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Gateway Care Center Crowns Queen of Rosaria


Bernadette Plummer sat in her wheelchair; her eyes wide open in astonishment, as Portland Rosarian Prime Minister Bob Woody placed the sparkling crown over her intricately braided white hair. The newly initiated Gateway Care and Retirement Center Rose Queen clutched at her dozen long stemmed red roses. She smiled a schoolgirl quality smile up at Dallas West, the featured performer at the Rose Queen Coronation on Thursday, May 22, as he serenaded her with a love song he selected especially for her.

Being publicly honored is not a new experience for the ninety-two year old resident of Gateway Care’s Intermediate Nursing Care Facility. According to her daughter Berna Deanne Plummer, Plummer was not only part of the first class to graduate from Portland State University’s Graduate School of Social Work, but she was also the oldest member of her class. She was one of the first women of color to be appointed to the boards of the YWCA and the Oregon branch of the Girl Scouts of America. She was part of many state and regional organizations, including the Oregon Commission of Civil Rights in the 1960s and 70s. She was a member of the Oregon Advisory Committee to the United States Commission on Civil Rights. In 1993, she was awarded the prestigious White Rose Award for women of achievement. This award is given to only five or six women per year for recognition of their commitment to community service.

Queen Bernadette Plummer, center, surrounded by her court. From left Shawn Estabrook, Magna Dane, Janet Duran, Gladys Petterson, Rose Schofield and Vera Arvidson.

Plummer was married for almost sixty years to Ulysses G. Plummer, Jr. He was the first African American practicing attorney in the state of Oregon, and was appointed by the president to the Department of the Interior. Plummer and her husband had three children, ten grandchildren, and eight great-grandchildren. She has a rich history of traveling to every part of the world, including a trip to South Africa during apartheid, and Berlin at the end of the occupation.

The tradition of Gateway’s Annual Rose Queen Coronation began in 1994 when Activities Director Lee Vicknair came to work for the 64 bed nursing care and residential facility located at 39 N.E. 102nd Ave. Vicknair initiated the Rose Queen Coronation twelve years ago at another facility, feeling that the senior community needed more involvement and recognition during the Rose Festival, and that the elderly and youth populations in Portland required more interaction and bonding. The Rose Festival “Kids” came to Gateway Care in 1998 and 1999 to plant the beautiful and lush rose garden in the facility’s courtyard. Families of previous Gateway residents in memory of their departed loved ones donated the roses in the garden. The roses continue to thrive.

The 1999 Gateway Rose Queen participated in the Portland Rose Festival Starlight Parade. This was the second Gateway Rose Queen in the history of this event, and the only occasions that a nursing home Rose Queen participated in the parade.

The Portland Rosarians have been a big part of Gateway’s Rose Festival Celebration for several years. The Chaplin of the Rosarians came to Gateway to bless the courtyard rose garden when it was planted. Other honored guests over the years have included Senator Ron Wyden and Portland Trailblazer Activity Coordinator Nick Jones.

Vicknair selects the Rose Court from the facility’s willing female participants, and residents and staff vote for the queen. The year’s Rose Court included Plummer, Magna Dane, Shawn Estabrook (Gateway Rose Queen, 1997), Janet Duran, Vera Arvison, Rose Schofield, and Gladys Petterson. The identity of the winner is a closely guarded secret, kept by Vicknair and the winner’s family, until the announcement is made at the festivities, and the queen is officially crowned.

As each court member was escorted down the red carpet by a relative or by one of Gateway’s male residents, the anticipation of who would be this year’s winner became tangible to all present. After Plummer was announced as the 2003 Rose Queen, the crowd erupted in applause. When it subsided, one of the Rose Court members, dressed in a sparkling formal dress, with newly styled hair and a fresh manicure, sighed deeply. “It was an honor just to be nominated,” she stated graciously, then smiled brightly for the official Rose Court photograph.

For more information on services offered by Gateway Care and Retirement Center, please contact the administrator or social services director at 503-252-2461.
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