Living 50 Plus Magazine February/March 2023

Page 1

A passion for the past

The Rev. Wylheme Ragland’s research ensures all of area’s history is treasured and remembered. Page 22

Decatur’s ‘El Jefe’

The Spanish words for “The Boss” aptly describe businessman and community leader Alfredo Chavez. Page 13



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Sticking to your New Year, new you plan

Alabama Extension Service

The beginning of a new year is an exciting time for everyone. It is a time to restart, refresh, and renew. It is common to make a New Year’s resolution. Many times, people can get caught up in the excitement about starting a new year and make resolutions without much planning. So, with just a little bit of planning and help from the following tips, you can stick to your New Year’s resolution.

Set a goal. Instead of focusing on your New Year’s resolutions, move your thoughts to goal setting. Goal setting will allow you to work toward your resolutions throughout your year. Just be sure to set SMART goals. Remember when setting goals to keep them specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound.

Find an accountability partner. Look for someone to take your journey with you. They may even have a goal of their own to work on. Share your goal so that you can help each other stay on track. Your accountability partner can be a friend, family member, or even a coworker.

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Take small steps. It is okay to start small. Sometimes people want big changes to happen quickly, but that is not always realistic, depending on the goals that you set. It is important to review your goals and be sure to take into account the time it will take to reach those goals. Small steps are crucial in achieving and maintaining goals. Remember each day to take one step toward your goal.

Reward yourself. Motivation is a key component on your journey to accomplishing your goal. What can be more motivating than rewarding yourself? It is always great to look back over what you have accomplished, no matter how big or small. All successes need to be celebrated.

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ON THE COVER: The Rev. Wylheme Ragland is shown at the Morgan County Archives, where he has helped supply information for exhibits. Photograph by Jeronimo Nisa. Cover design by Stephen Johnson Published by Decatur Daily Tennessee Valley Media
Decatur Living 50 Plus 5 522608-1

Flowers and their various meanings

Flowers can represent various emotions. Flowers play a prominent role in many and holidays, perhaps none more than Valentine’s Day.

Valentine’s Day is a busy day for florists. ProFlowers says it accounts for most of the industry’s fresh flower sales. Around 78 percent of the flowers purchased for Valentine’s Day are cut flowers, and men are the top consumers.

Roses are the go-to flower on Valentine’s Day, but shoppers can look to various blooms to send the right message to that special someone in their lives. In fact, each type of flower conveys its own unique message.

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Flowers note that the following are some popular blooms and the messages those flowers are traditionally associated with.

· Amaryllis: This flower is symbolic of splendid beauty and can be used to indicate worth.

· Aster: The aster symbolizes patience, elegance and daintiness.

· Calla lily: This bloom symbolizes magnificence and beauty, as well as purity and innocence. That is why Calla lilies are often the flower of choice in wedding bouquets.

· Carnations: These are one of the most popular flowers in the world and are generally symbolic of love and fascination.

· Daffodil: Daffodils symbolize regard and chivalry. They also can be indicative of rebirth, new beginnings and eternal life. A single daffodil can signal misfortune, while a bunch expresses joy and happiness.

· Gerbera daisies: With large, beautiful blooms in a wide assortment of vibrant colors, gerbera daisies are a favorite flower for cheerful sentiments.

· Gladioluses: These tall, striking flowers are eyecatching and make great gifts for significant others. The gladiolus symbolizes honor, infatuation and strength.

· Iris: Irises represent faith, hope and wisdom and are cherished for their big, beautiful blooms.

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· Peony: This flower, which resembles a rose, symbolizes a happy life, happy marriage, prosperity, and good health.

· Rose: Roses symbolize love in its various forms, and different colors of roses symbolize different things. For example, yellow roses represent care and friendship, while pink roses are given as a token of admiration.

Flowers are popular gifts come Valentine’s Day. Choosing a flower that best represents the feelings gift-givers want to convey can incorporate even more meaning into a bouquet or basket.

Decatur Living 50 Plus 7
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Early warning signs FOR HEART DISEASE



Cardiovascular disease claims more lives across the globe every year than any other disease or condition, and many of those fatalities are credited to heart disease. Though the terms “cardiovascular disease” and “heart disease” are often used interchangeably, the National Heart, Blood and Lung Institute notes that, while all heart diseases are cardiovascular diseases, not all cardiovascular diseases are heart diseases. This is an important distinction, especially as adults discuss heart and cardiovascular health with their physicians.

8 Decatur Living 50 Plus

The NHLBI reports that more than one in 10 American adults have been diagnosed with heart disease, which underscores the serious threat posed by the various conditions that fall under the umbrella of the condition. Though NHLBI data indicates around 630,000 Americans die from heart diseases each year, many of those deaths are preventable. The same goes for Canada, where data from the Canadian Chronic Disease Surveillance System indicates that every hour roughly 14 Canadian adults age 20 and over with diagnosed heart disease lose their lives.

Education is one of the ways in which deaths due to heart disease can be prevented. That’s especially true when individuals learn to recognize warning signs of the disease and take prompt action once such indicators appear.

· Chest pain: Discomfort between the neck and upper abdomen is characterized as chest pain, which does not necessarily indicate the presence of heart disease. However, the experts at Mount Sinai indicate that chest pain is the most common symptom of poor blood flow to the heart or a heart attack. Chest pain may occur because the heart isn’t getting enough oxygen or blood. It’s important that individuals recognize that the intensity of pain in the

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chest does not indicate the severity of the problem. That means that even mild discomfort in the chest should be brought to the attention of a physician immediately.

· Shortness of breath: Shortness of breath can occur because the heart isn’t pumping blood as well as it should, thus causing blood to back up in the veins that go from the lungs to the heart. Mount Sinai notes that this results in fluid leaking into the lungs, thus producing shortness of breath. Shortness of breath can occur at any time, including when individuals are active or at rest.

· Coughing or wheezing: Another indicator of fluid buildup in the lungs related to the heart is persistent coughing or wheezing. When coughing, individuals may spit up a pink or bloody mucus.

