Skaters, Translators and Activists: These are the People We Serve
July 18, 2017 | by The Members of LeadingAge
LeadingAge members tell the stories of remarkable people they work for—and with—every day.
LeadingAge members tell the stories of remarkable people they work for—and with—every day.
Whitney Center, Hamden, CT
Lillian Chasnoff always painted for pleasure, gifting many pieces to family members, until an exhibit showcasing some of her favorite works resulted in her first sale at the age of 100.
Chasnoff was approached by another resident's son, who inquired about purchasing her painting titled “Family.”
"My daughter didn't want me to sell the painting, but my children have more than enough of my paintings. Each family member has one," says Chasnoff.
With her grandson-in-law, Ken, doing the negotiating, Chasnoff decided she wanted to do it and sold the painting for $500.
"Ken said to me that if I sell one painting then I will feel like a legitimate artist, and he was right," says Chasnoff. "To be 100 and sell your first piece is incredible! It made me feel very proud."
Chasnoff and her twin sister Evelyn, were born in New Haven, CT, in 1916. She recalls how inseparable they were; going to nursing school together, sharing a double wedding, and even having children at the same time.
Chasnoff attributes her artistic talents to her father, who designed and built clocks. After studying flower arranging, interior decorating, basic drawing, painting and ceramics, she began painting the clocks and found much joy in the art form.
"I became interested in art when I was in my late teens and looking for a hobby to make me happy," says Chasnoff. "But when I put the paintbrush to the clock, I was in heaven. It put me into a different world."
Discovering that she loved holding a paintbrush, Chasnoff spent many years studying oil painting—nudes and landscapes—with artists Bernie Lettick and Roger Van Damm. She also took watercolor lessons with Sy Diamond and continued oil painting instruction from Dee Doloff. Following this, Chasnoff became interested in painting on glass. Her twin sister also used to paint and would put beads in her work.
"I loved to paint glasses," says Chasnoff. "I used a special heavy paint and would bake them in my kitchen oven."
Although Chasnoff no longer paints due to arthritis, she gets a great sense of accomplishment remembering all the pieces of art she has created and shared over the years.
"I always painted for pleasure. I knew I wanted to leave things for my children to remind them of me and to remind them to be good to their children," says Chasnoff.
While painting was a major interest in her life, seeing the growth and development of her family has always brought her the most joy. With 3 children, 11 grandchildren, and 18 great-grandchildren, Chasnoff truly enjoyed celebrating her 100th birthday last October.
"My birthday party was like a wedding," says Chasnoff. "My family all traveled to be here."
- Gretchen Joslyn, resource liaison, Whitney Center
Three Pillars Senior Living Communities, Dousman, WI
As you might expect for an organization with Masonic origins, Three Pillars is home to some residents with strong attachments to Masonry. Residents George Wallis and Hazel Leque are 2 examples.
Brother George Wallis is a proud 74-year “Mason, Army veteran, and father of 3 wonderful girls.” That’s him in a nutshell, he says. A self-proclaimed simple man, he’s also an avid knitter, bicyclist and baker, and is known for keeping one of the most exacting chore schedules for possibly the tidiest apartment at Three Pillars.
Wallis was born in Milwaukee and his family lived in Whitefish Bay for his childhood and enjoyed summer trips to their Okauchee Lake home. During the Depression, the family made the decision to sell their home and move permanently to the lake house. While the hidden joys of lake country living were no secret to this Milwaukee family, it was still admittedly a bit of a trek to move “out west” to the suburbs.
Wallis’ journey with Masonry began in 1943, by which time he had moved to Sioux Falls, SD, serving in the Army. He joined the Sioux Falls Lodge, and will forever carry those happy memories of his early years as a Mason.
