Now it’s her turn

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Vista Prairie at Windmill Ponds in Alexandria has been home to Delores for 13 years, longer than any other resident there. When you live to be 101, like Delores, it’s possible to outlive your resources. Social Security helps but doesn’t cover the full cost of assisted living services, food, medicine and other needs.

It’s a common situation in Minnesota, where more than 30,000 people get assistance from Elderly Waiver, a Minnesota Medical Assistance program for people who qualify based on their care needs, total assets and income. Delores is one of those people. The sale of her house in nearby Brandon, MN plus other savings and Social Security provided for her expenses for many years.

For the generation that Delores represents it’s the least we can do. Through their hard work and courage, they helped build the economy we enjoy today. In her case, after her husband died eight years earlier, Delores decided at 88, that it was time for assisted living.

“It was getting to be a little bit too much,” Delores remembers. “I did my own taking care of the place, mowing the lawn and having a garden.” That’s when her son and nephews helped her move to Windmill Ponds.

The youngest of seven children, Delores was raised on a diversified farm in Douglas County. She and her husband eventually operated the farm for 15 years, but farming took a toll on her health. That led to a seven-year career in the Douglas County Welfare Department where she assisted county residents who needed help.

Delores found more perspective later in life about what it takes to operate a community like Windmill Ponds. She and her husband devoted several years to manage motels and apartment buildings, both in Arizona and back in Minneapolis. While she has outlived many of her fellow Windmill Ponds residents, she still enjoys its care and comfort. “I consider it’s like a community of friends,” Delores says. “You make of it what you do with yourself.”

103 Valentines

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Ken and Kathryn in their Goldfinch Estates apartment

Ken was born on Valentine’s Day 103 years ago. He and Kathryn are at home in a beautiful Goldfinch Estates apartment where they have lived for three years.   

That 1917 Valentine’s Day brought a blizzard to the family farm near St. James, MN. Summoned to look after the birth, the doctor relied on a one-horse sleigh to race seven miles through the night. After he hurried to get the horse in the barn and wipe it down, he attended to his duties. Ken described what happened next, after the doctor cared for the new arrival.  

“The doctor wanted to go home, and when they went to the barn, they found out the horse died.” Ken’s dad did the right thing. He replaced the horse with one of his own. “He didn’t want to keep feeding the doctor,” Ken remarked with a twinkle in his eye.   

Among the traits Ken and Kathryn have shared for 71 years of marriage, is their humor. They met at a party in Minneapolis after Ken got back from combat in the North Pacific during World War II. Ken was enrolled at the Minnesota School of Business at the time. 

“He had dark hair,” says Kathryn, who at 95, does not color her hair. “He asked if he could take me home and three other girls also got in the same cab. When we got to my house, I jumped inside and closed the door. He had to pay for the other three too.” 

Their spirit resulted in marriage after Ken finished college, and successful business careers for them both. Over his 17-year career with Allis Chalmers Ken became a sales promotion manager, serving a three-state region. A short stint with DuPont followed that. Meanwhile, Kathryn’s career was in accounting. 

“My very first job was for Imperial Printing and the head accountant was one of Ken’s teachers at the business school,” Kathryn recounts. That may have influenced her confidence in the romance. 

They lived and worked for nearly 50 years in the Twin Cities until it was time to retire. Those decades led to weekend camping trips throughout Minnesota and eventually winters in Texas and trips around the country in their motor home. 

Kathryn’s back injury prompted their move from Lewisville, MN a few miles south to Fairmont and their assisted living apartment where they get the care they need. They’ve become active members of the Goldfinch Estates community, which offers 92 one and two-bedroom senior apartments for seniors who want access to supportive services. We also offer 41 memory care Suites that provide a long-term option for seniors diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia.

BFFs to the rescue

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If your best friend forever (BFF) is a herpetologist for a zoo, Gary has some advice for you. Be ready for some unusual adventures. Gary recently brought the newspaper account of one famous escapade to his new home, Vista Prairie at River Heights, in South St. Paul.