· Swelling in the lower legs : Mount Sinai notes that swelling in the legs, ankles or feet is another

indicator of heart troubles. One of the byproducts of a poorly functioning heart is slower blood flow, and that reduction in flow can cause a backup in the veins of the legs. That backup can cause fluid to

build up in the tissues, which leads to swelling.

Heart disease is a significant threat to public health. Learning to recognize signs of the disease can save an untold number of lives.

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TIPS to pick the right time to retire


Professionals work hard to achieve both short- and long-term goals. Retirement certainly qualifies as a long-term goal, and many people spend decades building and investing in a nest egg that they hope will help them enjoy their golden years to the fullest extent.

The decision regarding when to retire is affected by a host of variables, so what’s a good time for one individual may not be ideal for another. However, professionals on the cusp of retirement can consider these tips as they try to pick the right time to retire.

· Consider age-related benefits. Both the United States and Canada feature government-sponsored retirement income programs and it behooves individuals to familiarize themselves with the rules of those programs so they can maximize their benefits. The Canada Pension Plan (CPP) allows individuals to begin receiving full CPP benefits at age 65, but they also can get a permanently reduced amount the moment they turn 60. The CPP also allows people to receive a permanent increase if they wait until turning 70 to receive payment. Similar age-related rules govern the Social Security benefits program in the United States, where individuals can begin

claiming benefits at age 62, though those benefits will be reduced by 25 percent. If individuals wait until they’re 66 or, in some cases, 67, to claim Social Security benefits, they will receive their full benefits. The Social Security Administration notes that those who can wait until age 70 to claim benefits will receive as much as 132 percent of the monthly benefit they would have received at full retirement age.

These distinctions are significant, especially for people who will be looking to government-sponsored programs to provide significant financial support in retirement. Individuals who won’t rely as heavily on such programs may be able to retire earlier.

Decatur Living 50 Plus 11

· Pay off your debts. Carrying debt into retirement can be risky. In general, it’s ideal to pay off all debts, including a mortgage and car payment, before retiring. Doing so can provide more financial flexibility and make it easier to manage unforeseen expenses, such as those incurred due to health problems.

Consider your retirement living expenses. It goes without saying that a sizable nest egg will be a necessity for anyone hoping to live comfortably in retirement. But the tricky part is figuring just how big a nest egg might need to be. In such instances, individuals can speak with a financial advisor and discuss what their retirement living expenses will be. Conventional wisdom based on the Consumer Price Index suggests individuals will need to replace between 70 and 80 percent of their pre-retirement income after calling it a career. But even that figure is not set in stone, as rising inflation, such as the rapid spike experienced in 2022, can quickly put retirees in financial jeopardy. By estimating the expenses they might have in retirement, individuals can begin to see just how close or far away from retirement they may be. Budget for inflation so any spike in living expenses can be easier to manage.

Many individuals recognize that there’s no perfect time to retire. But a few simple strategies can help professionals make the best decision possible.

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successful, he did not grow up with the opportunities his children now have.

Chavez was born and raised in Mexico City along with his four sisters and 12 brothers.

“I came from a family who was real poor,” Chavez said. “Starting when I was 6, I would help my brothers sell newspapers in the morning before I would go to school.”

His father worked as a street sweeper for the city while his mother stayed home to take care of her children. Chavez’s ever-present smile grows even wider when he reminisces about how his mother did the best she could with the resources she had.

“Although we were poor and had little food, we were very happy and loved,” Chavez said. “We ate

the same things every day: frijoles (refried beans), papas (potatoes) and tortillas. We didn’t care because we were happy we had food.”

Chavez said he felt the United States offered better financial and educational opportunities, and that led him to decide at age 16 to emigrate. The two oldest Chavez brothers had already emigrated and worked as field hands in Gainesville,

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Alfredo Chavez helps a customer who wants to send money home at La Estrella, his grocery store on Central Parkway Southwest in Decatur. [JERONIMO NISA/LIVING 50 PLUS]

Georgia, picking tomatoes and cucumbers and they were able to secure a job for Alfredo.

“In Mexico, if you don’t have a good education, you’re always going to be poor,” Chavez said. “I wanted to get out of that situation and try to find a good life.”

Chavez spent 10 years working as a field hand in both Georgia and Florida, an occupation that earned

him his citizenship. Congress passed the Immigration Reform and Control Act in 1986, which provided amnesty for certain long-term residents and a path to obtain legal permanent status, as well as a special expedited process for farmworkers. Under this act, 2.7 million long-term immigrants received legal permanent status.

“You kept working in the fields, you got your papers,” Chavez said.

After he left the farms, Chavez began working in a chicken plant in Gainesville where he eventually met his wife with whom he has three children: Alfredo Jr., 25, Joseline, 23, and Saul, 21. Saul is a Marine stationed in Los Angeles and Joseline is a veterinarian assistant, currently in school pursuing her veterinarian degree.

Chavez said it was important for him to give back to his community and he has been doing just that in the last 10 years by selling some of his produce to El Maderense, a Mexican-owned supermarket on Austinville Road Southwest.

“He sells us corn, bread, tomatoes and jalapenos,” said Nidia Fregoso, a clerk at El Maderense. “He sells it to us pretty cheap and it’s always fresh product.”

Chavez also has a money transfer booth in La Estrella where immigrants can wire money to their families back home.

Fregoso said many in Decatur’s Hispanic community were concerned about the passage of House Bill 56 in 2011, or the Beason-Hammon Alabama Taxpayer and Citizen Protection Act that was co-sponsored by former Rep. Micky Hammon, R-Decatur, who later served a 90day prison sentence after pleading guilty to mail fraud for misuse of campaign funds. Portions of the law were blocked by an eventual court settlement, but other parts

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“ In Mexico, if you don’t have a good education, you’re always going to be poor.”
Alfredo Chavez.

prevented illegal immigrants from attending state-funded colleges and universities and prevented them from accessing certain local and state benefits.

