Queen of cards — Making smiles one card at a time

By Rachel Robles, Lifestyles editor | Apr 29, 2014
Photo by: Rachel Robles THE CARD QUEEN — Flora Burress, wearing her special Easter hat, holds up one of the many cards she's made for the residents and staff at Silver Bluff.

Nursing homes aren’t always the most cheerful places, but one resident at Silver Bluff Village in Canton is doing her part to brighten people’s lives.

At 98-years old, Flora Burress’s hobby is making cards. She takes old cards that friends and family member send her or ones that are donated, cuts out the pictures and special passages with decorative pinking shears and makes brand new cards with colorful construction paper. She especially likes to take the cards people send her, turn them into new cards and send them back.

“She tries to fool them and see if they remember the card they sent her,” said Caroline Trapman, Burress’s friend and one of her regular visitors.

“The Lord laid it on my heart to do it when I was at Pigeon Valley Rest Home, but I started doing it when I moved to Silver Bluff,” said Burress.

“She tries to make each one special for somebody,” said Trapman.

“I do it to glorify him,” said Burress. “And I just wanted to do something to lift up these little people who sit here with nothing to do. I go up to them, and I lay my hands on them, and I tell them, ‘We’re not here alone. God would never leave us or forsake us.’”

Burress watches the calendar and makes special birthday cards for the residents and nurses. She’s made over 100 cards since December. Most recently, she's been making special cards with the Lord's prayer in them.

Born Nov. 30, 1915, Burress grew up in Haywood County. She attended North Canton Elementary School until the sixth grade. After that, she hoed corn, picked beans and stayed with elderly neighbors who needed help for $3 a week. When she was 50-years old, she took the training to become a certified nursing assistant at Haywood Community College.

Burress is the oldest living member and mother at Ridgeway Baptist Church. She used to manage the church’s clothes closet that furnished clothing to needy families of coal miners in Virginia.

“The Lord left me here for something, and I’ll do what he tells me,” said Burress.

She gives credit to having such a sharp mind at her age to the fact that she keeps her hands busy.

“She keeps her hands busy and her mind keeps going,” said Trapman.

She makes beaded necklaces and bracelets and also used to crochet, but gave it up and donated all her crochet materials to Long’s Chapel. She made several afghans for members of the church and says that when she dies, she wants “one of those pretty afghans on my casket” instead of flowers.

“Send me the flowers while I’m alive,” said Burress.

Trapman and Burress first met when Trapman’s mother was a resident at Silver Bluff. She even went to school with Burress’s daughter, Shirely Johnson Phillip, and were members of the first graduating class at Pisgah High School.

“She’s just my best friend,” said Trapmen. “My mom was so bad — she had dementia — I’d leave in tears. After she passed, I continued seeing Flora, and I just leave here smiling.”

Burress has lost a son, a daughter, three daughters-in-law, and her roommate, Nellie Mae Simpson, with whom she was very close. She has one living son and eight granddaughters. Though despite her personal tragedies, she continues to put others first.

“She was upset with the condition of the plants in the dining room,” said Trapman. “So we took them to the greenhouse, fixed them up, cleaned them off, shined up their leaves and cared for them. They bloomed within a month.”

“I want to do something that’s helpful to people,” said Burress.

She sent five rose bushes that were gifted to her at various times to Pigeon Valley to line the walkway into the building. And the Easter basket of flowers she received from her son, after sitting in her room for about a week, would be sent to the nurses’ station near her room for all the residents and staff members to enjoy.

“She enjoys her life,” said Trapman. “She enjoys every day.”

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