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Local nursing center residents excel

Ben Hillyer | The Natchez Democrat — Adams County Nursing Center residents Lynn Smith, right, and Mellany Lee recently were honored for excelling using their respective talents. Smith won first place on the bocce ball court at the Special Olympics in November. One of Lee’s drawings is featured in the Mississippi Health Care Foundation 2013 calendar.

One’s an artist. The other’s an athlete. But both have taken their talents and represented not only themselves but the Adams County Nursing Center where they reside, across the state.

Lynn Smith

When Lynn Smith was asked to give bocce bowling a try for the Mississippi state Special Olympics, she wasn’t sure she was ready to give up the other competitions she had done in the past, wheelchair racing and the softball throw.

When she tried it, however, she found that even as she missed the other sports, she loved bocce.

And she was good. Good enough, in fact, to win first place at the Special Olympics in November.

Bocce is an Italian game similar to lawn bowling, and Smith had some experience with 10-pin alley bowling, but the road to being the top bocce player still took its share of work.

Smith was going back to the Olympics after taking a year off, and she had to get her strength and mobility back.

“When I took the year off, it kind of threw me off,” she said. “I got a little weak, and I had to get my throwing back in order. If you’re not strong, you can’t put that ball where it needs to go.”

Smith was born with cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair, and she said the sports help her mobility. When playing bocce, she leans over one side of the chair, cocking her arm at a 45-degree angle behind her hip, and then she lets the ball fly.

“You don’t want to pull your arm all the way back, because if you do that you’ll actually be throwing it too hard,” she said.

Leading up to the state games, Smith had a few test runs at the contest. She traveled to Kessler Air Force Base in Biloxi in July for a competition, but there was a problem. The bocce box was closed, restricting her wheelchair access.

“I had two airmen stand on each side of me, pick me up and put me in the box,” she said.

Between competitions, it was practice, practice, and practice. Smith and her coach would set up the bocce on the lawn behind the nursing center and knuckle down.

“I would be out there in the field all day long when it comes to practice for state,” Smith said.

And when the time came, she was prepared.

“It kind of depends who I am going against if I am going to be nervous,” Smith said. “But I focus, and I am not nervous. I am just being myself.”

Now that the bocce season has come to a close, Smith’s taking a break from the sport, but only sort of; in January, she’ll return to 10-pin bowling.

Mellany Lee

Mellany Lee has always liked to draw.

Actually, “liked” is probably the wrong word. By her own account, she has an innate compulsion that sometimes takes control of her fingers and directs a pen across a piece of paper until pictures appear.

“I draw several times a week,” she said. “It is relaxing to do that, to be able to draw — it relaxes you. There is nothing like closing a door by yourself, taking a pen and pad and being able to create.”

“A lot of what I do, it just comes, I shut the door and then I have a picture.”

So it wasn’t surprising to Lee when a nursing center staffer approached her about entering a contest put on by the Mississippi Health Care Association and the Mississippi Health Care Foundation.

The artwork from the winners of the contest is featured in a 2013 wall calendar published by the MHCF. All of the entrants in the contest were residents of Mississippi nursing facilities, and the proceeds from the sale of the calendar go to benefit MHCF activities and improve the quality of care for Mississippi nursing home residents.

Among the artists selected, Lee’s pen and paper drawing of a horse and buggy in front of a log cabin is unique because it is the only black and white image selected for the calendar.

“I like to use pen and paper so well because of the detail it allows,” she said. “You get a lot more detail when you do it this way than when you do something with oils or acrylic.”

Lee said the picture was inspired in part by her surroundings and in part by family history.

The horse and buggy are meant to belong to her great-great-uncle John Jay Robertson, who fought in the Civil War in Cobb’s Army. During the war, Robertson was wounded and prayed to God that if he was allowed to live he would find a way to give back to people who were in need.

He did that after the war, Lee said, by becoming a doctor and traveling throughout Jefferson County, providing health care to those who could not travel to a doctor.

“Being here in a nursing home, you see a lot of doctors and nurses come and go, and that put me in mind of him,” Lee said.

“I visualized what an old cabin in Jefferson County he would have gone to would have looked like, and this is what I made.”

Being selected for the calendar is honor enough, Lee said, but even as she appreciates the recognition she isn’t going to let it go to her head.

“The good Lord gave me the talent, and I am never going to charge anyone who asks me to draw them a picture for it,” she said.

Copies of the calendar can be ordered online at www.mshca.com/foundation/default.htm.






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