Holland stays busy as Ms. Alabama Nursing Home

Sylvia Holland, Ms. Alabama Nursing Home 2015, shows off some of her crafts in her room at Woodhaven Manor Nursing Home in Demopolis, Ala. (Photo by Jan McDonald)

Sylvia Holland, Ms. Alabama Nursing Home 2015, shows off some of her crafts and mementos in her room at Woodhaven Manor Nursing Home in Demopolis, Ala. (Photo by Jan McDonald)

By Jan McDonald

Special to The Watchman

Most people, when they turn 88, look back on their lives, remembering good times and bad and perhaps taking it easy.

Not Sylvia Holland. On her birthday Oct. 27, she may take a little time to celebrate, but she also will continue filling her days with making dollhouses, creating paper flowers or continuing to teach herself how to water color.

Holland will be honored at a reception Thursday, Oct. 22, at Woodhaven Manor Nursing Home as the reigning Ms. Alabama Nursing Home. She received the crown July 27 at a pageant in Birmingham when she represented Woodhaven as a top 10 finalist for the honor.

Holland has been a resident of Woodhaven since March of 2014. After a very active life she got so sick that she called her children and began planning her funeral.

“I fooled ‘em,” she joked. “The Lord had another plan.”

One of her sons, Gary Brown, an engineer at West Rock, brought her to Demopolis and found a place for her at Woodhaven.

I’ve always had a real desire to learn things, make things,” she said. She was pleasantly surprised. Like many other people she had the idea that nursing homes were where old folks went to die. She had no idea how active she would be. “I have been very happy here,” she said.

The services at Woodhaven are great, she explained, and the staff are very caring. The day is filled with a lot of good activities, but she also enjoys sitting on the porch and swapping stories or recipes with other residents.

“I wake up thankful for every day,” she said. “Happiness comes from within.”

Holland won her first glittering crown when she competed in the Woodhaven pageant. From the information sent to the state, she was chosen to be among the top 10 out of 62 entrants.

Her background was impressive. Holland and her late husband Earl had four children of their own, adopted two and fostered many others. She now has two granddaughters, four grandsons and eight great-grandchildren.

In addition to being a wife and mother, she sold World Book encyclopedias and Child Craft books for 25 years, worked in two antique shops, handled estate sales and even was a dental assistant. Holland also was a Cub Scout volunteer for many years and can boast that she has four Eagle Scouts as sons or grandsons.

To prepare for the state competition, she had to answer 10 questions. The one she remembers most vividly is to name one gift she would give to the world and why. Her answer: love.

“God is love. If you have love, you have joy, peace and hope,” she said.

As Ms. Alabama Nursing Home, Holland is asked to speak frequently. Locally she has appeared at the Rotary Club and Pilot Club meetings and to foster parents with the Marengo County Department of Human Resources. Already she has traveled to Birmingham for three appearances, and more are planned.

She especially enjoyed riding “in a beautiful yellow convertible” for the Demopolis High School Homecoming Parade.

In her section of the room she shares at Woodhaven, Holland has every available space filled with the crafts she makes. The most popular are her dollhouses.

Using empty medical supply boxes, Holland creates “rooms” using photos cut from such magazines as Southern Living. The outside of the boxes feature cutouts of doors, windows and landscapes.

She creates curtains using scraps of fabric and then constructs furniture using tissue boxes with colorful designs. As a final touch she includes a doll.

So popular have the dollhouses become that Holland has a hard time keeping up with the demand. So far she has made and given away 52 of them. She keeps a folder of all the thank you notes from the children.

Her paper flowers are made from dyed coffee filters, and they have found their way throughout the nursing home to create a cheerful atmosphere.

Now she is embarking on a new challenge – teaching herself to water color. Holland’s favorite subjects are birds and flowers, which can be found on her greeting cards. What she most would like is a teacher to show her how to lay a water color background.

“I’ve always had a real desire to learn things, make things,” she said.