After the war, Wallis attended Marquette and acquired his mechanical engineering degree. Marrying his high school sweetheart, Ruth, a fellow lake country resident, was a dream come true for him. He became a member of the Oconomowoc Lodge, and together, the 2 joined the Oconomowoc Chapter of OES where he spent a term as Worthy Patron. George and Ruth, a high school librarian, settled down in a home in town, just six blocks from the lake.
Today, Wallis’ 3 daughters each have 2 children of their own. With one daughter and her family in Minnesota and 2 who live very close to his Three Pillars apartment, nothing brings him more joy than the time he spends with them.
Hazel Leque is a second-generation Three Pillars resident, in her 11th year of residency. She says, “I think I’ve grown to appreciate my time here even more with every year I’ve spent, from when my mother lived here to today.”
A Milwaukee native, Leque attended the State Teacher’s College after World War II, and on a vacation to her family’s summer cottage on Lake Keesus, she met her future husband, Ken. The rest of their love story is history, and they were married in 1946.
The Leques settled in the heart of Lake Country in Hartland, WI, where they began a family and would live for over 60 years. They were blessed with 3 amazing children, and while Ken stayed busy traveling as a salesman, being on the school board, and serving as president of the Village of Hartland, Hazel cherished time staying home with the kids.
Hazel was also very active with her church, whether it was participating in meetings, teaching Sunday school or setting up buffets or events. She was also president of the Hartland Women’s Club, which allowed her to contribute her talents in yet another setting. Eventually, Hazel, Ken and his father all became Masons; she and Ken served as Worthy Matron and Patron the same year, and Hazel held the role of secretary for several more. Their daughters were Honored Queens and their son State Master Counselor.
Years after Hazel Leque’s mother moved into Three Pillars, Ken and Hazel added their names to the waiting list, and they moved here in 2006, delighted by the realization of how small this world really is. They reconnected with old friends and a smile came to Hazel’s face each time she met someone who’d cared for her mother when she lived there.
- Kelsey Pangborn, communication strategist, Three Pillars
The Oscar and Ella Wilf Campus for Senior Living, Somerset, NJ
Inge Berg Katzenstein was born in 1929 in Cologne, Germany, and lived in Germany until age 10, when her family fled at the beginning of World War II and moved to Kenya. There she lived on a farm with her family until 1947 when they moved to the U.S. It took her family and her 6 weeks to travel by boat to this country. Katzenstein earned a living as a realtor in Vineland, NJ, for the last 30 years before she retired.
Katzenstein met her husband, Werner, on a blind date with friends. They dated for about 5 months before they got engaged. They were married for about 65 years and had 3 children. During her leisure time she enjoyed traveling with her family, especially to Luray Caverns in Virginia. Katzenstein has 9 grandchildren, aged 19 to 30, and 8 great-grandchildren, ranging from 9 months to 10 years old.
Katzenstein loves living at Stein Assisted Living in Somerset because her family is very nearby and visits often. In her leisure time, she enjoys reading, knitting, and working as a volunteer translating German documents for the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C. She started this project with her husband in 1998 and continues the work they started.
- Jackie Kott, director of recreation, Wilf Campus
Horizon House, Seattle, WA
In the middle of last month Ann Ormsby wondered, “Will I really ice skate today? Will I be able to make my body and skates work? Would I beg off just before my lesson?” Yes, yes, NO!
Ormsby started figure skating in New Haven, CT, when she was 7 years old. Her Saturday class for kids took place at the first Olympic-sized skating rink in the country, built in 1914. What initially appealed to her was the opportunity to perform in the annual rink galas, where everyone was dressed in dreamy costumes and performed in choreographed exhibitions.
Once Ormsby learned how to do some of the formal ice dance steps, Sunday morning adult dance sessions were a possibility. She was tall for her age so she took the “boy part” with another girl, and they were off. These were “senior sessions,” where 35 or so pairs skated at the same time. To be in a rink-sized circle with that many couples, all starting on the first note of a particular dance rather than an announcement, was thrilling. Ormsby skated weekends there until she went away to college.
