Category Archives: For the Family

A pioneer in our midst

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Foster Dunwiddie doesn’t need an elevator as a resident of Vista Prairie at Brentwood, our new community in Rice Lake, Wisconsin. Brentwood is built on one level. Foster knows a lot about elevators though, as a pioneering architect with a rich history in iconic public buildings, including the old Met Stadium in Bloomington, MN. It was the original home of the Minnesota Twins after they moved from Washington, DC. Foster recalled a big design challenge caused by a budget shortfall early on.

“The initial design had a shaft for an elevator, but we couldn’t afford the elevator,” Foster recalled in a 2018 video about his career. “Once we got a commitment from the Washington Senators that they were coming, funds loosened up a great deal.”

Now 95, Foster was educated at the University of Wisconsin as a civil engineer but an interest in sketching eventually drew him to the School of Architecture at the University of Minnesota. He later helped establish the firm of Miller Dunwiddie where he remained for most of his 50+ year career. He became best known for his groundbreaking work in accessibility as a member of the Architectural Barriers Committee of the Minnesota Society of Architects.

“I had broken both my heels in a construction accident,” Foster remembers. “I suddenly found myself confined to a wheelchair and facing the problems of those in a wheelchair.” He pointed out at that time, there wasn’t legislation requiring the accommodations we have today. “I was lobbying the State Legislature to revise the Minnesota Building Code to require handicapped parking spaces, accessible door entry-ways and restroom modifications for people in wheelchairs.”

Foster’s other key contribution was in historic preservation. He pioneered what he described as a “detective project” to ensure that the restoration of Ft. Snelling was historically accurate. He also designed restorations for the Minnesota State Capitol building in the mid 1980’s.

“We had to make sure the public spaces were accessible so that witnesses for hearings could get into the building,” Foster said. “I also restored the House and the Senate chambers to make them accessible to people with disabilities.”

Foster and his wife Shirley moved to Brentwood in 2011. Shirley passed away a year ago, a short time after she and Foster had moved into memory care. “They’ve been very responsible meeting my needs here,” Foster concludes. And about the food? “I belong to the clean-plate club, and I’ve been working overtime.”

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.

Generosity and Imagination

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Vista Prairie at Copperleaf in Willmar, MN combined generosity and imagination recently to share an early holiday gift — as “hero bears” surprised special persons in Copperleaf staff members’ lives. Each staff member’s family got one, along with a personal note of gratitude for their loved one’s dedication during more than seven months of care and protection against COVID-19.

“As we protect our most vulnerable citizens against COVID, it can be emotionally draining,” said Copperleaf Executive Director Jennie Marcus. “We are not just caregivers for the residents we serve; we are family, we are a team of superheroes. These hero bears will help us remember this challenging time. We hope these special people: spouses, partners, parents and others will beam with pride that their loved one made a difference to so many seniors. How cool is that?”

The generosity came from The Manhattan Toy Company, which donated 100 stuffed teddy bears. Jennie’s husband is the North American Distribution Center Manager at Manhattan Toy. He worked with the company to orchestrate the donation.

The imagination came from Jennie and Business Office Manager Mackenzie Fragodt, who managed the project to dress each bear in a “hero” T-shirt and a face mask. Mackenzie also put together the letters to each recipient’s “special person.”

A Copperleaf family member reacted this way, “Thank you for giving my daughter Adrienne such a wonderful opportunity to be a part of Copperleaf Senior Living Community. She is certainly happy with her new employment experience and glad she decided to try a new pathway.”

Copperleaf senior living community offers 55 one-and-two-bedroom Assisted Living apartments, 20 Memory Care Suites and seven Care Suites, providing 24-hour continuous senior care.

Vote for Vista Prairie

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With more than nine years of appetizing service for Vista Prairie at Monarch Meadows, Chef Barry Ahl is the senior Culinary Manager among all his peers at our eight communities. While he’s not running for office, his involvement in the Mankato area has earned wide community support.

Among Monarch’s unique features, Chef Barry and Executive Director Andrea Rupe have a virtual culinary demonstration on the drawing board, where residents, family members and the public can get help in preparing favorite holiday dishes. They’re planning the first installment this month.

“I can show them how really basic and easy it is to make a traditional Thanksgiving meal, right down to the homemade cranberries and giblet gravy,” says Chef Barry. “You know, some people don’t even know how to dress a turkey.”

The Monarch dining room recently opened for residents to have their meals, spaced one person per table, after a summer where all meals were delivered to each apartment – to ensure healthy nutrition.

“We made sure that we were taking care of every resident, one by one, going into their apartment, making sure that they ate three meals a day and a snack.”

Now that the dining room is reopened, the residents are delighted to see more of each other.

“One lady come up to me and said – ‘This is the best meal I’ve had nine years.’ Everybody’s walking around and smiling so I’m kind of like Santa Claus, because every day I get to cook really good meals,” Barry reflects. “That puts a smile on their face. That’s what joy basically is — with a smile or getting a compliment or getting a wink.”

Can we count your vote for Vista Prairie at Monarch Meadows? Call 507-386-2451 to book a tour. Monarch Meadows, located in North Mankato, MN is one of our largest communities, with 86 one-and-two-bedroom assisted living apartments and 12 care suites.

Communion

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Communion has many meanings for Audrie, shown on the right. This past summer she’s been communing with her two daughters who also live in Alexandria, MN. Peggy and Connie are pictured here during a gazebo visit to Vista Prairie at Windmill Ponds*, where Audrie has lived for the past year.

More recently a communion Audrie holds most dear, the Catholic Eucharist, was served by a local priest in the parking lot. “The hardest thing for my mom is not being able to go to church,” Connie said during a recent Windmill Ponds visit.

As the pandemic has evolved, so have the options for Audrie’s daughters to stay in touch. The visits started virtually and will progress to periodic assistance in Audrie’s apartment as Connie and Peggy apply to be essential caregivers. Still, they’ll be required to stay physically distant.

“It is hard, but I think it would be worse to give her a hug and then have someone get sick,” says Peggy. “At the end of the day, that’s the bottom line.” The daughters, who are among nine siblings, understand the need for safety in a regulated environment. Peggy was an elementary school teacher. Connie ran a day-care center.

“We both understand this accountability, having to keep people safe,” Connie reflects. They also appreciate Windmill Ponds’ extra efforts to combat loneliness. “I was very pleased that they started these bus rides,” Connie continues. “It’s a way to get out but they’re still with their community. They were able to social distance on the bus.” Activity Director Chris Mattson is the chauffer for the Tuesday – Thursday jaunts around the area in the community’s bus.

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.

*editor’s note — Windmill Ponds will resume outdoor visits, weather permitting, and in compliance with Minnesota Department of Health guidelines.

Putting the pieces together

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Herb has solved some big puzzles during his 86 years, assembling the future from disjointed pieces of the present. Within Vista Prairie at Garnette Gardens he’s known for his puzzle prowess among other attributes. Shown here with Resident Assistant Janessa Whitaker, Herb has peace of mind these past five years despite the current challenging times.

“After my wife died, it’s been a blessing that I was here,” Herb says. “I talked to a friend at church who lost her spouse at the age of 69 and now she’s completely alone. It’s so important to have somebody. Folks tell me they want to stay in their house. I say, ‘what if something happens someday, and suddenly you need somebody right away and you’re all alone.’” 

Since Herb relocated from Wisconsin to Redwood Falls 46 years ago, his roots have grown deep. He devoted his first five years to managing the JCPenney store, while he and his wife raised their two daughters and a son. He followed that with a 16-year career at Thrivent, then known as Lutheran Brotherhood. He’s still in close touch with the children, their spouses and his seven grand kids.

“They know that I’ve got people here to talk to. For Christmas they bought me an iPad, and that was really nice because we can see each other,” Herb relates. “With the kids, I think we’ve been more in contact because I can see them.”

Herb volunteers that he talks up Garnette Gardens all the time, “People talk about staying at home when they get older,” he reflects. “Living in a community like this is actually easier on the entire family because they know you’re getting what you need. This is a community.”

Herb has sage wisdom for families with aging parents considering a move to assisted living – “Write things down and talk about it in advance, so all the issues are on the table.”

While Herb is still driving, he’s observed the rules that limit outside travel to essential medical needs. His biggest challenge has been not being able to go out to bible study. Still, he feels fortunate to be at Garnette Gardens. “The media hasn’t really told people what assisted living is,” he says.

The Garnette Gardens community offers 61 one and two-bedroom apartments for seniors who value their independence but want options for personal care and supportive services. We also offer 16 memory care suites that provide a long-term option for seniors diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia. Care Suites round out the options, offering enhanced care for people recovering from surgery or illness.