Fregoso said Chavez acted as a liaison between the Hispanic community and the Decatur Police Department after the law’s passage, hosting meetings with

them every month. The law allowed law enforcement officers to inquire about the immigration status of people only if they were lawfully stopped and there was reason to suspect they were undocumented.

“Some Hispanic people here were scared they were going to get deported,” Fregoso said. “Chavez held meetings with the police and talked to them about that. He’s a real community leader.”

Chavez said the best years of his life were bonding with his children when they were young and taking them to amusement parks like Disneyland. All three of his children graduated from Austin High School.

“Raising them in America was very important to me,” Chavez said. “Just being able to offer them things that I didn’t get to have as a kid.”

Alfredo Chavez works in his grocery store, La Estrella. [JERONIMO NISA/LIVING 50 PLUS] La Estrella is one of five businesses Alfredo Chavez owns in Southwest Decatur. [JERONIMO NISA/LIVING 50 PLUS]

No one is immune to issues that can adversely affect their mental health, including men and women nearing retirement age and those who are already retired. Though the term “golden years” suggests life in retirement is one sunny day after another, many individuals 60 and older are dealing with mental health issues.

According to the World Health Organization, approximately 15 percent of the world’s adults aged 60 and over suffer from a mental disorder. What makes that statistic even more troubling is that the WHO acknowledges it likely doesn’t paint the most accurate picture of seniors and mental health, as depression is often undiagnosed among older men and women and untreated because it co-occurs with other issues affecting seniors.

In the past, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has acknowledged that late-life anxiety was not readily understood. However, much progress has been made in recent years thanks to a heightened awareness of the problem of seniors and mental health. That means seniors now have ample resources they can look to as they seek to learn what they can do to safeguard their mental health.


The National Institute of Mental Health notes that recognizing the signs of mental health issues is the

What seniors can do to safeguard their mental health


first step to getting treatment. Mental health issues vary, and individuals with anxiety will likely experience different symptoms than those with depression. But the NIMH notes that the following are some of the warning signs of mental health issues.

· Noticeable changes in mood, energy level, or appetite

· Feeling flat or having trouble feeling positive emotions

· Difficulty sleeping or sleeping too much

· Difficulty concentrating, feeling restless, or on edge

· Increased worry or feeling stressed

· Anger, irritability, or aggressiveness

· Ongoing headaches, digestive issues, or pain

· Misuse of alcohol or drugs

· Sadness or hopelessness

· Suicidal thoughts

· Engaging in high-risk activities

· Obsessive thinking or compulsive behavior

· Thoughts or behaviors that interfere with work, family, or social life

· Engaging in thinking or behavior that is concerning to others

· Seeing, hearing, and feeling things that other people do not see, hear, or feel


As noted, a growing awareness of mental health issues and how they affect seniors has translated to more available resources for aging men and women who need help. Within the United States, seniors can visit

the NIMH Help for Mental Illnesses webpage ( health/find-help) to access contact information for various groups that help people in times of mental health crises. In Canada, individuals can visit the Canadian Mental Health Association at for contact information for various groups across the country.


The National Institute on Aging notes that most cases of depression cannot be prevented. However, the NIA also notes that healthy lifestyle changes can have long-term benefits of seniors’ mental health. Such changes include:

· Being physically active

· Eating a healthy diet that can reduce risk for diseases that can bring on disability and depression

· Getting adequate sleep, which for seniors is between seven to nine hours per night

· Remaining socially active, including regular contact with friends and family

· Participating in activities you enjoy

· Sharing mental issues or concerns with friends, family members and your physician

Research indicates that seniors are vulnerable to mental health issues. More information about how to combat and overcome such issues is available at

Decatur Living 50 Plus 17

Cognitive health is not something to take for granted. Although a certain level of memory loss can be expected as people age, when the ability to clearly think, learn and remember is compromised, those changes can affect an individual’s ability to perform daily activities and should serve as a cause for concern.

Brain health should be a priority for everyone. The National Institute on Aging says brain health is an umbrella term that encompasses a host of factors, including:

· cognitive health, which is how well you think, learn and remember

· motor function, or how you make and control movements

· tactile function, which is how you feel sensations; and

· emotional function, or how emotions are interpreted and responded to.

Individuals can safeguard brain health - particularly cognitive health - by taking these steps.


Working with doctors, individuals can put their health first. This

How to protect long-term cognitive health



includes getting routine screenings, managing chronic health problems, limiting or avoiding alcohol and nicotine products, and getting the recommended amount of sleep each night.


All chronic conditions cause long-term repercussions, but the NIA indicates that observational studies show having high blood pressure in mid-life increases the risk of cognitive decline later in life. Lowering blood pressure lowers the risk for mild cognitive impairment and possibly dementia.


Harvard Medical School says nurturing social contacts, engaging in stimulating mental activities like reading and doing puzzles, seeing new places, and learning new things can help keep the brain in top form.


Stress can take its toll on the body, and there is reason to believe that it may adversely affect cognitive health as well. Make every stride to reduce stress, whether that involves taking vacations, meditating,

laughing with friends and family, or engaging in relaxing activities that relieve stress.


Vitamin D is linked to a host health benefits, including its potential to promote a healthy brain. Individuals can get more time outdoors to get vitamin D naturally from the sun and eat foods rich in vitamin D. If doctors find that vitamin D levels are exceptionally low, supplementation can help.


Certain hearing loss has been linked to cognitive decline, says Healthline. Researchers in Italy concluded that people with central hearing loss had a higher risk of mild cognitive impairment than those with no hearing loss or peripheral hearing loss. Individuals with central hearing loss are urged to speak to their physicians to determine if they can take preventive action to stave off further decline.

Cognitive health should be a priority. Adults can employ various strategies to reduce their risk of cognitive decline as they age.

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GOING NATIVE: WHY PLANTING native species is crucial

Ask any ecologist and they will tell you that planting native species in yards and gardens is crucial. However, you may wonder what constitutes a native species and why you should plant them. Native or indigenous species of plants are those that naturally occur within a region without any direct or indirect human activity. These are plants that generally occurred in North America prior to European settlement. As

trends are moving towards the restoration of Alabama’s private lands, landowners must become more concerned about the environment and the effects planting non-native species may have on the landscape.


