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.

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