Higher education, marriage and kids intervened. Long story short, Ormsby didn’t resume skating until 1988. From that point through 2009, she worked with coaches at the Olympic View Arena in Shoreline, passing her United States Skating Association Silver ice-dancing test.
Between 2009 and January 2017 Ann didn’t skate. As the questions at the beginning of this story indicate, she was worried about resuming this activity she had enjoyed so much. She knew she needed to get more exercise, build muscle, and work on balance, but was ice skating the right thing to do at age 85?
Once she was on the ice at Olympic View Arena with her earlier coach, she knew she was in the right place, doing the right thing. After a hesitant start, Ann let go of her coach’s arm. “My left leg and new hip felt strong and balanced. Right foot and leg, not so much. My balance disability came into play; I’m going to have to learn to compensate for that,” she told herself.
“Our half-hour lesson was enough for me. I skate again in 2 weeks. In the meantime I’ll work on thigh strength and balance. I did it and I’m going to do it again!”
- Hollis Palmer, director of communication, Horizon House
Edgewater Pointe Estates (Acts Retirement-Life Communities), Boca Raton, FL
Every day for the past 25 years, Rosemary Krieger has dedicated her life to caring for victims of domestic violence. Krieger is a strong advocate for Aid to Victims of Domestic Abuse (AVDA), which offers a safe haven for abused women and children.
“Seeing these women in desperate need of help, it touched my heart,” Krieger says. “You’ve seen it on TV or read about it. Many have friends who have been abused. It’s a very good feeling to make a difference in the lives of these women.”
Her compassion and commitment to these women is why Krieger recently received the prestigious Junior League of Boca Raton’s Women Volunteer of the Year Lifetime Achievement Award.
“Rosemary Krieger is phenomenal,” says AVDA President & CEO Pam O’Brien, who nominated Rosemary. “There were a lot of amazing women nominated for this award. Rosemary was surprised and humbled by it. She’s a true advocate who doesn’t stop.”
In addition to providing emergency shelters for abuse victims, the group also offers crisis counseling, food, clothing, legal advocacy and relocation assistance. Krieger and her husband, Ben, dedicated 2 shelter rooms named in memory of each of their parents.
One look at Krieger’s bulging daily planner, which is packed with charitable events, indicates how hard she works to help those in need. She has served on the boards and committees of numerous organizations, including the YMCA, Boca Raton Chamber of Commerce, St. Jude Catholic Church, Soroptimist Club, Food for the Poor, American Heart Association, American Association of Caregiving Youth, March of Dimes, National Association of Women Business Owners, Boca Helping Hands and the Florence Fuller Child Development Center, George Snow Foundation and Boca Raton Regional Hospital, among others.
“You can’t do everything,” she says. “But if you put your heart in it, you can do much more.”
- Lisa Sileo, communications manager, Acts Retirement-Life Communities
Covenant Village of Cromwell, Cromwell, CT
Made with tender loving care and blessed by the chaplain, residents at Pilgrim Manor Care Center gave the gift of warmth to children who are patients at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center (CCMC) in Hartford, CT. Pilgrim Manor is the skilled nursing center at Covenant Village of Cromwell.
Earlier in March, a group of residents finished assembling several knotted fleece blankets in colors of green, pink, gray and yellow. After rolling the blankets and tying them with a bow, they prayed over the blankets with Rev. Richard Cudmore, Covenant Village of Cromwell’s chaplain. Residents Ann DeFelice and Margaret Carlson delivered the blankets to CCMC staff, who gave them to the children.
The blankets are made of two pieces of fleece, each lined up on top of the other. Cuts are made around the edges and those cuts are then trimmed and tied together by residents.
“The residents loved knowing that these blankets were going to the children at CCMC who needed to be warm and comfortable during their stay in the hospital,” says Katie Mongillo, life enrichment coordinator at Pilgrim Manor Care Center. “As we chatted during our blanket-making sessions, many residents expressed how happy it made them to be involved in a project that helped children in need. The ladies were all very pleased with the outcome of the blankets and proud to deliver such lovely gifts to the children!”