Why does planting native plant species matter? Without native plant species, the insects that evolved with the plants cannot survive. Birds, butterflies, and other wildlife species depend on those insects for their survival.

Native plants also offer benefits–such as providing pollinators and wildlife with ample food–and add beauty to the environment, providing beautiful showy flowers and gorgeous fall colors. Native plants also help to reduce carbon pollution. Many trees native to the state–such as oak trees–are great at storing carbon dioxide.

Native species generally require little maintenance once they are established. Also, because native plants have adapted to the environment, they usually require less water than non-native varieties

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and, therefore, survive dry periods better than non-native plants.

Choosing to plant native plants as a substitute for non-native, ornamental species can help reverse the current trend of species loss and help to preserve the natural heritage.


Non-native plants are those that are growing outside their natural range. Many of Alabama’s invasive species were imported from other countries because of their beauty. However, those ornamentals offer no benefit to the native wildlife. Many of these non-native plants have become popular with homeowners and lawn and garden centers. Some of these species–such as Callery Pear trees, privet, and mimosa trees–are invasive and have aggressively spread into natural areas across the state. These invasive species threaten native plants and can quickly crowd them out.


When incorporating native plants into your landscape, there are several things you can do. You can include them with nonaggressive, non-native species in your flower beds. Naturalizing larger areas–such as a pasture or woodlot–with some of the more aggressive native species available can help to push the non-native plants out. Also, you can create beautiful rain gardens with native species. Doing this will help to stabilize and hold the soil in place.


It is important to educate yourself about the native species available in your area. You can visit native plant nurseries and preserves to help decide what to plant. By going native, you will be preserving Alabama’s local biodiversity while also creating a beautiful landscape to enjoy for years to come.

For more information, go to www.

Decatur Living 50 Plus 21
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Tucked away in the corner of libraries and archives in north Alabama, Tuscaloosa and Atlanta, the Rev. Wylheme Ragland spends hundreds of hours each year researching the past.

“History, specifically AfricanAmerican history, is my passion,” the 76-year-old Ragland said. “If I am doing research, I may stay up until 2 or 3 in the morning trying to find more information. It’s like fishing. Sometimes you may catch nothing, but the next day you may find one thing. It is so exhilarating. It’s like finding a gold mine.”

Because of Ragland’s research, the history of Decatur’s Black community, figures and churches is more complete.

LIVING HISTORY Wylheme RAGLAND keeps Decatur’s past alive

He uncovered lost details about Charles Pearl Sykes, a Black city councilman from the Reconstruction Era, worked with Peggy Allen Towns to memorialize Amos McKinney, a Civil War soldier buried at Sykes Cemetery, and delved into the history of King’s Memorial United Methodist Church, which was founded by slaves in 1854.

In February, for Black History Month, Ragland curated an exhibit at the Morgan County Archives featuring photographs of people of color in Old Town and beyond.

“Wylheme’s passion for history is priceless. His efforts have benefited the community, and not just with Black history, but all of our history,” said Decatur historian Peggy Allen Towns.

Ragland has resided in Decatur for more than 45 years, but his passion

for history began as a child, while listening to the stories and accounts told by his family.

“As children back then, especially in the South, if you were allowed to be around adults, you were quiet. You didn’t ask any questions. You dare not. Normally, though, if adults were speaking, you weren’t in their presence,” said Ragland, who grew up in Anniston. “I would get as nearby as I could and soak up all of the history they talked about.”

That infatuation with history, relatives and the past never left Ragland.

“My interest in history comes from several generations in my maternal and paternal families. At family gatherings, they would always discuss our ancestors and relatives,” Ragland said.

From those family gatherings, Ragland learned about Fountain Gage

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The Rev. Wylheme Ragland has helped preserve Decatur’s history, contributing facts and documents to the Morgan County Archives, where he is shown. [JERONIMO NISA/LIVING 50 PLUS]

Ragland, a congregational preacher in Birmingham, who graduated in 1884 from Talladega College, and Mary Louise Ragland, who played on Talladega’s first women’s basketball team.


When enrolling at Jacksonville State University in 1969, Ragland declared history as his major.

“In my family, it wasn’t a matter of if you were going to college, it was

a matter of where you were going to college,” Ragland sand. “At that time, the integration of colleges was very new. Those of us Blacks who lived on campus were very few, but it was fun and we had great professors. Two of my favorite professors were Calvin Wingo and his wife Patricia Wingo. They opened up so many worlds to me. They were historians with integrity.”

During his senior year, Ragland, who graduated with a major in history and minors in sociology and English,

decided to pursue a future in the ministry.

“Initially I didn’t want to go into the ministry. I was focused on history. My love of people and love of the church, though, grew stronger and I realized ministry was my calling,” said Ragland, an eighth generation Methodist.

For Ragland, who grew up attending Haven United Methodist Church, a career in the ministry represented an extension of his childhood.

“We were at church all the time and went to all the activities. We went to Vacation Bible School, we were in the choir, Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts. If the doors were open, we were there. Unless you were deathly ill, you were going to church and if you were sick, you were sick for the whole week of activities other than school,” Ragland said.

At Emory University’s divinity school, Ragland studied church history. Like at Jacksonville State, Ragland was one of the few Black students at Emory.

Decatur Living 50 Plus 23
The Rev. Wylheme Ragland’s efforts to record the community’s history led to him serving on the Celebrating Early Old Town With Art board, which hopes to create a Scottsboro Boys museum in Northwest Decatur. [JERONIMO NISA/LIVING 50 PLUS] The Celebrating Early Old Town With Art hopes to transform this home in Northwest Decatur where the Rev. Wylheme Ragland is standing into a museum. It would tell the story of the Scottsboro Boys and Decatur’s role in a precedent-setting trial in the case. [JERONIMO NISA/LIVING 50 PLUS]

“In the divinity school, there may have been eight Black students. The whole university and grad school were becoming integrated, but people of color were still not a large population,” Ragland said. “Being in the minority never bothered me. In my family we were always taught to believe in ourselves and to not compare ourselves to others. I also had family members who had come before me and succeeded. I looked to them for inspiration.”

