By Eric Butler: PNT staff writer
Joe Ollie Castleman knew how to play along when Heartland Continuing Care Center in Portales decided to spice up things during National Nursing Home Week. There was “Western Day” and “Gilligan’s Island Day” among others, and Castleman, 90, was a sport the whole way through.
For entertainment in normal weeks, though, sometimes Joe Ollie is all the other residents need.
A girl with a boy’s name, Castleman said she ended up doing many things that few women do. She drove a dump truck, owned and operated a hotel and coached a boys basketball team in her mid-60s, as well as raising three sons and a daughter after divorcing her husband.
She’s also seen the society change around her as she helped change a little of it herself.
A native of Texas, Joe Ollie Brown married Calvin Castleman and eventually settled in Hobbs. At one point, after serving as a manager of the business for many years, Joy Ollie Castleman took the opportunity of buying the Frey Hotel in that city.
Along with raising her children alone, atypical of the day, she adopted one of her grandchildren when he was an infant. Castleman gave the boy his name, raised him and eventually served as a coach for his youth league basketball team in Hobbs.
“All my friends still call her Grandma,” said Brandon Castleman, now 36.
Brandon Castleman is the primary caregiver for his grandmother now and said he moved Joe Ollie to Heartland while he prepares a permanent place for her to live with his family.
Taking a break from “gambling on the casino deck” on Tuesday, replete with chips, dealers and tables, Joe Ollie Castleman said she enjoyed the effort the Heartland staff was making during the week.
“I kind of like them, because it gives the people something to do,” she said. “I love people, because I’ve been so public all my life.”
“There’s a real misconception about what ‘nursing home’ stands for,” said Dawn Kryder, activities director at Heartland. “The old school said nursing homes were a place where people go to die. The words ‘nursing home’ really misrepresent what we do here.
“They come here because they need assistance with living,” Kryder said. “There’s a real difference.”