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Family, friends serenade 97-year-old quarantined in South Hill assisted-living community

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As a daughter of first-generation Irish immigrants, 97-year-old Margaret Presley has always made a point of celebrating St. Patrick’s Day with family. But to include their mother this year, her sons had to get creative.

With little time to plan their surprise visit, the Presleys organized a choir of friends and family, led by local opera singers Heather and Derrick Parker, to sing a few Irish folk songs outside her window from a parking lot below.

“This was partly inspired by the pictures of people in Kirkland tapping on their parents’ windows saying ‘I love you,’ ” her son Greg Presley said, referring to images of people trying to connect with relatives quarantined in a Life Care Center that has been at the center of the state’s coronavirus outbreak.

Jesse Tinsley - The Spokesman-Review

Less than a month ago, after a fire left her home unlivable, Margaret Presley was faced with the prospect of moving to an assisted-living community for the first time. Settling into her new home amid developing concerns about the coronavirus pandemic has not been easy.

“After the fire, we were all saying we’d come to visit every day,” grandson Daniel Conger said. “And then this happens.”

South Hill Village, where Presley now lives, entered full isolation from outside visitors Friday.

“This is a difficult transition for her,” Greg Presley said. “Then to not be able to see her family face-to-face has been an additional challenge.”

Three generations of Presleys descendants brought green balloons, merry voices and a bit of Irish cheer to the Albertsons parking lot next to South Hill Village.

“Well,” Margaret Presley said a little tearfully. “Thank you all!”

“Virtual hug!” her other son, Jeff Presley, called out to her.

More residents came smiling to their windows as the Parkers’ voices rang out intermittently accompanied by Presley’s friends and family members.

“I’m excited that Heather agreed to lead us in these songs, because (Mom) watched Heather grow up as a singer,” Greg Presley said.

Margaret Presley taught piano in Spokane for more than 50 years to hundreds of students. Before that, she was a choir director and remains an avid music lover.

“I get stopped all the time by people asking, ‘How’s your mom?’ ” said Greg Presley, who has followed in his mother’s footsteps and plays piano for the Spokane Symphony.

After all his mother did for the musical community of Spokane, Greg Presley said the singing was meant as a way to give her something back during a difficult time.

“Life is a little bleak at the moment,” Greg Presley said. “People need inspiration – and now desperately.”

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