fraud increases during the holiday season, when many people embrace the spirit of giving and seek to made end-of-year tax deductible gifts to their favorite charities. The FBI also warns that charity scams are common after disasters or tragedies, including pandemics. In fact, the Federal Trade Commission noted in September 2020 that Americans had lost more than $145 million to charity fraud related to the coronavirus in the first six months of the pandemic. One measure all prospective donors should take is to learn the signs of charitable fraud. Many charity scams target seniors, but no one is entirely safe from charity fraud. AARP® notes that the following are some warning signs of charity fraud.


Pressure to give: Reputable charities do not pressure prospective donors into giving. A strong, trustworthy charity will accept donations whenever donors choose to make them. · Thanking donors for donations they don’t recall making: AARP® notes that some charitable fraud perpetrators will try to convince potential victims they have already given to a cause. This is done in an effort to lower potential victims’ resistance, giving them a false sense of security and the impression that a fraudulent operation is legitimate. If donors don’t recall donating to a specific charity, chances are strong they didn’t make such a donation and that the message of gratitude is merely a fishing expedition intended to reel in new victims. · Requests for cash, gift cards or wire transfers: Cash, gifts and wire transfers are difficult to trace, which makes it easier for perpetrators of fraud to escape the authorities. Reputable charities will welcome donations made by personal check or credit card. Perpetrators of charitable fraud prey on the vulnerability of well-meaning donors who simply want to support a good cause. Learning to spot signs of charitable fraud can provide an added measure of protection against the criminals behind such operations.

Thankful to our communities for calling and keeping us busy through 2021! Our families appreciate YOU!


Shane Jones, President

Decatur Living 50 Plus 29




lack Friday is seen by many as a shopping extravaganza that begins in the wee hours of the morning on the day after Thanksgiving, offering deep discounts on various items, doorbuster deals and other specials that have customers anxious to raid the aisles. Many believe Black Friday was named for the day retail companies would become profitable for the year (retailers would record losses in red ink and profits in black), but other accounts of the origins of Black Friday differ. Gold Rush One story attributes the name of Black Friday to September 24, 1869, when two speculators created a boom and subsequent bust in the gold market. According to the History Channel, rebel speculators Jay Gould and Jim Fisk attempted to control the nation’s gold market. They hoped to drive the price of gold sky high, relying on a corrupt network that extended from Wall Street and the government of New York City all the way to the family of President Ulysses S. Grant. Eventually, the

conspiracy unraveled on what became known as “Black Friday.” Brotherly Love Other historians say that Black Friday has ties to Philadelphia. According to Bonnie Taylor-Blake, a neuroscience researcher at the University of North Carolina, in the 1950s stores around Philadelphia promoted big sales the day after Thanksgiving when many people were off from work. The sales also were held in advance of the Army/Navy football game that traditionally took place in Philadelphia on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. Stores knew that suburban shoppers and football fans would be milling about town during the extended weekend. As a result, traffic cops and other law enforcement personnel had to work 12-hour shifts to corral the extra foot and vehicle traffic around the city. These cops referred to the day as “Black Friday.” Despite city officials’ best efforts to remove any negative connotations and rename the day “Big Friday,” the name “Black Friday” stuck and even spread to other areas of the country. Black Friday is a phenomenon that marks the unofficial start of the holiday shopping season, though its history might be rooted in more than just buying gifts for loved ones.

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30 Decatur Living 50 Plus


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hese gourmet caramel apples make for a fun activity with the grandkids, addition to your next party or to prepare a batch to give to friends or family. No one can say no to a crunchy apple drizzled in caramel or chocolate. The best part about this recipe for chocolate caramel apples is you can let your imagination run wild. Be traditional and stick with caramel, or dip them in chocolate, candy, crushed Oreo cookies, cinnamon, mini marshmallows, or chopped nuts. The choice is yours! Recipe Ingredients • 5-7 small to medium apples washed, dried and refrigerated • popsicle sticks • 12-ounce bag of dark or milk chocolate chips about a cup and a half • 14-ounce bag Kraft caramels unwrapped • sprinkles chopped nuts or candies of your choice (optional) • Waxed paper and cooking spray The night before, wash apples, remove any stickers, and place them in a bowl in the refrigerator to get cold. Make sure your COLD apples are clean and dry, then put a popsicle stick in each one. Unwrap enough caramel candy to fill up a 2-cup measuring cup 3/4 of the way. Add one tablespoon of water. Microwave for one minute. Stir. Microwave for one more minute and then stir again until smooth. Please note: I am hesitant to post recipes involving the microwave because they vary so widely in how they heat. If your microwave tends to be hot or higher-powered, check your caramels after 30-45 seconds and stir them. If, after two minutes, the caramels are not melted fully, cook them in 30-second intervals until they are. Now, baptize the apple in the melted caramel! Note: You can skip the caramel and just dip them in chocolate if you like. My kids prefer these without the caramel. Place all of those on a waxed paper-lined tray and MAKE SURE you spray that baking sheet with cooking spray BEFORE you put your apples on it. Otherwise, they will absolutely not separate from it when you pull them off and you’ll end up with caramel apples bonded to waxed paper on the bottom.

