Passion, Purpose and Flexibility

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Shirley’s long-time passion was downhill skiing. She’s standing next to a framed collection of patches from all the mountains where she and Marvin skied during much of their 65- year marriage. Marv passed away a few months after they moved into Vista Prairie at Goldfinch Estates in Fairmont, MN. Now 90, Shirley’s fellow Goldfinch residents became her family, along with two children, four grand-kinds and five great grand-children, one of whom she recently met for the first time.

While childrearing and skiing were among Shirley’s passions, her lifelong purpose was “helping.” Her career in nursing evolved to leadership and administration in Estherville, Iowa, where she started the School of Nursing at Iowa Lakes Community College.

“Then they moved the school to Emmetsburg,” Shirley recounts. “That made the driving too much for me so they asked if I would be director of nursing at Holy Family Hospital, which I did for a long time.”

Shirley’s career flexibility set up her third chapter in nursing after she and Marv moved to Fairmont. She directed services at a half-way house and an outpatient center treating people with chemical dependency. She served her final nursing role for people who were incarcerated in the Martin County jail, retiring when she was 77. 

As we enter the 21st month of this pandemic, Shirley still has the mind of a nurse. She laments that not as many people are vaccinated as should be. “I think the messages are mixed,” she says. “I think the science is good but then people begin to go out on their own. ‘The government isn’t going to tell me what to do.’ Well, they tell you; you have to wear a seatbelt. They tell you; you can’t drive more than so many miles an hour. What’s the big deal?”

Shirley skied until she was 77. “Skiing is my claim to fame,” she sums up. She and Marv skied together all over the world, much of it after Marv lost one of his legs to cancer. “They told him when they amputated that he only had a 20 percent chance of living,” Shirley remembers. “And he lived 30 years.”

The Goldfinch Estates community offers 92 one and two-bedroom apartments, like Shirley’s, for seniors who want access to supportive services while maintaining their independence.  We also offer 41 memory care suites that provide a long-term option for seniors diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia.

King Marv – King Max

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Vista Prairie at Fieldcrest in Sheldon Iowa has a new set of “M&Ms” to honor — King Marvin and King Max. Resident Marv, 95, was crowned Fieldcrest’s king last February at its Valentine’s party. Now his great-grandson Max also has been crowned — king of the Orabs, at Sheldon High School’s Homecoming this fall.

What’s an Orab, you ask? “Orab stands for ‘orange and black,’” Max explains. “It’s just an acronym.” And what about wearing a crown in the same year as Marv does, “I got a text from my grandma a few days later asking if I knew my great grandfather is also a king. I thought that was really cool that we both share that.”

Marv’s reign extends for another three months, until Fieldcrest’s next Valentines party. He has the responsibility to name his own successor, “I just go through the crowd and pick one,” Marv explains. And he’s not letting his regal status go to his head, “It’s just one of those things,” Marv says.

Max is one of Marv’s 13 great grandchildren. The student body voted on his selection from among four candidates, as well as the Homecoming queen. Max also is staying humble about the honor, “I don’t expect any special treatment and prefer to just stick in with the crowd.”

Emulating his great grandfather is something that’s helped shape Max. He’s a four-sport athlete at Sheldon High, on the football, basketball, baseball and golf teams. Golf is the sport that most unites Marv and Max, “I remember him bringing me out to the golf course when I was a young kid and us sharing that common interest.”

The experience sunk in. Max shot a 38 on nine holes, during Sheldon’s first golf meet this season. Next year he’s almost certain he’ll enroll at the University of Kansas as a biology major and eventually pursue a career in dentistry. 

Given his busy senior schedule, Max visits Marv as often as he can but not as often as Marv would like. Just one of those things with busy students these days. 

The Fieldcrest community offers 69 one- and two-bedroom assisted living apartments for seniors who need access to personal care and supportive services. We also offer 12 memory care suites that provide a long-term option for seniors diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia.

Sharing her smile

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Smiles come naturally for Rose Gibson, especially this one. Her photo was taken the day Olivia was born, her second great grandchild. Her smile was a frequent comment in many of the cards celebrating Rose’s recent 98th birthday. “Isn’t that something?” she ponders.

Rose and husband Warren moved into Vista Prairie at Windmill Ponds in Alexandria about six years ago. Warren passed away a few months later, so the staff and her fellow residents became Rose’s family. “I really like this place,” Rose says.  

