89-year-old woman with dementia relives her days as a HS cheerleader

89-year-old relives cheerleading dreams

NEWTON, NC (WBTV) - The best memories of your life are sometimes the oldest ones. For some people, those are the only memories left.

Pauline Heafner lives at Abernethy Laurels in Newton, but the 89-year-old grew up a proud resident of Belmont in Gaston County. She recalls her happiest times were the years she was on the cheerleading squad for Belmont High School.

That school is long gone and South Point High School has replaced it, but Pauline's memories are as clear as a bell.

"They played like they liked the game, like they enjoyed doing it, and that's what counted," Pauline said of the 1943 Belmont football team. Her role as cheerleader counted just as much.

"If you can keep the crowd's enthusiasm and make them cheer," Pauline said, "And you let them know you mean it, you've got to cheer loud!"

When Pauline talks about her days on the squad, it's easy to see in her eyes she goes back there in her mind.

Recently, the staff at Abernethy Laurels arranged for the cheerleading squad at South Point High School to make a special visit to Newton to see Pauline and do a few cheers.

"That was such an amazing day for her," said Shaylyn Ladd, PR Director for the retirement community.

The whole squad of girls brought special pom-poms for Pauline and the staff made her a uniform complete with a huge "B" on the front just like the old days. Pauline gave the girls some good advice on keeping the crowds enthused and even let them hear some of her old cheers.

That was just over a week ago, and now, that memory has faded away.

"Anytime with dementia it's typically their short-term memory that goes first," Shaylyn said, "But when she was a cheerleader, that was a very important time in her life."

Dementia has taken some of her short-term memories, but the old days are still there for Pauline. The day the cheerleaders came, she went back to 1943. She was there. Even though she doesn't remember the visit, staff at Abernethy Laurels says she's just been happier ever since.

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