After graduating from Emory, Ragland was assigned to a church in Huntsville. In 1977, he was transferred to King’s Memorial in Northwest Decatur — where he stayed until his retirement in 2009.

“I knew about King’s before I came here. King’s was considered highsteepled and high-toned. Many of the educated Blacks in Decatur attended King’s Memorial. It was called the church of leaders and educators. They had ordered worship, sang from hymn books and had educated pastors who went to seminary, even in the 1880s, 1890s and 1900s,” Ragland said.


When Ragland arrived at King’s Memorial, his research into the fourth oldest church in Decatur, behind First Methodist, First Baptist and First Presbyterian, began. He learned about the church that first stood on the corner of Market and Oak Street and about how Wallace A. Rayfield, best known for designing the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, designed the King’s Memorial sanctuary in 1908. Rayfield also designed Decatur’s Wayman Chapel and First Missionary Baptist Church.

Ragland also researched the families of King’s Memorial, including the Banks and Schaudies families and Leon Sheffield, the first and only principal of Decatur’s all-Black high school, Lakeside.

“Leon Sheffield is descended from a slave who was freed in 1836. You see, once I get started on someone, I go

back. It is a joy to document the history of Blacks in our area,” Ragland said.

After retirement, Ragland, who received a doctorate in church history from Vanderbilt University, focused most of his time researching history at the Morgan County Archives, Huntsville Madison County Library, Lawrence County Archives, Miles College Archives, the University of Alabama and Clark Atlanta University.

“Wylheme is very meticulous and detailed, and not just in history, but in his sermons and Bible studies. He leaves no stone, no rock, no boulder unturned. He is committed to finding facts and to the accuracy of our history,” Towns said.

Ragland served on the United Methodist Church’s North Alabama Conference Society, the North Alabama Conference Commission on

Archives and History, the Morgan County Alabama Genealogical Society and the Celebrating Early Old Town with Art Board, which hopes to create a Scottsboro Boys museum in Northwest Decatur.

Ragland has provided the verbiage for many of the city’s markers, helped develop a brochure about AfricanAmericans for Decatur Morgan County Tourism, participated in the “Lift Every Voice and Sing” video, sat on the committee that led to Old Town being placed on the Alabama Historical Registry and National Registry of Historical Places, and created the Black Heritage Funeral Worship bulletins and obituaries collection.

The collection at the Morgan County Archives has more than 5,000 funeral bulletins.

24 Decatur Living 50 Plus
Wylheme Ragland with Etta Freeman during an unveiling in 2020 of a historic marker at the Carver Elementary School building on Church Street in Decatur. [DEANGELO MCDANIEL/FILE PHOTO]

“Those bulletins are important because they provide historical information on families, church affiliations and folks’ contributions to our city,” Towns said.

For his work in the community and dedication to researching history, Ragland was awarded the Brotherhood and Sisterhood Award for Outstanding Community Service from the National Conference for Community Justice, the Wheeler Archives and History Award from the United Methodist Church’s North Alabama Conference Historical Society and the Elbert Minter Award from the Morgan County Alabama Genealogical Society.

“I hope the community realizes there is a richness of history and family and patriotism in the Black community. I’m excited we are now

recognizing, writing about and discussing it so that we all will know and will all celebrate that history,” Ragland said.

Along with the Banks, Schaudies and Sheffields, some of the people Ragland researched that stand out to him are Winnie Parker, the first woman of color to own property in Decatur in the 1870s and Mack McGinnis, a survivor of the Hartselle Bank Robbery in 1926, and the Union soldiers of the 106th United States Colored Infantry Regiment, which was organized in Decatur.

“There are so many people that have a rich history, but no longer have family members. I really want to keep their name and memory alive. There’s a treasure trove of people out there just waiting to be researched,” Ragland said.

Decatur Living 50 Plus 25
The Rev. Wylheme Ragland stands in 2018 at the grave of World War I soldier Isaac Wohl in the Jewish section of Decatur City Cemetery. [JOHN GODBEY/FILE PHOTO] The Rev. Wylheme Ragland is shown practicing at King’s Memorial United Methodist Church, where he served as minister from 1977-2009. [DECATUR DAILY FILE PHOTO]

Nutrition Programs & Information

Elderly Nutrition Program

The Elderly Nutrition Program provides seniors 60+ nutritious meals and opportunities to be active while building new friendships.

Meals are served at local senior centers. In some areas, a meal delivery program is available to some homebound seniors who qualify.

The Elderly Nutrition Program is free for seniors.

SNAP Program

SNAP helps Alabama seniors 60+ buy healthy food at the grocery store. The amount of assistance received depends on the individual’s fixed income rate, number of people in the household, and high medical or living expenses.

Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program (SFMNP)

SFMNP is accepting applications for Farmers Market Vouchers. This program offers qualifying seniors* an opportunity to purchase fresh fruits, vegetables, herbs, and locally harvested honey from their local farmers market.

*Seniors must meet income and age requirements.

Contact Us for Assistance

Call 256-355-4515 to speak with NARCOG’s Aging and Disability Resource Center for screening and assistance in applying.

26 Decatur Living 50 Plus | | 216 Jackson St SE, Decatur, AL 35601 PO Box C 523097-1



Various changes are associated with aging, and these can be physical, mental and emotional. Though each person manages these changes in their own way, there’s no denying that social interaction can benefit people from all walks of life as they navigate their golden years.

The Foundation for Senior Care says socializing can give seniors a sense of purpose, stimulate the

Decatur Living 50 Plus 27

mind, relieve boredom, potentially prevent feelings of depression, and give individuals something to look forward to. The senior living center Aston Gardens says socialization provides a significant boost to

the cognitive health of older adults, helping to prevent or delay conditions that can affect memory. Individuals looking to cultivate healthy social interactions may turn to clubs and other groups. If there’s

a dearth of opportunities, individuals can start and promote their own social club using this useful guideline.