In addition to assembling blankets, residents also create cards for veterans at Rocky Hill Veterans Affairs and are currently making beds for pets that are waiting for forever homes at Our Companions Animal Rescue in Ashford, CT.
- Wendy D’Alessandro, Lynn Public Relations
Mount Saint Joseph Residence & Rehabilitation, Waterville, ME
Like many of our “Greatest Generation,” Arlene Beardsley’s life was one of courage, commitment and determination. From serving in the Navy during World War II, to surviving cancer as a young woman, to being a business owner, raising a family, and writing 2 books, Beardsley’s legacy of leadership and success touched many people over her 94 years.
Beardsley, who passed away in June after spending the last several years of her life as a beloved resident and friend at Mount Saint Joseph Residence & Rehabilitation, was named a 2017 Remember ME Award recipient by the Maine Health Care association for her lifetime of contribution to others. She was proud and humbled to receive the award, and it was a fitting recognition for a life well-lived.
Beardsley was born in Pittsfield, ME in 1923, the daughter of Italian immigrants. She grew up on a farm with 5 siblings during the Great Depression. She joined the Navy during World War II, helping to pave the way for so many women who now serve in our armed forces. She married in 1949 and raised her daughter, Barbara, while pursuing a successful career as a small business owner at a time when women faced many challenges in the business world.
Beardsley’s business career included launching an estate sale business and florist shop in Maine, and creating a small café in Fort Lauderdale and an upscale women’s boutique in Pompano Beach. In between these ventures, she helped to revolutionize the school lunch program in the Pittsfield, ME, school system, developing innovative, appealing recipes and engaging students each day.
During her years in Florida, Beardsley complemented her busy work life by authoring 2 books: The Peanut Butter Cookbook, and The Sweet Apple Tree Farm, a children’s book about life on a small farm in Pittsfield.
After surviving cancer early in life, Beardsley was always grateful for her good health and boundless energy. Growing up with big band and swing, her great love was dancing. As she liked to joke, “I’d rather dance than eat—and you see what I’ve been doing more of lately!”
Beardsley’s most courageous battle was her struggle with Parkinson’s disease. She fought a long, hard battle against this illness, yet never complained, and until her passing she retained the curiosity and drive that distinguished her remarkable life and career.
Beardsley was a gregarious, optimistic woman whose strength, ingenuity, and sense of humor were a constant inspiration to her family and friends. She is missed by those who knew her.
- Barbara Beardsley, daughter of Arlene Beardsley.
Hospice of the Western Reserve, Cleveland, OH
The late Michele Tripi, who had Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) received hospice care in her own home. A former teacher, Michele was passionate about educating others and was a strong advocate during her illness. Her daughter, Jackie Pfadt, continues her mother’s legacy.
Mom heard about Hospice of the Western Reserve through the ALS Association’s Northern Ohio Chapter. She was about 10 months into her time living with ALS. She wanted my dad and our family to have support.
Living with a terminal illness is extremely stressful and heartbreaking. But we as a family went “all in” together. Hospice of the Western Reserve supported us in creating a care strategy to take care of Mom, and enabled us to make many memories.
Mom was scared. Everything about her disease was causing her to lose her autonomy. While she became trapped within her own body, she could still decide who she invited into her home. She welcomed the team from Hospice of the Western Reserve into our family. Having them there gave us comfort in our greatest time of need.
Our family needed this time with my mom. All of us. I was so afraid I would sink without her. We all agreed that she was waiting for us to be ready. We did so much work as a family and in our individual relationships with Mom. As she continually lost more of her physical abilities, she would have little “funerals” to mourn each loss. We grieved these losses together. Yet through these losses, we all grew in our faith. We all became better people.
