A Loving Gift Returned

Helen Roseberry’s Nieces Find a Home Nearby For Their Beloved Aunt

roseberry-familyWhen retired artist Helen Roseberry needed to be closer to family, it was only natural that she wound up living near her twin nieces, Cheryl and Karen, in Tanbark Senior Living Community.

After all, Aunt Helen, who never married, had always been there for them. The twins grew up in Tennessee about 100 miles from East Tennessee State University where Helen was the director of the school’s art museum.

Barely a weekend passed without the twins visiting their aunt or Helen making the 100-mile drive to be with them.

“She has been a vital part of our lives,” said Karen Jamison, an activities director at Ephraim McDowell Hospital in Danville.

“As an adult when I lived in Tennessee, I moved about five times and each time, Helen moved to be my neighbor.”

Cheryl Faul, a speech-language pathologist at Thomson-Hood Veterans Center in Wilmore, has similar stories, recalling that she lived with Helen when she attended college at East Tennessee State.

“I remember one time I was having a roommate issue,” Cheryl said. “It was about midnight and I called Helen and said I needed to move in with her. She said, ‘I’ll be right there.’

“That’s the way it has also been with her.”

No wonder when the twins celebrate Mother’s Day, they always include Helen.

Four years ago, it became clear to the twins that Helen, who lived in Gray, Tennessee far from any relatives, needed family nearby.

A proud, independent woman, Helen took some persuading before she agreed to move to Nicholasville and live with Cheryl and her husband Brian and their daughters Janie and Marlee, now, 20 and 18.

Three generations under one roof posed no problems because the whole family loved Helen.

“We homeschooled our daughters and Helen played a big part in their education,” Cheryl said.

“She taught them art and exposed them to a wealth of resources that we couldn’t have provided for them.

“My children just love her.”

In January, Helen accompanied Karen, her husband Bill and their children Ethan, 25, Chloie, 22, Forrest, 11, and Karen’s niece Cassie, 23, on their annual vacation to Gatlinburg.

It’s a trip her family has made with Helen for more than 20 years.

On the vacation, Helen suffered congestive heart failure and was hospitalized before she was moved to a Tennessee nursing home for two months.

“We didn’t know if she was going to make it, but she rallied and we could finally bring her back home,” Karen said.

Helen moved into Tanbark, starting in the rehab wing of the community before she moved into her own apartment where she now enjoys a comfortable, engaged life.

A natural friend-maker, Helen has her “tablemates” as she calls them, and participates in a wide assortment of activities.

She no longer creates sculpture and woven materials like she did as an artist who displayed her work in galleries and museums in Tennessee, but she takes part in creative painting at Tanbark.

She attends regular fitness classes, even though she’s been slowed – but not stopped – by a sore hip.

She plays memory games, watches movies and is an avid sports fan, adopting the UK basketball team as one of her favorites.

Her twin nieces aren’t surprised at how Helen has thrived at Tanbark.

Living there assures Helen freedom and independence. That’s always how she has lived her life.

Born and raised in Tennessee, Helen, 83, earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from East Tennessee State, worked as a teacher for 13 years and then served as the university’s museum director for three decades.

Along with sculpture and crafts, she also pursued photography and participated in a documentary about snake handlers.

It was quite a story. Helen and the crew arrived at a church in a small rural town, and interviewed and filmed parishioners during a service in which the preacher was bitten by a snake.

Forgoing any medical help, the congregation took the preacher home and lay hands and prayed over him.

He survived, but a few years later he died from another snake bite.

Helen also noticed that during the ceremony the preacher diluted carbon tetrachloride with water in a plastic cup, apparently intending to drink it. But the poisonous solution disintegrated the cup.

What did Helen make of these strange doings?

“It was enlightening, fascinating,” she said. “These people believed in what they thought the Bible taught them.

They were very kind to us and I became attached to them.”

She’s now attached to the folks at Tanbark, saying, “I absolutely love it here. I’ve made many friends and the staff is great.”

That’s comforting to Cheryl and Karen, who visit their aunt regularly.

“This gives us real peace of mind. It’s been a blessing for us,” Karen said.

Added Cheryl: “She is doing wonderfully there. This has been an answered prayer.”