Social clubs can meet and be organized around any number of themes or interests. Social clubs may meet to discuss gardening, crocheting, reading, or other shared hobbies. Friends also may be interested in doing food and beverage sampling. In such instances, a luncheon social club makes perfect sense.


Meeting details can be posted in a community bulletin or on a message board at a local house of worship. However, the internet can be a speedy messenger and help like-minded people figure out how to connect. Facebook groups are one way to organize social clubs,

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as is the website The latter is a large online network of offline groups that meet all over the country and the world. The website makes it a snap to organize a local group or find an existing club.


Conduct a search of groups already meeting within a 50-mile radius to see if an existing group already meets your criteria. If not, proceed full speed ahead as you establish your own club.


Most people prefer a schedule so they can plan their days accordingly. Choose a regular meeting time and place to hold the social club; otherwise, it can be confusing to accommodate everyone. Inconsistency also can make it hard to get the club off the ground.


For those new to hosting social clubs, it may be better to begin with only a few members as everyone gets into a groove. As the group becomes more established, it can be opened up to more members. Although it may be

wise to cap membership so that things are more easily managed.

Social clubs are a great way for seniors to stay connected and active. When there isn’t one that meets a person’s interests, it’s relatively easy start one from scratch.

Decatur Living 50 Plus 29 5 2 3 0 8 71



Eleven years ago, a small group gathered inside the Carnegie Visual Arts Center to discuss ways to raise money for the nonprofit arts center. From that meeting came an idea for a Mardi Gras-style fundraiser. They called it Carnegie Carnival,

which has become one of the most popular events in Decatur, attracting thousands every year to the city’s downtown streets.

“We want to have fun, promote art and creativity and boost retail sales. We hope this is good for everyone,” Kim Mitchell, director of the Carnegie Visual Arts Center, said at the time.

Since the debut of Carnegie Carnival in 2012, the event has netted more than $1 million.

One of the people instrumental since the event’s inception is Margaret Wenzler, a longtime member of the arts center, the first queen of Carnegie Carnival and a founding member of Joe Cain’s Merry Widows and Mistresses of Decatur.

30 Decatur Living 50 Plus
Margaret Wenzler served as the first queen of Carnegie Carnival. [FILE PHOTO]

For Wenzler, who preferred not to give her age, but was north of 50 when she was crowned queen in 2012, participating in Carnegie Carnival served as a way to support the arts in Decatur.

From a young age, Wenzler, whose grandfather came to America from Switzerland with a packet of sketches of Lucerne and whose mother taught herself how to paint at the age of 56, knew the importance of art.

“Art is in my soul,” said Wenzler, who in the past painted with acrylics and watercolor and now considers her garden her art. “Art is so important. From an early age, it’s a way an individual can express their feelings. It’s very important for our young people to have, not only hands-on art experiences, but also be exposed to music. I think Decatur is fulfilling that through the Carnegie, Orchestra Sul Ponticello and the Decatur Civic Chorus.”

During her run for Carnegie Carnival queen, Wenzler asked friends to vote for her by donating $5 to the Carnegie. Wenzler’s goal was to raise enough money for the Carnegie to continue to bring in talented artists displaying different mediums.

Like others involved in the Carnegie Carnival since its debut, Wenzler had no idea how popular the event would become.

Now, dozens of events hosted by prospective kings, queens, princes, princesses and canines fill the calendar from the Twelfth Night celebration, held Jan. 6, to the Carnegie Carnival. This year’s lineup includes a trivia contest, fashion show, wine tasting, drag queen Bingo, cornhole tournament, bowling tournament, steak cook-off and more.

Money raised through the Carnegie Carnival has allowed the Carnegie to display art from the Gee’s Bend Quilters, Fairhope sculpture artist Bruce Larsen,

Decatur Living 50 Plus 31
Margaret Wenzler is a founding member of Joe Cain’s Merry Widows and Mistresses of Decatur. [COURTESY PHOTO].

Birmingham folk artist Mose Tolliver and more. The funds also allowed the Carnegie to expand summer camps for children, bring art to the Somerville Library, plant a natural dye garden and

install an exhibit at the Huntsville International Airport.

“The amount coming in is astounding and, along with aiding the Carnegie, it’s aiding other organizations in Decatur,” Wenzler

said. “I hope this event continues to inspire the lives of all who enjoy the experience of Carnegie Carnival.”

Proceeds from Carnegie Carnival will benefit the Carnegie Visual Arts Center, CASA of North Alabama, which provides advocates for abused and/or neglected children, and Paws 52 Rescue, a foster-based animal rescue in Morgan County.

The 2023 Carnegie Carnival, which will take place Feb. 18, includes a children’s parade, a canine parade and an evening parade.

The Carnegie Carnival schedule includes the Carnival Frolic halfmarathon at 7 a.m., Mardi Gras bluegrass bands beginning at noon at the Brick Deli and featuring the Calhoun Community College Jazz Band, Nitrate City, Blagburn and Diablo Sandwich and the Dr. Peppers, children’s games and art station at 12:30 p.m. at the Morgan County-Decatur Farmers Market, the prince and princess parade at 12:30 p.m., the canine parade at 2:30 p.m., a free showing of “The Princess and the Frog” at the Princess Theatre at 3 p.m., and the Carnegie Carnival parade at 6 p.m.

32 Decatur Living 50 Plus
Margaret Wenzler’s love of the arts spurred her to join the Carnegie Visual Arts Center and participate in Carnegie Carnival. This year’s parade was scheduled for Feb. 18. [COURTESY PHOTO] Margaret Wenzler at her crowning as Carnegie Carnival queen in 2012. [COURTESY PHOTO]

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Decatur Living 50 Plus 33
10 11 12
Margaret Wenzler, bottom right, with the other Joe Cain’s Merry Widows and Mistresses Carnegie Carnival Queens: Ginger Vandiver, bottom left, Ginny Vinson, top left, and Shelia Motley, top right. [COURTESY PHOTO]


Having children or grandchildren getting married can be stressful for everyone involved, but local wedding coordinators say being supportive is the key to parents, grandparents and the new couple having a good time at the wedding.

