Sibling Nomads, Bonded by Humor

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Laughter comes easy for Garnette Gardens residents Juanita Horn and her younger brother Leonard Eller, especially considering the life challenges they’ve experienced. She is 92 and he’s 88, born near Redwood Falls on the Lower Sioux Reservation, to a mother who was half Native American and a father who had immigrated from Germany. There were seven kids in the family.

All those facts contributed to the challenge, growing up in the aftermath of the Great Depression. During the lead-up to World War II, cultural distrust also was present. Juanita recounts stories of tension and discrimination because of her German-born father, who came to the U.S. when he was three. It was enough to compel her to leave the reservation.

Leonard and his wife Catie moved to Garnette Gardens in 2006. She died last March, in memory care, at the age of 100. “There couldn’t be a better place to be,” Leonard says of his 12 years at Garnette Gardens. That follows a nomadic pattern in earlier years, where he and Catie lived in Fairbanks, Alaska and several Minnesota locations.

Juanita also had multiple moves, to Texas, Arizona, Oregon and Florida before she and her late husband Dick settled back to Minnesota. Before his retirement he was a merchant sea captain. Juanita would occasionally accompany him on voyages to exotic destinations, as an honorary member of the crew. Juanita eventually rented her own Garnette Gardens apartment last May, on the other side of the building from Leonard. In addition to his companionship, Garnette’s shuttle bus was a selling point in Juanita making the move. “Besides, this is a beautiful place,” Juanita says.

With twinkles in their eyes, the siblings agree that humor has been a constant companion in their colorful lives. “I’ve always had humor,” remarks Juanita. “It’s been part of me all my life. I’ve never been really down.”

“We’ve been through some tough stuff you know?” says Leonard. “But you try to keep your humor and your common sense above everything else.”

Assisted Living at Garnette Gardens makes a lot of common sense. The community offers 61 one and two bedroom apartments for seniors who value their independence, but want access to 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 a temporary option for people recovering from surgery or illness or where enhanced assisted living services are necessary.

Community Connections

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Cally Endres (right) fielded the call at Windmill Ponds in Alexandria. It came from the nearby Community Behavioral Health Hospital (CBHH), operated by the Minnesota Department of Human Services, the first of six such hospitals in the state. They were inquiring whether Windmill Ponds had excess capacity to supply meals from its kitchen.

Cally had recently joined Windmill Ponds as the Culinary Manager. It was a perfect match for her skill-set, as her formal education was in Dietetics. That call began a nearly two-year service relationship, for Windmill Ponds to provide three meals and two snacks, each day, for the CBHH. Cally was recently promoted to Business Office Manager for Windmill Ponds, but carefully monitors the relationship, along with her successor in the kitchen, Becky Sheggeby (left).

“We take pride in the quality of our food for residents,” says Cally. “We enjoy being able to meet the needs for another location as well. This relationship helps us accomplish our goal to be more closely connected with the community.”

Windmill Ponds is in a quiet neighborhood on the east side of Alexandria. It offers 65 one-and-two-bedroom apartments, designed for seniors who want an active lifestyle with access to the care they need.

Want to learn more about Windmill Ponds? Cally’s direct number is 320-815-3279. She also might share a favorite recipe.

We’re Good

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Listening plays a big role in the selection of a senior living community, as a Twin Cities East Metro resident learned when she visited Vista Prairie at River Heights in South St. Paul.

We’ll call her “Mary.” After that initial visit, the family decided to leave a deposit on an apartment. When her River Heights hosts asked if she wanted to sample some other potential locations before making a commitment, Mary responded, “No, we’re good.”

Was it the quiet neighborhood, or the friendly staff that convinced her so quickly? While those probably contributed, it was more likely two other factors —

— this flowerpot that the staff had prepared for Mary to take with her. During an initial phone interview, Mary had commented that she’s an avid gardener.

— that her cat (and best friend) Toby could move in with her.

“She is pretty sad about the transition as she misses her screened in porch where she and Toby shared time together,” reflected River Heights’ Danielle Lloyd. “Well, Toby is now welcome here at River Heights. We’re a pet friendly community.”

Well done, Vista Prairie staff and congratulations, Mary, on your good discernment skills! The gardens at River Heights and several fellow gardeners welcomed you when you moved in recently. We think River Heights will fill you with joy, in addition to Toby, who sits right beside you on the terrace, watching the leaves change color.

Want to learn more about River Heights? Call Danielle at 651-326-6501.

Pamela Rubis is Leading Safe Care in Fairmont

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Vista Prairie Communities (VPC) has named Pamela Rubis as the Executive Director of its Goldfinch Estates Senior Living Community in Fairmont. She is responsible for all operations, contact with residents, staff and the community — in short, assuring Safe Care at Goldfinch Estates.

A veteran human service executive, Pamela brings 20 years of experience in leadership and marketing positions with senior care, a nursing home and homes for people with developmental disabilities. Her experience includes service in care communities in Adrian, Hutchinson, Lakefield, Luverne and Worthington, Minnesota. She assumes leadership of VPC’s largest community, with 92 one and two bedroom assisted living apartments and 41 memory care suites.

“We welcome Pamela to the Vista Prairie family of senior living communities,” said VPC Chief Operating Officer Kim Webster. “Pamela is known for her high quality care and her excellent communication, customer relations and interpersonal skills.”

Pamela obtained her Human Services certificate from Rochester Technical & Community College in Rochester and completed additional training in Project Management from the United States Geological Survey’s Data Center for Earth Resources Observation & Science in Sioux Falls, SD.

The Builders

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For the 70 years they’ve been married, Roger and Arlyne Burghuis have been building something – highways in central Minnesota, a successful business, and a loving family. Roger grew up on a farm so he knew what hard work is all about. They were married shortly before he shipped off for Army duty in Korea. When he got back, he found work building roads with a Chippewa County contractor.

“We would improve roads mainly,” Roger recalls, “In later years, when they started the Interstate, we built 85 to 90 percent of Interstate 94 from Fargo to Minneapolis.” Roger operated those big earth movers during the ‘70s, and later managed the crew that prepared the road-bed for paving.

Roger and Arlyne’s next building project established their own Ski-Doo snowmobile dealership, in their home town of Clara City. It was a family affair. Arlyne kept the books, and their three kids helped with the business along with Roger’s brother. “If I remember right, I think I had about 500 sleds out,” Roger says.

Roger and Arlyne say they love Copperleaf, since it became home two years ago. “The people are friendly and they take good care of you,” Roger replies.

Copperleaf senior living community offers 55 one-and-two-bedroom Assisted Living apartments, seven Care Suites, providing 24-hour continuous senior care, and 20 Memory Care Suites, designed to awaken the senses and provide support.