By Beth Grace
Mike Register and Alvin Billings love WhiteStone. They love the place, the people, and the level of care.
They have good reason to.
WhiteStone is family.
That’s why the two men, made true brothers by Masonry and by fate, agreed immediately when they were asked to tell their story in front of bright lights, rolling cameras and interviewers asking questions straight from -- and straight to -- the heart.
Yes, both said. Just tell me when and where.
“When it comes to WhiteStone, I will tell my story to anyone who will listen,” Brother Mike Register, newly appointed Grand Steward, says. “My family owes so much to those people for giving my father wonderful care and a wonderful home.”
Register and Illustrious Sir Billings, newly installed 2020 Potentate of Amran Shriners, have a story to tell.
Both men loved their fathers dearly and worked hard to care for them as they grew old. Time took its toll on their dads and the money – neither father was wealthy – began to run out.
Unaware of the other’s issues – they knew each other then, but not well -- Mike and Alvin contacted WhiteStone, our Masonic and Eastern Star Community.
In both cases, WhiteStone wasted no time trying to find help for the men. Independently, both Robert Register and Clyde Billings were brought to the home.
“I made a phone call and told them I needed help,” Alvin said. “They said right away to bring him in, and we would worry about the cost later.”
Mike experienced the same thing. His family was about a week away from running out of money to care for his dad, when he contacted WhiteStone. They found a place for him and they worked together to figure out finances.
Both of their fathers ended up, eventually, in the same room. The roomates bonded quickly, becoming the best of friends.
“My dad had a roommate who passed away,” Alvin says. “We all walked in to visit one morning, and there was an older gentleman in a wheelchair – that was Mike’s dad. He offered my wife some bubblegum. By that time, my dad was barely able to talk.
“We got to talking with Mr. Register and found out he was a Mason and Shriner. I’m a Shriner. I had heard of Mike but didn’t really know him. I would meet him in that same room. He and I struck up a bigtime friendship.”
Since Alvin’s dad couldn’t speak, Mike’s dad, whose habit of passing out bubblegum gave him the nickname of “Mr. Bubblegum,” became his voice. He protected his friend and made sure he was comfortable – even hollering down the hall for help when sunlight poured through the blinds. Neither man was able to close them and Clyde Billings was directly in the line of fire.
“No way my dad was going to let him sit there in the bright sunlight,” Mike says. “That’s just the way he was.”
Over the years, WhiteStone has become a respected haven for senior living, known for its excellence in health care and wellness care. WhiteStone is expanding with 24 new assisted-living apartments, 12 memory care suites and is renovating its popular Care and Wellness Center.
That’s why Mike and Alvin said yes when they were asked to “star” in a video on behalf of the Campaign for WhiteStone.
“We were part of what the MESH foundation does for two thirds of the time my dad was there,” Alvin said. “They never treated him with anything but respect. They were always there to help him, even though he was getting help to be there. WhiteStone isn’t a factory like so many places are now. WhiteStone is a home.”
Take a few minutes to hear their story and watch the video. You can access it on the NCMF YouTube channel, or via the Campaign for WhiteStone page at www/mfnc.org.