Love affair with Elvis: Mary Jane Hall celebrates 79th birthday with king of rock
STRASBURG In a house brimming with love and bustling with birthday wishes, Mary Jane Hall was feted to a special birthday party fit for a queen — and attended by a king, Elvis Presley.
“She’s always been crazy about Elvis,” confided husband Andrew Jackson, 87. So much so that they visited Graceland in 1987, 10 years after the death of the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll.
Hall, who has Alzheimer’s disease, observed her 79th birthday on Feb. 27, and was surrounded by family and friends on March 12 for a Gift of a Day Program, made possible by Crossroads Hospice and Palliative Care in Green.
Chris Callahan of North Canton, a longtime social worker who’s been at Crossroads for four years, stepped in to play Elvis.
Although the progressive brain disorder has slowed her memory and thinking skills and taken away most of her mobility and ability to talk, there’s no doubt Hall was the center of attention.
“He (Callahan) paid so much attention to her,” said daughter Kim Boyers of Westlake. “It was the best thing, the most wonderful thing anyone could have ever done. Mom tried moving to the music — she wanted to move so bad. It was all so good.”
Gift of Elvis
She said her mother is a self-taught guitarist, and would sing Elvis songs at family gatherings. “Mom cried for weeks after Elvis passed away,” Boyers said.
The ’50s-style tribute and special appearance by Callahan, was intended to “bring to life a patient’s personal vision of what the perfect day might be,” said Fawnia Trogdon, Crossroads’ coordinator of Gift of a Day.
Hall has been receiving care in her home on U.S. Route 250 just outside Beach City in Tuscarawas County.
Crossroads Hospice and Palliative Care serves the Akron-Canton metro area and surrounding counties. Workers help patients by managing pain, symptoms and side-effects of chronic illness.
Callahan, who does occasional performances at nursing homes, was resplendent in a bejeweled ivory jumpsuit and cape. “I think those songs took her back to the days of Elvis,” he said. He finished his concert with An American Trilogy, a show-stopper at Elvis concerts.
“We were all singing and having a great time,” Boyers said, grateful her mom’s wish of seeing ‘Elvis in person’ was fulfilled. “If I had a million dollars I’d give it to those people.”
There were accolades and love all around. Granddaughter Katelyn Boyers has long considered her grandmother her hero.
“Not many kids get to live across the street from their grandparents,” she explained. “As a little girl when I would get in trouble at home, I would take my little red wagon across the street and say, ‘I’m going to mamaw’s.’
“She’s the type of person who would give you anything you wanted, even if it was her last piece of clothing,” she said. Katelyn Boyers, who lives in the Beach City area, is often by her mamaw’s side.
Mary Jane Hall and husband Andrew have lived here for 18 years, after living most of their lives in the Cleveland area. Their romance blossomed when the two met in the cafeteria at Ford Motor Company’s Stamping Plant in Brookpark. Mary Jane Hall worked on the assembly line; Andrew in the central garage.
To listen to his version of that iconic first meeting, Mary Jane Hall supposedly “started it” when she looked at him with a flirtatious grin — although he admitted he was “never bashful around the ladies.” When he touched her hand as they were leaving the cafeteria, it was a mutual, instantaneous attraction.
“It was a whirlwind romance and we couldn’t have been happier,” he said. “We’ve had a wonderful life together. I tell her I love her in the morning and before we go to bed.”
During those early days of courtship when both lived in Avon, he recalled a day when traffic was at a standstill in both lanes during a shift change at the plant. Mary Jane was headed home; Andrew was going to work.
When he spotted her car going the opposite direction, he got out of his and went over and gave her a kiss.
“Everyone was honking their horns and giving us thumbs up,” he said.
But there was always that other man in her life.
“She told me she loved me,” Callahan as Elvis said. “And I told her I loved her.”