I learned to trust and rely on Mom’s hospice team. The expert clinical care they provided allowed me to be a daughter. They enabled me to get the emotional, social, and spiritual support I needed to endure the unimaginable heartbreak of saying “goodbye.”
- Jackie Pfadt, daughter of Michele Tripi. Pfadt recorded a video telling her story.
Central Baptist Village, Norridge, IL
Residents and staff look forward to attending and showcasing their treasures at “The Antique Appraisal Hour” led by resident Sharon Durso. Much like the popular public television program, Antiques Roadshow, it has become a big hit with residents and staff of Central Baptist Village. Durso, a retired nurse who owned an antiques shop for 23 years, brings residents and staff together every couple of months to appraise and often give a short history of their special heirlooms.
A charming and natural host, Durso brings residents together to share their special items and the stories that surround them about families and memories. As an antiques and art dealer, Sharon regularly captivates her audience with fascinating accounts of an item’s historical details or just invokes ordinary memories and the fun remembrances that come up as vintage items are shown and discussed.
Her unique program is not only a great way to make connections with other residents, but also with their families. A resident’s daughter, who was bringing an item for her mother to show, approached Durso and said, “You probably don’t remember me but I bought a child’s roll-top desk from your antiques shop, which I still have.” It was Durso’s granddaughter’s desk.
Should a resident or staff member ever wonder about the value of that antique brooch that has been in the family for generations, or what they can fetch for that Depression glass sugar bowl, they know who to call. So maybe you are sitting on a gold mine; better yet, with Durso as your host, you are most certainly in for an hour or so of memories and fun.
- Julie Stevens, director of sales and marketing, Central Baptist Village
Crown Center for Senior Living, St. Louis, MO
Every Friday, Dave Kaskowitz leaves Crown Center for Senior Living, his home for the last 14 years. He loads his art supplies in the car and makes the 15 minute drive to the University of Missouri-St. Louis (UMSL) campus where he and 10 other artists meet in a campus studio to draw, paint and create for a few hours. It is a unique group of artists—amateur, professional, retirees, students and professors. Kaskowitz is the oldest at 92 and Corey Smith is the youngest at 35. What an unlikely pair they make.
You could tell right away that they make each other laugh. They joke around and brag about each other’s talent. Kaskowitz says that Smith can draw with both hands at the same time and is also a poet. Smith says he met Dave about 5 years ago when he was an undergraduate student. He’s now an alumnus of the university and still loves coming for studio time every Friday morning. He says it is so much fun to be with Kaskowitz—“He always makes me laugh.”
When getting their photo taken, at first they were sitting side by side. Dave turned his hat around so he would be wearing his the same way Corey was. After shooting a few photos, Corey finally threw his arm over Dave’s shoulder. As they laughed together, Dave did the same to his good friend.
That photo told the real story of their friendship! Read more about the two men at this UMSL Daily blog.
- Randi Schenberg, community relations director, Crown Center for Senior Living
Seabury, Bloomfield, CT
Anne Sullivan, a Seabury resident since 2014 and a native of Webster, MA, celebrated her 103rd birthday in May with friends, family members and high-ranked political and military figures in attendance.
During World War II, Sullivan served the U.S. Army Medical Corps in the China-Burma-India Theater, with the 48th Evacuation Hospital from Rhode Island Hospital, Providence. She served in Burma where her patients—Merrill’s Marauders among them—were American and Chinese Troops. She also nursed men who were injured and/or wounded while building the Ledo Road in Ledo Assam, India; as well as Army Air Corps personnel who flew supplies over “The Hump.” For a time, she served with Maj. Gordon S. Seagrave, the “Burma Surgeon,” caring for the sick and wounded members of Lt. Gen. “Vinegar Joe” Stilwell’s forces.
John Schmidt, Connecticut State Commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, was among those on hand to offer congratulatory remarks. “Your service makes you part of America’s greatest generation of honor, commitment and service during WWII. You enabled the rest of us to live a free life today.”
