Woman says goodbye during favorite time of year

Don Frels, 76, uses a transmitter and headphones to communicate with his mother at the <a href="www.ganadonr.com/"> Ganado Nursing and Rehabilitation Center. Mary Frels, who turned 102 on Friday, had witnessed so many historical dates through her 10 decades. In 1911, the year Frels was born, news of the ancient Inca settlement of Machu Picchu was brought to the world by archeologist Hiram Bingham.
  • What happened on Christmas Day in ... ?

  • Mary Frels turned 102 on Friday. She lived through 10 decades of Christmases. Here is what was making headlines on some of those days by decade since 1911:

    1914 - Christmas Truce. Just after midnight on Christmas morning, the majority ...

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  • What happened on Christmas Day in ... ?

    Mary Frels turned 102 on Friday. She lived through 10 decades of Christmases. Here is what was making headlines on some of those days by decade since 1911:

    1914 - Christmas Truce. Just after midnight on Christmas morning, the majority of German troops engaged in World War I cease firing their guns and artillery and commence to sing Christmas carols.

    1941 - "White Christmas," written by composer and lyricist Irving Berlin, made its world premiere on Bing Crosby's weekly NBC radio program.

    1952 - Queen Elizabeth's first Christmas broadcast of her reign.

    1962 - "To Kill a Mockingbird," a film based on the 1960 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel of the same name by Harper Lee, opens in theaters.

    1972 - After a 36-hour respite for Christmas, the U.S. resumes an extensive bombing campaign in Vietnam because, according to U.S. officials, Hanoi sent no word that it would return to the peace talks.

    1991 - Mikhail Gorbachev announces that he is resigning as president of the Soviet Union.

    2002 - University of New Mexico junior place-kicker Katie Hnida attempts to kick an extra point in a game against UCLA in the Las Vegas Bowl, becoming the first woman to play in a Division I football game.

    SOURCE: History.com

  • National Safety Council President's Medal

  • Awarded from 1928 to 1983 for saving a life through successful resuscitation. On the face of the medal are the three Greek goddesses of fate - Clotho, who spins the thread of life; Lachesis, who determines its length; and Atropos, ...

  • SHOW ALL »
  • National Safety Council President's Medal

    Awarded from 1928 to 1983 for saving a life through successful resuscitation. On the face of the medal are the three Greek goddesses of fate - Clotho, who spins the thread of life; Lachesis, who determines its length; and Atropos, who cuts the thread. All three are under the scrutiny of a figure symbolic of safety who stays the hand that would cut the thread of life. The reverse side includes the names of the recipient, the person resuscitated and the date.

GANADO - Mary Frels lived to see 101 Christmas Days, and although she didn't quite make 102, thanks to her heroism 85 years ago, a little girl lived to see a lifetime of them, too.

When she was 16, Frels, who turned 102 on Friday at Ganado Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, resuscitated a 9-year-old girl who had stopped breathing after apparently drowning while swimming in the bay at Rockport in June 1928.

That girl, Verna Brundrett, came back to life as a result of Frels' efforts.

Frels' maiden name is Laughter, and according to an article in the Corpus Christi Times on March 6, 1929, "For 31 minutes, Mary Laughter worked steadily applying the prone pressure method to the apparently lifeless child with no visible results.

"At the end of that time, however, her staunch faith and heroic efforts were rewarded by signs of returning life, and within the period of a few more minutes, the Brundrett child had regained natural and easy respiration."

Frels had seen a demonstration of the prone method of resuscitation the year before at school and applied what she had learned to saving Brundrett, according to the newspaper article.

The following March, Frels received the National Safety Council President's Medal for saving Brundrett using resuscitation.

She was the first woman to receive the honor, said Debbie Zewe, communications manager for the National Safety Council.

Janet Taylor, of Rockport, Verna Brundrett's daughter, said her mother told her and her three sisters about the incident.

"She said she could see herself drowning and that she prayed for God to let her live 10 more years," Taylor said.

And live she did, until her death in 2011 at age 93.

Brundrett went on to graduate at the top of her class at Rockport High School and became editor of the Texas Women's University yearbook and college newspaper.

One of the highlights of her college journalism career was interviewing Eleanor Roosevelt, according to her obituary published in the Rockport Pilot.

After leaving college, Brundrett, who later married and became Verna Haseman, worked as an editor at the Corpus Christi Caller-Times and later taught English and journalism at West Oso High School in Corpus Christi for 10 years.

Frels was a teacher, too.

She taught in the Lolita and LaWard schools before retiring from teaching in the Industrial school district.

Christa Anderson, the nursing home's assistant administrator for admissions, read from a questionnaire from Frels' file completed when she entered the nursing home about a year ago.

"She said Christmas was her favorite time of year. She enjoyed the lights, family and friends," said Anderson.

Frels' son, Don Frels, 76, said his mother was always getting things ready for family for Christmas, and her birthday five days earlier was never a big deal to her.

"She loved having her family around at Christmas, making sure they were taken care of and fed," her son said.

Frels said his mother often said that one thing she was most proud of was being able to save that little girl.

Now the two - Mary Laughter Frels and Verna Brundrett Haseman - are forever connected in life and in death.

The medal Frels received for saving Brundrett is embedded in the headstone on her grave near Edna, her son said.

Frels died Sunday, which would have been Brundrett's 95th birthday.