On an early, school-day morning in 2004, Andrea Covey maneuvered her car through the streets of Beckley, West Virginia on her way to work, just as she had for more than 30 years.
Suddenly, as a group of stunned schoolchildren watched from a nearby school bus stop, Covey’s car veered off the road, scaled an embankment and plunged 30 feet over the side of the road.
Only later that afternoon in a hospital in Charleston, 80 miles away, did doctors discover that Covey had suffered a stroke and a heart attack behind the wheel and miraculously survived the crash.
Sadly, though, her 34-year career in education ended that day.
Covey, now 66, spent three months in the hospital and then joined her brother and sister-in-law near their home in Florida where she lived for six years.
In 2010, Covey moved to Lexington with Charlie and Carol Covey and into Richmond Place Retirement Community’s Rehabilitation and Health Center on Palumbo Drive where she has lived comfortably since.
But a disappointment still nagged at Covey – she never got to say good-bye to her colleagues, friends, relatives and students at Maxwell Hill Elementary in Beckley.
Enter Jeremy Bloom’s Wish of a Lifetime foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to granting life-enriching wishes to older Americans.
Through a partnership with Richmond Place and Brookdale Senior Living Community, Wish of a Lifetime identified Covey as an ideal candidate for its program.
Over the years, 200 Brookdale residents have received wishes from Bloom’s foundation.
“We knew her story a little bit and had heard her say, ‘If I had one wish… I never got to say good-bye,’” said Jill Sapp, Assistant Director of Lifestyles of Richmond Place. “We knew she would really appreciate this.”
Yes, she did. And it was no simple undertaking.
Because of Covey’s health, she and her brother and his wife traveled in a van with a nurse, a wheelchair and an assistant.
So off they went on the second weekend in February, through the winding mountainous roads of West Virginia.
Remember all the mild weather we enjoyed this winter? Not this weekend. Beckley received seven inches of snow.
But nothing was going to stop Covey – nor her old friends in Beckley who rolled out the red carpet for her.
“It was great. They had it all planned for me,” Covey said.
When they arrived at the school, Andrea Covey’s name was on the marquee, and she was greeted by principal Larry Farley and the guidance counselor Judy Farley.
They escorted her to her old classroom and her desk in the kindergarten room where she was a teacher’s aide for more than 20 years.
With a small crowd of well-wishers looking on (lots of people attended despite the atrocious weather), Covey was presented with a thank you plaque.
“Everybody couldn’t have been nicer,” Covey said. “I was absolutely amazed. It was fabulous.”
Especially when a reporter from the local TV station showed up at the school. Turns out the young man was one of Covey’s former students.
“He had wanted to be a reporter since he was in kindergarten,” said Covey, who added with a laugh and a twinkle in her eye: “I got him on his way.”
After the school ceremony, Covey still had places and friends to visit. She met with a cousin, an old friend and her oldest living relative, Aunt Katherine Covey.
Later, she visited the graves of her parents, plus her old houses and the home of her grandmother – a log cabin that still stands in Raleigh County.
“I got to see everything,” Covey said. “It was great.”
Equally gratified was Charlie, who manages his sister’s finances and maintains the close relationship they have shared since childhood.
“Without this experience, she never would have been able to go back,” he said.
“We had to have the van, the nurse, medicine, everything. It was really impressive what they did for my sister.”