The 1963 stories picture Gary’s role in helping BFF Bob Duerr recover an 11-foot-long crocodile from St. Paul’s Lake Phalen. Bob got the call when someone spotted the croc and quickly surmised that it had been stolen from the nearby Como Zoo. Bob was the zoo’s expert in reptiles and amphibians at the time. Gary set the springtime scene, which was around high school graduation.

“Some kids drove their car right over the fence at the zoo and lassoed the croc from a moat filled with water,” Gary remembers. “Then they did a really dangerous thing. Of all the places to take it, Lake Phalen, the playground for the kids.”

When Gary arrived at the lake Bob was already in the water, in the process of capturing the croc. Bob suffered a nasty slash on his arm so Gary took over, as the photo shows, and subdued the croc until it could be transported back to safe surroundings.

An accomplished writer, Gary described the aftermath of their adventure in an essay about his life, “My first and second grade daughters dipped into their piggy banks and bought several copies of the morning papers, both St. Paul and Minneapolis, with the whole story, complete with lots of pictures. They cut out the stories and took them to school and boasted and bragged and went on about their dad.”

After a life of ups and downs, one of his four daughters recently helped Gary move into Vista Prairie at River Heights. At the age of 84, he feels secure and well cared for. Want to learn more about River Heights? Call Danielle at 651-326-6501.

Painting Memories

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While Josie Olander’s service helps awaken the senses of Copperleaf residents, she didn’t expect it to include painting a mural on one of the memory care unit’s walls. Executive Director Jennie Marcus had the idea, and Josie, who joined the staff a little over a year ago, made it happen. She painted a couple hours at night, starting around Thanksgiving and going into early December — after her regular evening shift ended.

“A farm scene came to mind,” Josie says about the process. “I come from a family of farmers; my grandpa was a farmer and my uncle still is, in Renville County.”

Several memory care residents chatted as Josie created during the three-week sketching and painting process. She remembers one who had especially valuable advice. “He raised horses and his information flowed out as he stepped back into that role. It was just awesome,” she remembers. “He also taught architectural drafting… so when I was drawing the barn, he had some legitimate pointers on my perspective.”  And perhaps the ultimate affirmation for an artist – “the resident said the mural brings a lot of life to the place.”

Josie’s resident assistant role takes her to all three Copperleaf choices: assisted living, care suites and memory care. “I just want to help out where needed,” she explains. Variety in her work is a theme. During the day she’s a para-professional at Dream Technical Academy in Willmar, providing an opportunity to practice her professional skills with high school youth as well.

Josie also responded to some self-imposed pressure – completing the mural in time for the annual Copperleaf holiday party. “I stayed that night until about two in the morning, but I got it done!”

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.

A 2020 Vision of Compassion and Joy

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During December we asked the executive directors of our Vista Prairie Communities (VPC) to reflect on our mission of compassion and joy as we enter a new decade. They described what they see and experience where they serve in eight Midwestern communities. From left to right as pictured:

 

Jennie MarcusCopperleaf in Willmar, MN – “Relationships and friendships built through teamwork.”

Natalie SeehausenGarnette Gardens in Redwood Falls, MN – “True ‘joy’ comes when you inspire, encourage and guide someone else on a path and we all benefit from their success.”

Cal Diekmann Fieldcrest in Sheldon, IA – Cal experiences joy “every day when residents wave at me when they walk by!”

Rachael Evers – At that time, leader of Monarch Meadows in North Mankato, MN – “Intentional, meaningful, purposeful, caring relationships.” It was a true joy working with you Rachael!

Joe Childs River Heights in South St. Paul, MN – “Genuine joy-filled communities.”

Chris Carter Windmill Ponds in Alexandria, MN – Chris sees joy in residents’ “warm, contented smiles revealing peaceful hearts.”

Pamela Rubis Goldfinch Estates in Fairmont, MN – “The ability to serve others and greeted with a smile every day!”

Kim Webster – Vice President & Chief Operating Officer, with oversight for Emerald Village in North Olmsted, OH – For Kim, these words lead to joy – “passion, leadership, integrity, hard-work and dedication.”

In our complex world, author and Kentucky farmer Wendell Berry has sage wisdom on the topic – “Be joyful – though you have considered all the facts.”

Throughout the new year we wish you bountiful joy coupled with the compassion of loved ones around you!