By Karen Billing
Emeritus at Carmel Valley resident Sallie Ann Kittle recently celebrated a special reunion. The senior living home held a community-wide party for Kittle and two of her daughters, one of whom she had not seen for almost nine years. Sallie Ann held both of their hands and sang along to “You Are My Sunshine” — tears were streaming from everyone’s eyes.
“There’s not words to describe it, it’s so precious,” said Sallie Ann of the reunion. “I really longed to see her. I missed her so much.”
Sallie Ann’s emotional reunion with daughter Marianna Burdette of South Carolina was the result of a nationwide Emeritus contest. Of more than 500 Emeritus residents, Sallie Ann was one of 12 winners in the Emeritus Family ReConnects contest.
“ReConnects is just an ideal expression of our family values, our slogan is ‘Our family is committed to yours’,” said Emeritus at Carmel Valley Executive Director Fred Jackson. “We are very, very delighted that Sallie was a winner.”
Sallie Ann, 76, has lived in Carmel Valley since December 2012. Two of her daughters, Elizabeth Heyde and Maggie Osburn, both live in Carmel Valley and moved their mother to San Diego from Mississippi to be closer to them.
Sallie Ann had been living in Emeritus’ Meridian, Mississippi location — an art lover, Sallie Ann packed up all of her beautiful artwork and started a new life in Carmel Valley.
“I love having her here. She has handled the move like a pro, I’m so proud of her, ” said Heyde, who visits her mother nearly every day.
Jackson helped Sallie Ann enter her winning submission. Drawing on her experience as an English major, Sallie Ann wrote about how much a reunion would mean to her.
She wrote about how her daughter Marianna lives with her own daughter (Sallie Ann’s granddaughter) and her family in South Carolina and supports them all. Because of the expense and effort in taking care of so many people, Marianna hasn’t had a vacation in years, nor had she been able to see her mother or sisters.
“I’m so thrilled, I couldn’t be any happier,” said daughter Marianna Burdette. “I’m so glad to have the opportunity to be here…[My mother] has always been so sweet and she has such an open heart.”
When mother and daughter finally saw each other again, Burdette said they both just hugged and cried and cried some more. The family is just enjoying their time reminiscing and Burdette has been telling Sallie Ann all about her four great-grandchildren that she has yet to meet.
When speaking of their mother, Marianna’s sister Elizabeth Heyde also mentioned Sallie Ann’s huge heart. She spoke about how Sallie Ann did missionary work in Russia before the Cold War was over.
“She has dedicated her life to helping people in a spiritual, kind and loving way. That is her gift,” Heyde said.
For the community-wide party at Emeritus, Sallie Ann had her hair specially done, and she and Marianna wore corsages. As she sat at the head of the party, the guest singers couldn’t resist breaking into a festive rendition of “Mustang Sally” as residents enjoyed cake.
“My heart is just full,” Sallie Ann said, giving her daughters’ hands a squeeze.