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Memory Care Resident Takes Part In Ms. Senior Oklahoma Pageant

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Wilma O'Brien has support in her granddaughter Molly (right) and staff at Autumn Leaves. Wilma O'Brien has support in her granddaughter Molly (right) and staff at Autumn Leaves.
Wilma and her granddaughter share a special hand gesture. Wilma and her granddaughter share a special hand gesture.
Photos of loved ones line the walls of Wilma's room, helping her remember. Photos of loved ones line the walls of Wilma's room, helping her remember.
TULSA, Oklahoma -

On Saturday morning, the Alzheimer's Association will hold its annual Memory Walk raising money in the fight against a devastating disease.

Following the walk is a special pageant to shine a spotlight on a group that sometimes gets overlooked.

Wilma O'Brien may be 95 years old, but she hasn't lost her sparkle or her style.

"She's always been extremely fashionable," said Wilma's granddaughter, Molly Manning. "I was making a joke to April - she's the woman who sits in the nursing home in a beautiful suit. She's just a very, very classy lady."

What Wilma is losing, is her memory.

She and her husband raised three children and traveled the world. They even spent a year in Brazil as part of the Peace Corps.

And while her room at Autumn Leaves, a memory-care community in south Tulsa, is filled with reminders, day by day, those memories fade.

"She gets very frustrated with herself that she can't remember things anymore," Molly said.

That frustration can lead to isolation and depression. But Autumn Leaves does its best to keep residents connected.

And that's why at age 95, Wilma O'Brien is vying for the title of Ms. Senior Oklahoma.

"It's important to be a part of the community and to get dressed up nice for something," said April Bradford, Autumn Leaves community relations. "To have your hair done and make up done. It makes you feel pretty. It makes you feel important."

Wilma's family knows that come pageant day, she may forget a thing or two, but they're happy to be planning this project together.

"Later this week I'll come do your nails so they're all pretty and ready," her granddaughter Molly Manning tells her.

And for all of them, this week is a special one.

Wilma O'Brien: "I love you better than you love me."
Granddaughter Molly Manning: "Huh uh. It's not possible."

The Ms. Senior Oklahoma pageant is from 2 to 4 p.m. Saturday at the VanTrease Performing Arts Center at TCC.

This year, 38 contestants will participate.

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