At this point, you need to place these apples in the fridge for at least 30 minutes, until they are good and cold. An hour or more is even better. Now we need to melt our chocolate. You can use any type of chocolate chips you like for this. I prefer dark chocolate for these apples, even though I am normally a milk chocolate person. The dark chocolate complements the apple well. Fill a 2-cup measuring cup 3/4 of the way with chocolate chips. Microwave this at 30-second intervals, stirring after each, until completely melted. Set up a station with some toppings and sprinkles you might want to add. Make sure those apples are cold and then dip apples in chocolate! Let it drip off a bit before dipping the bottoms in toppings and then returning to greased waxed paper. Refrigerate apples until chocolate has hardened. Once your chocolate caramel apples are hardened fully, you can wrap them in plastic for gift giving. If you are going to keep them for more than a few hours, I recommend storing them in the fridge. Enjoy!


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Decatur Living 50 Plus 31



he holiday season is a popular time to entertain. Food is often a focal point of holiday season entertaining. Individuals who navigate food allergies or intolerances may shy away from certain celebrations out of fear that a nibble of this or a bite of that may trigger an allergic response. In such instances, concern about ingredients can cast a pall over normally festive occasions. “Crustless Libby’s® Famous Pumpkin Pie” is a variation on traditional pumpkin pie. Without the crust, individuals who avoid gluten can still dive into that pumpkin-and-spice combination that’s so popular around the holiday season. Makes 8 servings  3/4 cup granulated sugar  1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon salt 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves 2 large eggs 1 can (15 ounces) Libby’s® 100% Pure Pumpkin  1 can (12 fluid ounces) Nestlé® Carnation Evaporated Milk  Nonstick cooking spray  Whipped cream (optional) Preheat oven as directed below. Glass baking dishes without crust require a cooler oven, and in most cases, a longer baking time. Spray baking dish with nonstick cooking spray or lightly grease bottom of baking pan or baking dish. Mix sugar, cinnamon, salt, ginger and cloves in a small bowl. Beat eggs in a large bowl. Stir in pumpkin and sugar-spice mixture. Gradually stir in evaporated milk. Bake as directed below or until a knife inserted near center comes out     

clean. Cool on wire rack for 2 hours. Serve immediately or refrigerate. Cooking times: 9-inch-round glass pie dish: 325 F; bake for 55 to 60 minutes. 10-inch-round glass pie dish: 325 F; bake for 45 to 50 minutes. 8-inch-round cake pan: 350 F; bake for 45 to 50 minutes. 9-inch-round cake pan: 350 F; bake for 35 to 40 minutes.

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831 Main St West, Hartselle, AL 35640 (256) 751-6566

Adventure of a lifetime

Sioux Falls, S.D.

By CAMERON REEDER Living 50 Plus


ameron Reeder is a resident of Decatur who wrote this account of his trip through the Midwest for Living 50 Plus. I turned 60 on June 22. What happened? Suddenly, I find that I am old. Wasn’t I just 18 last year? I think everyone has asked these questions at some point in his or her life. Sixty can be quite a milestone. Therefore, I decided that the trip I have been talking about for the past 10 years was a now or never event. We have all had cabin fever for the last year-and-a-half from the COVID protocols, and I was ready for an adventure. 34 Decatur Living 50 Plus


Kansas City library

Armed with lots of vacation time from my 17-year career at Acme Brick, I set out on an eight-day journey through 11 states. My ultimate destination was Mount Rushmore, the jewel of the American vista, more than 1,400 miles from Decatur. My circular itinerary was packed with things I had to see and do, since this might very well be the last time I undertook an extended road trip. And each time I sat down at my computer with some travel literature, it grew again. My grown son Christian graciously agreed to accompany me on this journey. His mother wanted to be sure I had an adult along to keep an eye on me. Many people are unaware of what they are missing by being on the open road. Flying to a destination is a time saver, yes, but driving gives you so many opportunities to visit sites, like the World’s Largest Ketchup Bottle in Illinois, the World’s

