Six brothers and sisters stood outside of St. Mary’s Nursing and Rehabilitation Center on Wednesday, holding a sign that spelled out “We love you mom” with each person’s name on the back.
They looked up in a window on the fourth floor to see their mom, Eleanor Ann Fearns of Leonardtown, smiling and looking down on them.
Eleanor Fearns, 95, was placed in the nursing home about three weeks ago. She suffers from dementia. Last week, Gov. Larry Hogan (R) made several restrictions about social gatherings due to the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, including restricting visitors from nursing homes.
The Fearns siblings wanted to do something special for their mom “since we can’t communicate with her. She doesn’t have a phone with her at this time,” Joe Fearns, one of her sons, said.
A phone had yet to be installed in her room and just that day, the home put a cellphone on each floor for patients to use.
“Now all we got to do is figure out who calls her so we won’t overwhelm her,” Joe Fearns said.
His cousin, Susan Fearns, dialed the nursing home phone after the signs were raised.
“Well, I didn’t know what to make of it, but I don’t put anything past them,” Eleanor Fearns said on the phone. “Always expect the unexpected.”
Her children yelled “I love you!” to their mom while she was on speaker phone looking out her window. Susan Fearns pointed out this was the first time in 75 years her aunt has lived alone.
“We’re all anxious to give you a big hug when all this clears up,” she told her.
Holding a sign shaped as a heart with her own name on it was Angela Hicks, Eleanor’s younger sister and a nun with the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth in Kentucky.
“She traveled all the way up here to be her,” Linda Manekas, one of Eleanor Fearns’ daughters, said about her aunt.
Hicks could only spend two days with her before the nursing home shut itself off from the public.
The family goes far back in St. Mary’s County history to the 1600s. Members of the historical society sometimes come by to ask the 95-year-old questions. Hicks and Eleanor Fearns, whose maiden names are Duke, are siblings of Capt. Walter Francis Duke, the Leonardtown World War II Army ace pilot and namesake of the nearby elementary school.
Her window is located on the back side of the building and faces Lawrence Avenue, the street where she used to live and where her family still stays. Frank “Buzz” Fearns, one of her sons, said their grandfather built a few houses on that street for the men who fought in World War II. He said their grandfather also built the town’s first fire department and started Leonardtown’s first telephone company.
Eleanor Fearns was a teacher for 35 years at St. John’s School and Father Andrew White School. Her children described her as a great storyteller and someone with a great sense of humor.
“Kind of salty language, but a great sense of humor,” Buzz Fearns, said.
She has six children, seven grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren.