Tag Archives: Vista Prairie at Windmill Ponds

Re-Union Valentines

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At 96, George still easily recalls how nervous he was to court his sweetheart, Virginia. Now comfortably settled into their apartment at Vista Prairie at Windmills Ponds in Alexandria MN, they tell the story of what led to their marriage 52 years ago. It was a re-union for both of them.

Virginia’s first husband had died of cancer two months before, when she was just 40 years old. His passing left her to raise three teenagers on her own, all while trying to manage eight cottages and a lakefront on the Lucky Acres Resort, which they owned on the west side of nearby Lake Miltona. George and Virginia met when he was a Lucky Acres customer, but they didn’t know each other well.

George made his living as a butcher and as an independent meat products provider. Cancer had taken his first wife two years earlier, leaving him the single father of three children. Because of the timing, George was more ready to pursue a relationship, especially after he got some encouragement from his pastor.

“The Lord took her husband and took your wife, and there’s no time limit,” George recalls the pastor advising him. “I said, ‘People will talk,’ and he said, ‘They’ll talk anyway.’” Even with that blessing, George was mighty nervous to call on Virginia.

“The Lord helped me turn into the resort and to go up and knock on the door,” George reflects. “I told her what the minister had said and that I knew it was early, but when you’re ready to go out, you just let me know.”

The two sets of children were understandably resistant to the courtship at first. As Virginia learned to cope with her grief, she agreed to a dinner date. And the rest was pure romance. “We started dating every Saturday night,” Virginia recalls. “We went dancing.” Virginia acknowledges that George was the better dancer.

“After two dates, her mother called me and invited me and my three children up for a meal,” George recalled. “She wanted to get better acquainted with my children.” Eventually the kids realized how much they loved each other. The courtship led to their marriage in 1970.

George and Virginia honeymooned in Hawaii, knowing they had lots of obstacles to overcome when they got home. While one of the children was married by that time, the other five teenagers needed to share the country house George had built. “We had a terrible time deciding whether he was going to give up the farm or I was going to give up the resort,” Virginia explained. Because of George’s steady, year-round work, Virginia decided to sell the resort.

In their retirement, the couple traveled for nearly a decade with their fifth-wheel trailer, visiting children and grandchildren after they eventually settled out west, in Wyoming, Idaho and Washington.

They’re now happy to call Vista Prairie at Windmill Ponds their latest stop. The community offers assisted living in 65 one- and two-bedroom apartments, designed for seniors who enjoy an active social environment and expect high quality care.

Clear Vision

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Milady Imdieke envisioned her career in health care early, in a life that has taken her through two countries and four states. Last May, she assumed her current position as the Director of Health Services for Vista Prairie at Windmill Ponds in Alexandria, MN.

Born in the Dominican Republic, she and her mother moved to Miami when she was six months old. There, they joined her physician father who was in the process of obtaining his license to practice medicine in the U.S. Her father’s medical residencies progressed through New York and Pennsylvania, eventually recruited to a clinic in Todd County’s Long Prairie, MN when she was in the third grade.

“My dad always wanted to practice rural medicine and experience the four seasons,” Milady explains, “So, Long Prairie it was.”

A Registered Nurse for four years, Milady and her father are now health care colleagues, especially as information about the Pandemic became more complex. “There was so much information out there,” she remembers. “I went to my dad, ‘What are you seeing? What are your journals telling you?’”

Milady was wooed to work for Windmill Ponds, more than three times larger than the community in nearby Clarissa, MN where she worked before. “Here, I get to interact with all the residents and see what’s going on with them.”

Milady likes everything about the job, including her leadership role at Windmill Ponds. But it’s the relationships with residents that she relishes most. “They sit and talk about their life, from the very beginning to the medical issues that are going on with them now,” she says. And it’s not only health issues. Once that trust is established, Milady says she also enjoys helping residents with other issues, including to make sense of their new smart phone.

Milady is a student again, as well as a practitioner. She’s about halfway to earning her BSN (Bachelor of Sciences in Nursing), taking on-line courses at the University of Mary in North Dakota. Windmill Ponds has a scholarship grant from the Minnesota Department of Health that will pay for those expenses as she completes her BSN.

Somehow, Milady juggles it all, studying some of each day and all day on the weekends. “I make a big pot of coffee and just do everything.” But it’s fulfilling her career vision. “I want to stay in patient care,” she says. “I really do like geriatrics.”

Vista Prairie at 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.

Keeps on Ticking

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Maxine has been through her share of difficulties in the last four months, but you wouldn’t know it from her smile. The photo was taken as she had boarded a pontoon for a ride on Alexandria’s Lake Victoria. It’s again a regular activities option for Vista Prairie at Windmill Ponds.

Maxine, now 91, has been back at Windmill Ponds since June, following minor injuries from a fall. Her accident meant she’d need to go to a skilled nursing facility for rehab. While there she experienced more health problems that sent her back to the hospital in April and May.

Maxine says she needed to do “a lot of exercising” to regain her strength to be discharged from the nursing home and rejoin her friends at Windmill Ponds. “Everyone is so attentive here,” she says. It was worth the effort, “I love the staff,” she says and all the things to do.

“I’ve had a really busy morning,” Maxine remembers, “and I like that to keep busy.” The morning started with exercise for a half hour. Then she got in a little nap before lunch, followed by a worship service.

“I had never heard one of their services before and I thought he did a very, very good job.” While the service might not replicate her home church, Maxine agrees with her two daughters that it was time for her to seek a higher level of care than they could provide in her home, even though they lived on either side of her house in Alexandria. “Especially after that fall, I realized I should not be by myself anymore. I don’t think I could be in a better place.”

And as for the pontoon ride? “I thought it was great. I’ve been around Lake Victoria many, many times but you still see new things. It was a great boat ride.”

The pontoon rides are courtesy of the nonprofit Let’s Go Fishing program, with generous support from area businesses. 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.

Sharing her smile

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Smiles come naturally for Rose Gibson, especially this one. Her photo was taken the day Olivia was born, her second great grandchild. Her smile was a frequent comment in many of the cards celebrating Rose’s recent 98th birthday. “Isn’t that something?” she ponders.

Rose and husband Warren moved into Vista Prairie at Windmill Ponds in Alexandria about six years ago. Warren passed away a few months later, so the staff and her fellow residents became Rose’s family. “I really like this place,” Rose says.  

Rose and Warren lived in three neighboring states during their 65-year marriage, while Warren pursued a financial services career. Locations included Fargo, North Dakota and Eau Claire, Wisconsin, as well as four Minnesota communities: St. Paul, Rochester, South St. Paul and finally settling in the Alexandria area where Warren was a bank president.

When the family lived in South St. Paul, Rose served as the hospital auxiliary president for Divine Redeemer. She was instrumental in raising funds for the hospital’s first ambulance. The effort included a two-night variety show complete with a producer and costumes from New York City. Rose had just one word to describe the feeling when they took delivery of the ambulance, “Awesome!” she recounted. “It was a great thing and they really appreciated it. It was so much fun, and everybody felt good.”

Rose and Warren’s move to Windmill Ponds was partially prompted by Rose’s two strokes in 2014. “I’m thankful that they didn’t affect my mind and my right hand,” Rose says. She’s also still bringing smiles to other people. “I make greeting cards, and I still can do it.”

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.

Roots and Wings

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Family roots helped guide a career in pharmacy, a profession instrumental in vaccinating his generation against COVID-19. Air Force wings propelled him to meet his wife of 56-years. Duane Hammargren’s roots and wings have influenced his 89-year journey, with a few fiery detours along the way. The Vista Prairie at Windmill Ponds community in Alexandria, MN has been Duane’s home for more than five years.

As a boy and later a young man, Duane’s roots grew deep in drugstores. He swept the floor at the store his dad owned. After his father became a traveling rep for a pharmaceutical company, Duane was called home from his first year in college to drive his dad from store to store, following a serious car accident.

Those experiences grew Duane’s wings to his own career in pharmacy, enrolling at what is now North Dakota State in Fargo. Wings of a different nature led to a detour. Four days after he joined the Air National Guard while in college, his unit was called to active duty during the Korean War. Following his Air Force discharge two years later, he met and soon married his bride Joanne.

“She was a wonderful person. I married up,” Duane says. He resumed his pharmacy studies in Fargo. In the next three years, Jo gave birth to two of the couple’s five children. During those school years, Duane supplemented Jo’s income as a nurse by working full-time in a drugstore in Moorhead. 

“I really enjoyed the school and the classes,” Duane recalls. “Just before I graduated, I was initiated into the Rho Chi Pharmacy Honor Society.” Now a licensed pharmacist, Duane and Jo wound up in the Twin Cities suburbs where his professional roots and wings eventually combined with his beloved partner and mentor Don Hanson in the business of pharmacy.

Duane vividly recalls another detour in those early years, “Thanksgiving Day, 1965, got a phone call that the whole shopping center was on fire.” It started in a back room of the Gamble store next door. While the store was a total loss, Duane and Don set up shop in a small vacant drive-in restaurant – and were back in business the same day, at least to dispense prescriptions.

“When we moved back into the main store after the fire, Don sat down with me and wanted to know if I’d like to be his partner,” he remembers. “I went to work as a pharmacist and when I came back after the fire, I was a partner!” Don and Duane eventually expanded to four pharmacies, which they managed until they sold all four and retired in 1983.

Duane and Jo moved to Alexandria where they found a house on Lake Ida until yet another detour. Their car exploded in their driveway and set the house on fire – another total loss. They had already put down roots on that lot, so they built a new house on the same site.

After Jo passed away in 2011, life got lonely for Duane, even with 15 grandchildren and 11 great grandchildren. He decided to move to Windmill Ponds five years ago. Considering the pandemic’s challenges, Duane credits the community’s executive director, Chris Carter, “I feel that her handling of the virus has been excellent. She’s done an excellent job.”

Duane’s roots in health care make him a believer in the value of the COVID-19 vaccine. “There’s nothing to be afraid of,” he says. He’ll get his second dose of the Moderna vaccine at Windmill Ponds on Feb. 16. The community offers assisted living in 65 one- and two-bedroom apartments, designed for seniors who enjoy an active social environment and expect high quality care.

editor’s note — Windmill Ponds plans to resume inside visits following required COVID-19 testing, in compliance with Minnesota Department of Health guidelines.