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Ernestine_Tew

Ernestine Tew’s homemade sun visor never fails to make her smile.

“You’re fabulous,” it reads, sentiment courtesy of Riverside Healthy Living Community – Smithfield’s Martha Hunt, who helped Tew make it.

“Remember, you’re fabulous!” Hunt reminds regularly when dropping in Tew’s apartment in the assisted living area of the community, called Magnolia Manor. Usually she’s got hot coffee in hand if it’s morning or an ice cream snack if it’s afternoon. Sometimes she’s brings a new book on tape; Tew loves those.

“It’s a really nice place here,” said Tew, 97. “I have some bad days, but when I do, someone is always dropping by who inspires and helps me.”

She reflects on her storied past with gratitude and looks forward to what each day brings with enthusiasm, even weathering the social distance precautions necessary to prevent the spread of COVID-19 with an unwavering positivity. 

“Everybody here has been really nice to me and really good to me,” she says. “We’re not able to get together and be as close as we used to, but we still have plenty of activities. Martha takes care of us.”

The youngest of eight children, Tew hails originally from North Carolina. She and husband Clinton were married just 17½ years when she lost him to a massive heart attack. The couple had two children, and she remembers with fondness that she was able to stay home with both during their formative years. 

“We didn’t need a TV in every room; we did without, so I could stay home,” she said. “We made out real good.”

Later, Tew went to work at now-defunct dime store S.H. Kress and then Wachovia Bank. She’s always been good with her hands, whether it’s knitting, crocheting or quilting. A few of her quilting designs hang on the walls of her apartment.

“I like pretty things,” she said.

Tew is a great, great grandmother and especially enjoys seeing her granddaughter Heather and her children, who live nearby in Smithfield. While COVID-19 prevents in-person visits, Tew was tickled on Mother’s Day by a special surprise. Hunt arranged for family members of residents to drive by and wave.

“It was a parade of cars, and they drove real slow,” said Tew, who met Heather’s eyes. “I didn’t even know they were coming until I saw their faces.”