Carlee Koehler, owner of the Event Planner event coordination service in Huntsville, said showing support is the best way for a wedding to go smoothly.

“This is likely the biggest day of your child or grandchild’s life up to this point, so having positive family support, not just on the wedding day, but throughout the planning process, can mean the difference between it being a treasured experience and a nightmare they’d rather forget,” she said.

Juanita Healy, 74, of Hartselle, a former wedding coordinator and

grandmother of two brides in 2021, said showing that understanding can make or break a wedding.

“Don’t add to their stress,” she said. “This is their day. Don’t be difficult! Be cooperative, sit back and enjoy your beautiful children or grandchildren and be proud of them.”

Stress is inevitable on a wedding day. When Tina Bartlett’s daughter

got married, the family experienced travel delays right before the rehearsal dinner.

Bartlett, 60, of Decatur, stayed determined to still be positive and give the bride and groom a good day, despite all odds.

“I just threw up my hands and thought, ‘What happens, happens. We are going to enjoy ourselves no matter what,’” she said. “It’s all in the mindset when it’s that close. I didn’t want to upset the bride and groom.”

Though all flights were canceled, the family had good communication and was able to band together to pile into two cars to drive from St. Louis for the wedding.

Healy agreed that being understanding and communicative about the stresses of a huge event like a wedding will take you far with the bride and groom during planning.

“Remember you are blending two families,” she said. “You have a lot of people and a lot of traditions.”

34 Decatur Living 50 Plus
Juanita Healy Vicki Bramlett Adams shows the dress she used at her son’s wedding. Adams, 54, a bridal consultant at The Something Blue Shoppe dress shop in Hartselle, said simply talking to the bride and groom about planned colors and themes can create a conflict-free way to complement the couple’s wedding looks and match outfits for photos. [JERONIMO NISA/LIVING 50 PLUS]


Money is most one of the biggest stressors of weddings.

Erica Thimsen, owner of Helping Hand parties and weddings in Huntsville, said that the gentle support and communication that starts with alleviating stress should follow through to financial matters.

“Weddings tend to be a big business, and girls have their minds set on different things,” she said. “Be supportive of what they want and make sure it’s realistic on what

they can have as far as budget goes.”

Although some traditions dictate one family pays for the wedding and the other pays for the reception, the 21st century has flipped every custom on its head. Many couples want to handle wedding expenses on their own, Koehler said.

“For some families, financing the wedding can indicate a level of assumable control,” she said. “Even the most well-meaning family members believe that they are somehow entitled to a say in decisions the couple is

making if they are paying for all or part of the wedding.”

She and Healy said being upfront about expectations you have after paying for the event is crucial to an easier planning period.

“With weddings you have a whole lot of opinions” Healy said. “Don’t hesitate to share those early in planning, then step back.”

That expectation of control can present itself in different ways, whether it be the venue, the dress, or the guest list.

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Vicki Adams shows a dress at The Something Blue Shoppe in Hartselle that a parent or grandparent of the bride or groom might wear to the wedding. [JERONIMO NISA/LIVING 50 PLUS] Vicki Adams says mothers and grandmothers of the bride and groom should select dresses that satisfy the wedding couple but also make “you feel beautiful, too.” [JERONIMO NISA]

“Weddings can be a powder keg for any unpleasant and pre-existing family dynamics,” Koehler said. “Be in tune to the dynamics that already exist and anticipate how they might flare up during wedding planning so you can choose how you want to respond.”

Healy, Koehler and Thimsen all agreed having a dependable wedding planner can help you ensure everything will run easily during events celebrating the marriage.

“Use someone who is organized, dependable and will take charge,” Healy said. “Even if you use a friend or relative, make sure they are really up to the responsibilities.”

Hiring a planner can also make sure you have time to actually enjoy your child or grandchild’s wedding instead of having to worry throughout the entire event.

“The planner takes care of all the details and everything that may go wrong,” Thimsen said. “They greet vendors, they know what the bride wants, so you can enjoy all the special things and celebrate.”


Anyone who’s landed on TLC while flipping channels has seen the drama involved in choosing wedding attire.

“Parents and grandparents should really begin thinking about their wedding attire at the same time the bride does,” said Vicki Adams, 54, a bridal consultant at The Something Blue Shoppe dress shop in Hartselle. “Start looking as soon as you can so that you have many options.”

She said some designers can take up to six months to make dresses, but some have better-stocked options.

Koehler said to be careful not to outdress the bride on the wedding day.

“We have seen many family members, and even members of the wedding party, who forget that it’s a day for the couple to be at the center of all the attention,” she said.

Adams said simply talking to the couple about planned colors and themes can create a conflict-free way to complement the couple’s wedding looks and match outfits for photos.

“Ask the bride and groom what they would love to see you wear to their wedding,” she said. “Then you can choose a dress that reflects what they are thinking you will look great in but makes you feel beautiful, too.”

Although you want to feel welldressed, the couple’s happiness with wardrobe is most important, even if you may disapprove of their choices.

“When you come to shop for (the bride’s) wedding gown, be supportive,” she said. “The dress she chooses may not be your cup of tea, and so many times brides look to their loved ones for reassurance that she looks beautiful in the gown she’s saying yes to.

“Support comes in so many different ways.”

She said being kind and supportive while a child or grandchild shops for wedding attire can strengthen your relationship with them.

“Try to just share your love by staying supportive thought the entire process, and you will have the time of your life. You might even shed a happy tear.”

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Vacations to faraway destinations can make lasting memories that families cherish forever. Though day trips might not require the planning of more traditional vacations, these brief getaways can still be a great way to spend a day, especially for seniors.

Day trips typically are based around visits to historic attractions, shopping districts, restaurants, or museums. Since they don’t require much in the way of advanced planning, and tend to be easy on the wallet, day trips are ideal for those looking for short getaways.

