A parade of cars made its way around the circle in front of Commonwealth Senior Living on Sunday afternoon, as residents sat in balloon-adorned chairs holding posters with loving messages for their families.

It was part of a Mother’s Day parade — a way for the residents to celebrate the special day with their families, from a safe distance.

“They did a great job with the parade. I think it made everybody’s day,” said Joanie Cranford, granddaughter-in-law of 87-year-old Commonwealth resident Margaret Cranford.

Joanie and her husband John drove by and waved at Margaret in their GMC Acadia with their children Colby Cranford, 7 and Ashton Cranford, 11. They held a poster decorated by the children for their great-grandmother, whom they call grandma. The poster had “Happy Mother’s Day” and hearts drawn on it.

“The first thing they wanted to do was make her a sign,” John said. “They were excited about seeing her.”

The feeling was mutual. Margaret, who had made a sign with “You are the apple of my eye” on it, told Joanie she wanted to give her great-grandchildren “squeezes” when they came by. Even though she couldn’t hug the children, Margaret said it was “wonderful” to see them.

Jennifer Fenerty, executive director of Commonwealth Senior Living, estimated between 50 and 60 families participated in the parade, more than she anticipated.

“I think it went really well. The town of South Boston really came through for us for the parade,” Fenerty said. “The residents enjoyed decorating and making the signs, too.”

Fenerty gave credit to the entire staff of Commonwealth Senior Living for planning the successful Mother’s Day parade.

“Our whole staff made this happen. They’re very passionate, caring people who really care about the residents and their families,” Fenerty said.

Along with participation from the families, the South Boston police department and fire department and a Halifax County Rescue Squad also joined in the fanfare with flashing lights.

For some of the Commonwealth residents, it was their first time seeing their families in person since the senior living home closed its doors to visitors to keep the residents safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mother’s Day was the first time that Margaret had seen her grandchildren and great-grandchildren in about two months. Mother’s Day has always been a special holiday to the Cranford family, so it was important to them to still be able to celebrate.

“Normally we have a big cookout, and all the family members from both sides of the family come together,” John said. “We would normally go get her (from Commonwealth), and she would come to the cookout with us.”

This year was a departure from the norm, but it still gave the Cranford family a chance to celebrate Mother’s Day with Margaret, whom they all call grandma. Margaret’s two children are deceased, so she has been a grandmother figure to her great-grandchildren Colby and Ashton, as well as her granddaughter-in-law Joanie, who has no living grandparents.

“She’s ‘grandma,’” Joanie said.

John said the children have a close relationship with his grandmother because the family lived with her for a couple of years after her husband passed away. Although they cannot go visit her at Commonwealth right now, they still call her and talk with her several times a week.

“Commonwealth is really good about keeping us in touch,” said Joanie. “They have the ‘Smile Program,’ and they send us pictures of her doing different activities.”

Margaret’s niece Cheri Budzinski also participated in the Mother’s Day parade. She agreed that the staff at Commonwealth has done an outstanding job at keeping the families of residents in touch, before and during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Someone helped her write a note and send it to me just last week. They keep the family and the residents engaged,” Budzinski said. “The activities ladies are really creative. Every month they had a family night. They probably would have had a Mother’s Day theme for family night this month.”

Instead of attending family nights and visiting Margaret in person at Commonwealth Senior Living, Budzinski said she has had “window visits” and communicated through staff during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Miranda Baines is a staff writer for The Gazette-Virginian. Contact her at mbaines@gazettevirginian.com.

Miranda Baines is a staff writer for The Gazette-Virginian. Contact her at mbaines@gazettevirginian.com.