Category Archives: Resident stories

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.

In command

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Along with his characteristic smile, Joe often wears a hat signifying his hitch in the U.S. Navy. For four years he served aboard the USS Columbia, the submarine illustrated by his side. Instead of helping to navigate that ship, he’s now fully in command of his current environment as a resident of Vista Prairie at Garnette Gardens in Redwood Falls, MN.

Joe is a Redwood Falls native, attended high school there, even owned the local roller-rink for a brief time at the age of 21.

Seven years after his Navy discharge, Joe was diagnosed with brain cancer. For two years, he underwent the whole series of chemotherapy and radiation. That cured the cancer, but he suspects the treatment also led to a stroke. While those misfortunes have been the biggest challenges of his 45 years, impacting his mobility and speech, they have not dampened his outlook on life.

“I’ve been through some things, but positivity has never gone away,” Joe relates. “In fact, it’s never been stronger.”

Highly skilled in computers and electronics, Joe has become a passionate motivational video producer. He started the series while living with his mother in Redwood Falls during his stroke recovery. While he’s grateful for his mom’s support, he yearned to live more independently. Recently, he moved into Garnette Gardens along with an array of professional quality video production equipment, where he continues to turn out videos like this one.

“I’ve been living here for a month,” notes Joe. “I love it here, the other residents are a hoot, the staff is great. I really feel at home here. Their assisted living here is awesome.”

As his slogan, Joe subscribes to a motivational sign hanging in a Garnette Gardens hallway – Be the Reason Someone Smiles Today. “I think the whole world needs positivity,” he says. “It’s infectious.”

The community offers 62 one and two-bedroom apartments for seniors who also value their independence but, like Joe, need options for personal care and supportive services. We also offer 16 memory care suites. Nine care suites round out the options, offering a higher level of assisted living care and supervision.

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.

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.

Transitions

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Carole and Jerry have been residents of Vista Prairie at Brentwood in Rice Lake, Wisconsin for 10 weeks. It’s the biggest transition in their life together, except perhaps when they got married 20 years ago, at the age of 68. They blended their families from previous marriages. She has four children, and he has three.

Their decision to move to Brentwood came when Jerry was in the hospital in Eau Claire recovering from an unexplained issue with his legs, which resulted in exchanging his riding lawnmower for a walker. It all started when he was mowing his two-acre lawn at their house in Campia, northeast of Rice Lake.

“I came to a stop, and I couldn’t get off the lawnmower,” Jerry recalls. “So I fell, and my neighbor and my son got me up and walked me into the house.”

That incident was enough for Carole and Jerry to seek a more secure place to live, at the urging of Jerry’s daughter, JoEllen, who lives in the Twin Cities. She and her siblings grew up on Jerry’s dairy and beef-cattle farm where he had long supported their 4-H and FFA activities. Now it was JoEllen’s turn to guide their next steps.

“I like this place,” Jerry reflects. “I love the meals and I love the care they give you. They come in every morning and take my temperature and weigh me.”

The couple brought their car with them to Brentwood, where they rent a garage. Carole will do the driving when the weather gets a little better. Her family lives in Tennessee and California. She’s looking forward to a reunion with them this spring.

Like most new residents, Carole and Jerry are going through all the stages that William Bridges described in his classic book, Transitions – Making Sense of Life’s Changes. They have experienced an ending for their time living together in Campia. They are now in what Bridges calls, “the Neutral Zone,” where they are adapting to their new surroundings and patterns. And they’ve already embraced their “New Beginning” at Brentwood, with the help of a loving staff, their new friends, and 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.