Jonesboro women recall being featured on reality-based show

By Jeffery Whitfield

Mary Nell Starr recalls being “dead tired,” unable to stay awake as a reality-based TV show profiling her accomplishment of a lifelong dream aired last week on NBC .

“Three Wishes,” which focuses on fulfilling wishes of average, also featured Jonesboro resident Louise Jones, 73. A third resident, 83-year-old Virginia Paschal, was included in initial filming for the show but did not make the final cut due to time constraints.

“I went to sleep and I didn't get to see it live,” Starr, 72, said jokingly.

On Labor Day weekend Starr was “granted” her lifelong wish of being a flight attendant,

a role she served on Southwest Airline flights from Birmingham to Las Vegas.

“I've wanted to be a flight attendant since I was little,” she said.

Dressed in a pinkish-blue outfit, Starr took orders from passengers onboard planes for food and beverage items such as orange juice and salads.

“I'd go back today and to the same thing again,” Starr said.

Jones flew to California for a three-day trip in September and was granted the wish of riding in a NASCAR race car for one lap at speeds of 100 miles per hour at the California Speedway. She also met Grant and NASCAR driver Tony Stewart.

“My favorite part of California was seeing it,” she said. “It was hot and dry. It was hotter than I expected.”

The Macon native said she has enjoyed watching NASCAR races since she was a child.

Paschal earned her wish of being a waitress again at a Chick-fil-A in McDonough.

She worked for one day and served customers such as the restaurant's founder, Truitt Cathy.

“I enjoyed so much meeting so many people,” she said. “It was wonderful.”

Paschal is a retired waitress who worked for about 30 years in metropolitan Atlanta at eateries such as the Green Hornet Restaurant in Roswell.

Starr, Jones and Paschal were selected from a group of 30 residents of the Jonesboro Nursing and Rehabilitation Center to participate on the show. Brief videos of each resident were submitted to the show's producers in July. Nearly 130 residents live at the home.

The show's cast filmed footage of the women at the center as well as in Covington, Ga., the site of other shoots for “Three Wishes.”

Lisa Epinger, who oversees human resources and payroll operations at the Jonesboro Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, said working with the show's producers to help the three women achieve their dreams often was exhausting.

“I thought I was going to tell NBC that I was going to be on their payroll,” Epinger said jokingly.

Epinger said the center's staff was responsible for tasks such as working to involve family members of the three women into the show.

A tape of the “Three Wishes” show featuring Starr and Jones is kept at the Jonesboro Nursing and Rehabilitation Center.

The hour-long show is hosted by country music singer Amy Grant and airs Fridays at 9 p.m. on NBC.