Dignity statue

Largest Ball of Twine in Kansas and restaurants that serve frog legs and rattlesnake. My trip out took me past Nashville, the Music City; Paducah, Kentucky, home of the International Quilting Museum; and Metropolis, Illinois, home of the Superman statue. From there, it was just a hop and skip to St. Louis and the Gateway Arch. The 630-foot-tall structure opened in January 1967. The stainless-steel arch has a timeless appearance that belies its age, which incidentally, is still younger than I am. We continued our journey of western expansion to Kansas City, Missouri, and overnighted by tent at Owl Creek RV Park in Odessa, Missouri. (May I add that my camping life was changed when I discovered the cot. It’s like sleeping in a hammock, but with better back support.) KANSAS CITY, HERE WE ARE After getting our campsite set up, we drove into Kansas City and devoured some outstanding barbecue and ribs at Arthur Bryant’s. The barbecue restaurants in Kansas City make their sauce differently than Decatur’s Memphis in May champion Big Bob Gibson, so the taste is quite unique to a Southerner. Stuffed, but still hungry for adventure, we marveled at the architecture and the fountains around the city. Kansas City boasts more fountains than any city other than Rome. We got to see a few, but my goal was to see the famous façade of the Central Branch of the Public Library. The painted exterior Corn Palace

The Missouri River near Chamberlain, South Dakota.

looks like a giant bookshelf featuring 25 volumes more than 22-feet-high and 9-feet-wide, including my favorite, “Lord of the Rings.” Before departing Kansas City, Christian and I stopped by the National World War I Memorial and Museum. This museum opened in 1926 and was dedicated as the country’s official WWI museum in 2004. The memorial was on a grander scale than I imagined with an obelisk that reached into the Kansas City sky. What a tribute to those who fought and died in the war to end all wars from 1914 to 1918. The view of the city skyline from the lawn was spectacular. Headed north toward Sioux Falls, South Dakota, we deviated slightly to enter Iowa. It was in the quaint town of Gladbrook that we met our good friends Kevin and Leannda Sanders. Kevin is an instructor at Iowa State University working on his doctorate in agricultural education and Leannda is an NICU nurse. Both are on loan to Iowa from Decatur. Gladbrook is home to one of the most unusual attractions in the United States — Matchstick Marvels. This museum is a testament to patience and insanity. Artist Patrick Acton is responsible for the more than 70 matchstick creations formed from more than seven million matchsticks. He has painstakingly recreated landmarks, such as the U.S. Capitol and Notre Dame, as well as the Space Shuttle and the Mars Rover. Leaving Gladbrook for Sioux City was like a peaceful dream. We drove through a sea of corn punctuated by hundreds of Matchstick Marvels

Decatur Living 50 Plus 35


Crazy Horse Memorial

wind turbines. The contrast of the giant white turbines against the lush green of the fields was surreal. We felt tiny under the shadow of those mighty windmills, which we would see again in Wyoming, New Mexico, Texas and Oklahoma. SOUTH DAKOTA SCENES In Sioux Falls, we set up at the KOA Campground, which proved a pleasurable stop with a wonderful staff. Early the next morning, we visited Falls Park along the Big Sioux River. We witnessed 7,400 gallons of water falling more than 100 feet every second. A five-story observation tower provided a bird’s eye view of the park and the Falls Overlook Café. Sioux Falls is also known for its Sculpture Walk. This display in downtown features the largest annual exhibit of sculptures in the world. Artists loan a piece to the city in the spring and they are displayed year-round. After a public vote, the winning sculpture is purchased for the city’s permanent collection. On the way out of the city, we saw the Arc of Dreams, a sculpture, which spans the river. After about an hour of driving, we arrived in Mitchell, South Dakota, at the famous Corn Palace. There has been a corn palace in the town since 1892. The current building has been around 100 years. It originally served as a central gathering point for local festivities and sporting events. Now it is a tribute to all things corn. The outside of the building is a Moorish Revival facade with corncob veneer and murals formed from corn colors. These are replaced once a year. Inside, there are historical exhibits. This popular attraction draws half a million visitors annually. Our next stop en route to Mount Rushmore was the Dignity of Earth and Sky Sculpture, looking over the Missouri River.

