We first told you about the coronavirus outbreak at Bon Secours of Maria Manor back in June. The state now lists the St. Petersburg nursing home’s death toll at 20. Among the residents who passed away from COVID-19 was 85-year-old Pat Bendel.
Her granddaughters, Brittaney Babineau and Katelyn Keane, shared with Spectrum Bay News 9 some memories of their beloved Nana.
“I want to be just like her. She was the ultimate grandma,” Babineau said. “And she did everything she could for her grandkids.”
We asked the cousins what made their Nana tick, and they shared a colorful list, starting with Bendel’s love of the movie Grease and her favorite singer – Elvis Presley.
The women also said their grandmother always wanted to look her best and told them lipstick was a must. They said her favorite meal was a turkey dinner, after which she would always say “this was a good idea!”
Babineau and Keane said their grandmother loved to garden and also enjoyed the unique hobby of doll making, for which she won many awards.
“She grew up with dolls. She made them by hand,” Keane recalled. “She would even put them in the window.”
“Her spare room in her Florida home was her doll room,” Babineau said. “That’s always something I will remember she had all of her dolls on display.”
It’s worth mentioning Bendel’s house was her favorite shade of purple. The cousins said she would stand in the doorway and wave goodbye until her visitor’s car was out of sight, each and every visit.
Bendel, who had Alzheimer’s disease, was a resident of Bon Secours and Babineau, and Keane said she enjoyed her time there, even teaching an arts and crafts class.
For a while, the cousins said the nursing home was able to keep COVID-19 at bay, but on June 24, the family got a call letting them know Bendel had tested positive for the virus.
On the 4th of July, the family played Bendel some of her favorite Elvis songs while saying goodbye over FaceTime.
“I just kept saying over and over again ‘I love you’, and I just wanted her to know that,” Babineau said.
The cousins feel their grandmother had more life to live, and they had hoped she would one day see them have families of their own. But they said Bendel’s memory will live on through the stories they share of her.
Because of the pandemic, the family hasn’t been able to hold a funeral for Bendel. Once it's safe, Babineau and Keane said they will celebrate their grandmother's life with a memorial service in Clinton, Massachusetts, where Bendel lived before retiring in Florida.