Rose and Warren lived in three neighboring states during their 65-year marriage, while Warren pursued a financial services career. Locations included Fargo, North Dakota and Eau Claire, Wisconsin, as well as four Minnesota communities: St. Paul, Rochester, South St. Paul and finally settling in the Alexandria area where Warren was a bank president.

When the family lived in South St. Paul, Rose served as the hospital auxiliary president for Divine Redeemer. She was instrumental in raising funds for the hospital’s first ambulance. The effort included a two-night variety show complete with a producer and costumes from New York City. Rose had just one word to describe the feeling when they took delivery of the ambulance, “Awesome!” she recounted. “It was a great thing and they really appreciated it. It was so much fun, and everybody felt good.”

Rose and Warren’s move to Windmill Ponds was partially prompted by Rose’s two strokes in 2014. “I’m thankful that they didn’t affect my mind and my right hand,” Rose says. She’s also still bringing smiles to other people. “I make greeting cards, and I still can do it.”

Windmill Ponds offers assisted living in 65 one- and two-bedroom apartments, designed for seniors who enjoy an active social environment and expect high quality care.

Seven years, no itch

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For seven years, Jeanine Schneider has planned and carried out the activities for residents of Vista Prairie at River Heights in South St. Paul, MN. Jeanine is busy preparing for indoor activities prior to another Minnesota winter. She’s responsible for residents on the assisted living side of the community and for the more specialized activities required in the memory care suites.

“If we’re doing an activity that not everyone can do, I’ll try to improvise,” Jeanine says. “Like maybe a memory care resident can look at a gardening book but not actually garden, or they can feel the dirt in their hands and get that tactile sensation.”

River Heights residents harvested fresh veggies this past growing season, cucumbers and tomatoes, as well as a variety of blooming flowers. The gardens also yielded lots of satisfaction.

“It’s the joy, knowing that ‘I grew this,’” for the residents. “Sometimes we do it from seeds, sometimes not.” While the tomatoes started as plants, the cucumbers came from seeds. Gardening isn’t the only source of joy at River Heights.

“I started this new thing. We give quarters if someone wins in Bingo and the residents get such a bang out of it,” Jeanine remarks. “Lately, I’ll pick one game out of the whole Bingo tournament and say, ‘If you win, all your tablemates win.’”

Jeanine also recognizes how much joy she gets out of seeing the residents joyful and having fun. “I’d want someone to take care of me and do things with me when I get older.” Fortunately for River Heights, that time is not near.

No seven-year itch for Jeanine, “I love it. This is kind of one big family.”

River Heights offers assisted living in 44 apartments in addition to its 16 memory care suites. Want to learn more about River Heights? Call Michael at 651-326-6501. He’s happy to give you a tour and introduce you to the whole dedicated staff.

Rita is moving to a new menu

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Rita Gronski may be most comfortable in her chef’s coat, but with praise and support from many residents like Dwight, she’s now serving from a new menu – the role of Executive Director for Vista Prairie at Brentwood in Rice Lake, WI. The promotion was official on September 27.

Rita not only was responsible for providing delicious meals and snacks at Brentwood for 11 years, but she’s also managed one of the community’s most complex departments ensuring that residents have the right nutrition for their specific needs. Her 30 years of experience in senior care have taught her that it’s all about choice.

“The residents here have a choice in their menu,” Rita explains. “When they come here, they have their voice and their choice in food, where they may have given up their choice about things like driving. If they have a recipe that they’ve made from when they were a kid, we will bring it into to the kitchen and we will make it.”

Dwight sees this personal touch as a compelling advantage about Brentwood, especially for his sweet tooth, “I relate to the variety of food. For instance, we have a lot of homemade desserts here.”

Rita will continue to spend time with new residents when they move in, “I want to know them. This is my time to visit with them and know their likes and dislikes.”

Rita’s leadership skills and devotion to the customer come in part from her ownership of an area family restaurant prior to becoming Brentwood’s culinary manager. A dietary management certification from the University of Wisconsin at River Falls provided her academic training.  Her work-ethic goes back to growing up on a diversified livestock and dairy farm.

“We are delighted to welcome Rita to her new position,” said VPC Chief Operating Officer Anna Petersmeyer. “Rita has become a trusted resource for the residents, in many ways beyond great food.”

The Brentwood community offers 28 one and two-bedroom apartments for seniors who value their independence but want options for personal care and supportive services. We also offer 19 memory care suites that provide a long-term option for seniors diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia.