Category Archives: For the Family

Excursions

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Larry and Sylvia have enjoyed most of their excursions since they moved into Vista Prairie at Brentwood in Rice Lake, Wisconsin last May. By far, their favorite was to the Northern Wisconsin Veterans Memorial Cemetery, north of Rice Lake near Spooner. Sylvia has been there three times, and Larry twice.

“Stuck out among all the trees and cornfields is this beautiful tribute to the people in our country who have given their lives,” Sylvia says. “It was nice to see that it had that much impact on the locals and other people. You didn’t have to be from here.”

Following Sylvia’s solo introduction as part of an organized Brentwood trip, she and Larry went back to the cemetery* the next day. They also put it on the agenda for a visit from old friends from Madison, where Larry and Sylvia spent their working years and raised their kids.

Another excursion wasn’t quite what Sylvia expected. Curious about the borders of Brentwood’s hilltop property, she ventured out the back door for what she thought would be a short walk, without telling Larry or anyone else what she was up to. She soon was headed out of sight and down a hillside, which at the age of 86, was too steep for her to climb back up. “It wasn’t getting any better,” Sylvia recalls, “and finally I got tired, and I sat down on the grass and scooted along — all the way to the end of the property, which is where the staff found me.”

Picking up the story, Larry had become concerned when Sylvia did not appear for lunch. Among her other actions, Brentwood’s Executive Director, Rita Gronski had alerted the couple’s son Dane, an executive at WJMC Radio in Rice Lake, who headed over to the community. Activities Manager, Lee Ann Kritch, jumped in her car while other staffers looked closer to the building. Lee Ann soon spotted Sylvia from the car; Sylvia got in, and all was well.

After four months at Brentwood, Sylvia acknowledges the good food, the staff’s kindness, and the cleanliness of the community. But she stresses that initially, she did not want to leave the home she and Larry had built for their retirement years.

“I’d rather be somewhere else,” Sylvia says, “where I don’t know. The place that I loved is gone. So, it’s having to wrestle with those emotions. And they’re so extreme.”

Larry, at age 88, was more open to their life-changing excursion from the Madison area to Rice Lake. “Sooner or later, this decision had to be made,” he says. “You can’t live and support yourself your whole life. At some point, you need assisted living if you’re going to live to a big age.”

The Brentwood community offers options for residents on all sides of that spectrum, with 28 one and two-bedroom apartments for seniors who want options for personal care and supportive services along with their freedom of movement. We also offer 19 memory care suites that provide a long-term option for seniors diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia.

*Photo reprint with permission from the Spooner Advocate.

Memories

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Bob is sitting in a chair that brings back loving memories. It’s the first chair he and Hazel bought, early in their 73-year marriage. Bob crossed the 100-year-old threshold last year. With Hazel’s passing two years ago, the chair provides comfort in their apartment at Vista Prairie at Goldfinch Estates in Fairmont, MN.

Bob’s service in the Pacific during World War II earned him his accounting degree on the GI-Bill, from the University of Minnesota. Hazel and Bob met in St. Paul while both worked for the Internal Revenue Service, he as an auditor and she in administration.

Following some IRS transfers, they eventually established an accounting practice in Fairmont. He and Hazel worked side-by-side for 47 years, helping hundreds of area farmers, businesses and individuals with their taxes and other accounting needs. The domestic and business partnership worked. “When Hazel and I had a disagreement, I went for a long walk,” Bob says. “That took care of it.”

Bob remembers vivid details about a boyhood that contributed to his work-ethic and values, as the eldest child in a family of six, “As I grew older, I assumed more of the work around the house,” he recalls. “I scrubbed the kitchen floors, the bathroom, did the laundry.”

Bob remains in the same Goldfinch Estates apartment that he and Hazel moved to 12 years ago. “Hazel liked the apartment,” Bob noted. “We were very comfortable there. It worked out very well.”

Goldfinch offers 92 one and two-bedroom apartments 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.

Perfect harmony

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Rev. Norman Madson found harmony through the friends he’s made and from his singing. Until his health took a turn for the worse, you’d often find him singing hymns in the front living room of Vista Prairie at Monarch Meadows. Usually, he doesn’t need his hymnal since he’d committed so many songs to memory.

Following his move-in last November, he quickly became acquainted with fellow residents. “It’s through the dining area where I have made my friends,” he says. One of our largest communities, Monarch Meadows is located close to the North Mankato townhouse where Norman and his wife Amanda lived, before she passed away about four years ago.

His son was instrumental with the move. “We just liked what we saw,” Norman recalls, “so when it was time for me to move out of my apartment, this was the place to go. I’m real satisfied with the decision.”

Rev. Madson was no stranger to moving. Through his 43-year career in the pulpit, he served Lutheran parishes in five Minnesota and Wisconsin communities. And during that time, he and his wife raised five children. His near-by son Michael stops in every day; they often enjoy watching sports together.

But beyond his love for Minnesota sports teams, it’s the hymn singing that sustains him. “My father was a pastor also,” he said. “Hymn singing was a big part of our family life. I had six brothers and sisters and we learned hymns by heart. Many of them I still know. When I go to bed, I say my regular evening prayers and then I’ll sing in bed all by myself. I’ll sing from six to a dozen hymns before I fall asleep.”

Norman mentioned that his memory is starting to fail. But how many of us can sing a dozen songs of any sort by memory? And what’s his favorite hymn? Without a beat, he recites the first verse —

“If thou but suffer God to guide thee,
And hope in Him through all thy ways,
He’ll give thee strength whate’er betide thee,
And bear thee through the evil days.
Who trusts in God’s unchanging word,
Builds on the rock that naught can move.”

He adds that his daughter Liz carries on in a ministry of her own. She started a Wisconsin greeting card company, Hymns in My Heart, that designs and sells cards comprised only of hymns.

All in the family

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As the Alexandria Echo Press reported this week, Vista Prairie at Windmill Ponds has a novel answer for the staffing challenge that plagues so many services these days. Employ an entire family. While they don’t see that much of each other on the job, four members of the Mattson family are now serving Windmill Ponds residents.

From left to right in the photo, Katie (Mattson) Childers is a part-time culinary aide, helping in the kitchen and serving residents at mealtimes. Katie’s brother Chris Mattson is the long-time activities manager. Kathy Mattson and husband Michael, the oldest sibling, are both resident assistants, Kathy for three years and Michael for one.

Michael works 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. during the week and every other weekend. His transition involved a career shift from retail, selling and fitting customers for CPAP equipment. He’s a registered respiratory therapist who earlier worked in that field for 33 years in hospitals and clinical settings. “I wanted to get back into direct personal care,” Michael reflected. “I like the variety, and places like this needed help in the pandemic.”

Kathy and Michael have been married for 36 years. She’s a long-time caregiver who wanted to go to a smaller setting. “I like to get to know everyone that we’re working with, residents and staff,” she says. Kathy described her care for a 90-something resident with whom she has a close trusting relationship. “She’s really neat. You go in and visit and we just talk.” And all the while, Kathy is helping her take a bath or get dressed or about anything she needs to do.

Chris Mattson, the middle child of the trio, has served as the Windmill Ponds activities director for 11 years. Chris says the best part of the job is “making a resident’s day, even if the resident is 103.” While Alexandria winters do get long, he eagerly awaits summer on the area’s beautiful lakes. He’s a long-time volunteer for Let’s Go Fishing, which provides summer excursions for Windmill Ponds residents and other nonprofits.

Katie is the youngest Mattson sibling. “The residents here each have a gift; there’s something special about each of them that lets you strike up a conversation,” Katie relates. “They have so much purpose left and so many gifts to give. They enrich our lives, so much.” Katie works the dinner service and weekends, and during the summer, when she’s not teaching interior design at Alexandria Technical and Community College. She has been on the faculty there five years, after a successful career as a designer.

Why do they do it? Good seeds, planted by the siblings’ parents are one reason. Their mother Carmen encouraged the kids to volunteer with senior care facilities when they were growing up. She died in 2016 after a four-year stay at Windmill Ponds. Their father George passed away six years earlier, having run an interior design business since 1959 and also teaching at Alexandria College.  

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.

Family, Fervor and Faith

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It’s hard to decide which of the chapters in Dee’s nearly 101-year life had the greatest impact on her. While she’s now a memory care resident at Vista Prairie at River Heights in South St. Paul, MN, she can vividly recall details of three key chapters: her family, her fervor for music, and her faith.

Family — Dee and her first husband Burt had five girls and two boys, with the oldest child now 78. During World War II Burt enlisted with the Seabees, part of the Navy, building airfields, bridges and other big construction projects, often amid combat. “That’s what he loved,” Dee recalls, thankful that he came home safe.

Dee remarried after Burt died in 1963. That union produced a daughter who is now 55. The children and grandchildren visit her often. “They all have their turns,” she says.

Fervor – Dee took after her father, a professional musician, to pursue her own musical passion as an accomplished pianist and organist. She was a frequent entertainer for more than 20 years, with West St. Paul’s Southview Country Club being one of her favorite venues.

Burt was not thrilled with Dee being gone at night for her playing engagements, “He thought I should be home,” Dee recalls. “I just said ‘I love doing this. You went into the Seabees because you loved the Seabees, and that’s the way I feel about my music,’ and he didn’t make a fuss after that.”

She played by ear, never using sheet music, “I enjoyed every minute,” she says, with songs like It Had To Be You and All Of You some of the regulars in her repertoire.

Faith – “I was not overly religious, but I do have a strong faith,” Dee reflects. “I just prayed for everything.”

The Catholic Eucharist is still an important part of her life even though it’s most often delivered to her. Faith has been central since she attended Catholic grade school and high school. It was so important to Dee’s parents for her to attend St. Francis de Sales School on West Seventh Street that she lived with her aunt during the school-week and came home on weekends.

Dee looks forward to playing a keyboard at River Heights, which offers 16 memory care suites in addition to 44 assisted living apartments. Click here for the River Heights brochure – featuring Dee on the cover, or call Michael at 651-326-6502 to learn more about River Heights. He’ll be happy to give you a tour.