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When considering day trips, seniors should look for locales that are no more than two to three hours away. Such proximity ensures travelers will have plenty of time to see the sights and still get home at a reasonable hour.

Need day trip inspiration? Here are some ideas to get started.


Botanical gardens are beautiful and relaxing places to spend a day. The Botanic Gardens Conservation International reports that there are between 296 to 1,014 botanical gardens and arboretums in the United States, while there are roughly 70 botanic gardens across Canada. People can tour topiaries, exotic plants, butterfly retreats, acres of rolling landscape, and even bonsai collections.


Touring historic places of register, like Colonial Williamsburg or areas of historic Boston, can be a hands-on way to learn about the country’s history. They can provide more personal experiences than books and movies alone.


Interacting with wildlife is on the itinerary when visiting zoos and aquariums, and such establishments typically offer discounted admissions to seniors. From the famed San Diego

Zoo to the Georgia Aquarium, it’s possible to get up close and personal with many species.


A recent study from Wine & Vines magazine said there are 8,391 wineries in North America, and that number is on the rise. One is likely to find a winery to visit and sample the wares close to home. Make a day of it by bringing a picnic lunch.


Museums are ideal day trip destinations because many are indoors. That means weather never needs to be an issue while visiting. With historic artifacts, paintings, sculptures, or niche items like pop art or collectibles, there are museums for just about every interest. For example, railway enthusiasts can visit the National Railroad Museum in Wisconsin, one of the oldest railroad museums in the country.


Certain town centers and tourist destinations organize restaurant events where day trippers can enjoy tasting menus from various establishments for a single price. Day trips also can culminate at one specific restaurant. A new restaurant can be visited each month.

Day trips are enjoyable ventures that seniors can enjoy when they want to get out but not necessarily get away.

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St. Patrick ’ s Day


St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated each year on March 17. St. Patrick was a larger-than-life figure who has been ingrained in Irish culture and was the catalyst for a holiday celebration that now stretches around the world.

Much of what is shared about St. Patrick is based on folklore and exaggerated storytelling, according to historians. Snakes famously banished from Ireland? Snakes have never existed on the island to even be banished! Getting to the truth of St. Patrick the man takes a little digging through the fanciful tales.


St. Patrick was born to a wealthy family in modern-day Great Britain near the end of the fourth century. There is no evidence that Patrick came from a particularly religious family, and says it was likely Patrick’s father became a Christian

deacon because of tax incentives and not religious devotion.

Patrick only arrived in Ireland after being taken prisoner by a group of Irish raiders who attacked his family’s estate. He spent ages 16 to 22 in captivity and was likely held in County Mayo.


Patrick spent many hours working outdoors as a shepherd during his imprisonment. Being afraid and likely lonely, he found comfort in his religion and became a devout Christian. As Ireland was largely pagan at this time, he began dreaming of converting the Irish people to Christianity.

Even though Patrick escaped imprisonment, believing it was the voice of God telling him it was time to leave, once he returned to Britain, he had a second revelation that he should return to Ireland as a missionary. It was then his religious training began, and it lasted more than 15 years.

Eventually Patrick was ordained a priest and began ministering to Christians already living in Ireland and converting others.


The shamrock, also known as a three-leaf clover, and formerly the “seamroy” by the Celts, was a sacred plant that symbolized spring. St. Patrick, according to legend, used this familiar plant as a visual guide to explain the Holy Trinity of Christianity. By the 17th century, the shamrock had become a symbol of emerging Irish nationalism, according to

St. Patrick is well known in Ireland and elsewhere in part because of the legends about his days on earth. The true history sheds even more light on the man behind the legend. ion.

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cannot see. For example, metabolism slows as individuals grow older, and aging also can lead to a decrease in bone density and muscle mass. These changes affect how men and women at or nearing retirement age should approach their diets in recognition of the various ways their nutritional needs change at this point in their lives. Any modifications to a diet should first be discussed with a physician, but the following are some ways aging adults can use diet to combat age-related changes to their bodies.

The human body is a marvel. How the body transforms over the course of an individual’s life is one of its more remarkable qualities, and those changes never cease, even as individuals near retirement age.

The changes associated with aging include physical transformations but also more subtle shifts the naked eye

BeGood ToYourself

· Prioritize protein. The authors of a 2010 study published in the journal Current Opinion in Nutrition and Metabolic Care recommended that older adults consume between 25 and 30 grams of protein with each meal. The researchers behind the study concluded that such consumption could limit inactivity-mediated losses of muscle mass and function.

· Overcome reduced production of vitamin D. WebMD notes that people over 65 typically experience a decrease in natural production of vitamin D. Vitamin D is not naturally found in many foods, so aging men and women may need to rely on supplementation to ensure their bodies get enough of it. Vitamin D helps with antiinflammation, immune system support and muscle function, among other benefits. So it’s vital that aging men and women find ways to get sufficient vitamin D.

· Consume ample dietary fiber. The National Resource Center on Nutrition & Aging notes that fiber plays an important role in the health of older adults. Fiber has been linked with heart health, healthy digestion, feeling full, and preventing constipation, which the online medical resource Healthline notes is a common health problem among the elderly. Though the NRCNA notes that older adults need slightly less fiber than their younger counterparts, it’s still a vital component of a nutritious diet. The feeling of fullness that fiber consumption can provide also is significant, as it can ensure adults who aren’t burning as many calories as they used to aren’t overeating in order to feel satisfied. That can make it easier for such adults to maintain a healthy weight.

· vitamin B12. The NRCNA notes that vitamin B12 is involved in a host of important functions in the body, including nerve function and the formation of red blood cells. Vitamin B12 is most easily found in animal products, which many aging men and women must largely avoid due to other health concerns. In such instances, men and women can discuss supplementation with their physicians as well as alternative food sources of B12, such as fortified cereals, salmon and other items.

Bodily changes related to aging increase the likelihood that men and women will need to alter their diets in order to maintain their overall health.

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