Garden of the Gods

From here we could see the entire valley. It was breathtaking. The sculpture is composed of stainless steel and is 50-feet high. It was created by South Dakota artist Claude Lamphere and depicts a Lakota Native American woman in plains regalia with a star quilt. Soon after, we arrived at the Badlands, a beautiful, desolate destination, which the Native Americans named the “mako sica” or “land bad.” Extreme temperatures and lack of water were part of the reason for this distinction. It is 240,000 acres of eroded buttes and towers. But even so, it was gorgeous. Leaving the Badlands, we entered Wall, South Dakota. Wall Drug is one of the must-see stops. It is a unique collection of shops all under one roof. It was there that we enjoyed a Buffalo Burger at the Wall Drug Store Café and had our photo made astride a giant saddled jackalope. We entered Keystone, South Dakota, at night, and spotted Mount Rushmore bathed in light. We camped at Palmer Gulch, and sleeping under the stars was never more beautiful in this picturesque campground. I had never seen so many stars. When we awoke, we proceeded to the Crazy Horse Memorial. The face of Crazy Horse is bigger than Mount Rushmore. It has been funded by the public and is managed through the Crazy Horse Memorial Foundation, a non-profit organization. It depicts the Oglala Lakota warrior Crazy Horse sitting astride his pony and pointing to his tribal land. This memorial was commissioned by Henry Standing Bear and has been under construction since sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski began in 1948. Custer State Park is a beautiful scenic drive, but also a wildlife refuge. It is South Dakota’s largest state park at 71,000

Manitou Cliff Dwellings

acres. It was named for Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer, with his rank from the post-Civil War Army. We saw few animals at first, then five small male bison. When we had resigned ourselves to the possibility that we might not see more, we proceeded along the drive. Suddenly, we topped a hill and before us was a herd of hundreds of the majestic animals. FACES OF 4 PRESIDENTS We drove Needles Parkway around curving roads bordering spectacular scenic vistas and through tunnels, including the Needles Eye. Finally, we drove onto the Mount Rushmore complex and got as close as we could to the monument of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln. Mount Rushmore National Memorial is a carving on a granite mountain in Keystone, South Dakota. Towering at an elevation of 5,700 feet, with each face more than 60-feet high, the sculpture of the four presidents has come to be associated with patriotism. It was carved by sculptor Gutzon Borglum from 1927 to 1941. What you may not know is the reason for Borglum’s choice of presidents. According to experts, Washington, Jefferson, Roosevelt and Lincoln were selected to represent America’s birth, growth, development and preservation. After leaving Rushmore, our return trip started. Heading south, we made our way through Wyoming into Colorado, and stopped off in Colorado Springs. We were guests at the home of our friends Steve and Jaime Sellers. A hot shower, warm meal and soft bed were just what the doctor ordered after days in a tent. The next morning, we drove to Garden of the Gods. This is a registered National Natural Landmark. Not only is this a beautiful scenic area with 300-foot rock towers, there is also a nature center and museum. Christian and I enjoyed the airconditioned museum and terrace overlooking both the Garden and Pike’s Peak before taking the driving tour. A few miles down the road, we saw the Manitou Cliff Dwellings. These ancestral Puebloan dwellings were home to the Native American Anasazi. These 700-year-old ruins opened to the public in 1907. There are about 40 distinct rooms constructed into the side of the mountain. From here, the drive to Amarillo, Texas, was daunting, but wondrous. We drove south through Colorado, where

we encountered very few exits, rest stops or even houses. For much of the drive, there were no billboards. This made for a wide-open view of pastures stretching out under the sky. The only stop we made prior to Amarillo was in Capulin, New Mexico. Capulin Volcano National Monument is a 30,000-year-old dormant volcano. We made the stop in the rain, but were unable to ascend to the rim due to lightning. We finally arrived in Amarillo with a ravenous appetite. And in Amarillo, that can only mean one thing — The Big Texan Steakhouse. This famous Texas restaurant boasts the 72-ounce steak challenge seen on “Man vs. Food.” If you can down this thing along with all the fixings, you eat free. We were hungry, but not that hungry. Because of rain, we were forced to seek shelter at the local hotel. The next day, before departing, we made a brief stop on Historic Route 66 to see The Cadillac Ranch. Created by three men from the artist collective known as Ant Farm, the art installation has been welcoming visitors to Amarillo since 1974. While we were there, many young people braved the ankle-deep mud to add their own spray can tribute to the installation. It was thrilling to drive on the fabled Route 66, also known as the Main Street of America, established in 1926. Our final stop along Route 66 was the Oklahoma City National Memorial on the grounds of the former Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. The memorial is dedicated to the 168 people killed and the 608 wounded by a bomber in April 1995. We gazed down at the reflecting pool and across the landscape at the chair sculptures — large chairs for adults and small ones for children — representing each of those who died in the blast. We overnighted in Fort Smith, Arkansas, at the KOA. We had a delicious meal at the Brickhouse Brewery. This repurposed old warehouse building, complete with stained glass accents, had a loud, lively atmosphere. After dinner, we strolled around looking at some of the murals in downtown. Finally, we stopped off in Memphis to visit family and devour some delicious food from Central BBQ. We dragged into Decatur late on Saturday evening, glad to be home and off the road, but so thankful for the many wonderful sights we saw. We had covered 3,800 miles and 11 states in eight days.


Christian Reeder at memorial to Oklahoma City bombing victims

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