Sullivan was also assigned to the Cushing Army Hospital at Camp Edwards, MA, where she was Head Nurse Supervisor of the Paraplegic Service. She was also stationed at the 351st General Hospital of Boston, where she was chief nurse of the reserve unit.
Following the war, Sullivan remained in the Army Reserve, and retired a full Colonel.
“Colonel Sullivan put Country above self because she knew that is what she had to do,” proclaimed Rep. John B. Larson (D-CT1) as the State of Connecticut Wartime Service Medal was presented. “We owe her an eternal debt of gratitude because to serve was not what generations of our time did. Your lifetime of service is a huge credit to our nation.”
Anne’s relatives, including nieces Ann Burke and Jane Keady and their families, nephew Dennis Meagher, and her friend Henry Lewis, joined her to celebrate her momentous achievements.
- Marc Zirolli, marketing counselor, Seabury
The Community at Brookmeade, Rhinebeck, NY
Our remarkable residents are served by an equally remarkable staff of passionate employees. Here is a look at 3 of our committed staff members.
Melissa Lasher, environmental services manager, has worked at The Community at Brookmeade since 2008. Lasher is a Hudson Valley native with a passion for photography. She attends New Life Church, where she is on the women’s ministry team and serves on Angle tree ministry, providing and delivering gifts to children at Christmastime. Lasher also leads Operation Christmas, sending shoeboxes filled with gifts across the world to give children.
Lasher is passionate about what she does for her community and the residents of Brookmeade. Recently she provided photos to The Perfect Blend Yarn and Tea Shop in Saugerties NY, which has a monthly yarn club which uses photography from around the Hudson Valley to dye a one-of-a-kind yarn color from the photo that only club members receive. The hallway at Brookmeade displays some of her great photos of the residents. She has also provided photos for the Northern Dutchess News.
Lasher enjoys helping her staff succeed to do their best striving for the top performance every day. She has coached and supervised individuals with mental disabilities. 2016, her employee Mike was awarded the Employee Excellence Award presented by the Arc of Dutchess due to Lasher’s guidance. Melissa believes we all have great talents; all it takes is time to unlock the greatness and potential within all of us.
Christene Marshall, a CNA and activities coordinator, joined The Brookmeade Community in 2007. Her niche is in developing and facilitating results-oriented and award-winning activities programs with senior citizens. She is adept at getting to know each resident, learn about their life’s work and experiences, and connect with their families to learn about the resident’s joys and difficulties to develop just the right approach to activities, music and other experiences that will best interest and engage the resident.
This genuinely individualized approach directly contributes to improvements in residents’ health, emotional state and overall well-being. Marshall sees it every day and we are extremely fortunate to have her focusing her innovation and commitment to our residents. She manages, trains and mentors paid staff as well as student and community volunteers who work with our residents to help them achieve every potential benefit from our activities programs.
Marshall also oversees our pet therapy program, activities programs, our Explorations in Art program, Brookmeade Community Chorus program, Music and Memory program, visiting performers and many more creative initiatives. Based on research, observations of activities programs in other senior care communities, and her own experience in working with aging seniors, Marshall created and fine-tuned our award-winning “New Day” activities program which focuses on what people can do instead of what they can’t do.
It’s an extremely successful program in reducing stress for people with dementia, engaging them physically and cognitively, and returning their self- esteem to their lives.
The Dutchess County Chamber of Commerce bestowed the Innovator/Outside the Box Award to us for developing and facilitating our “New Day” activities program.
Culinary Manager Elizabeth Logan discovered her passion for cooking at an early age.
After serving in the Navy, Logan cooked her way through the Culinary Institute of America textbook and started working in the food industry. When an opportunity presented itself to work in a long-term care facility as a kitchen manager, she jumped at the chance. What better way for her to fulfill both of her passions, cooking and caring for others?
Logan then came to work at The Baptist Home in the coffee shop, where she used her creativity and put all those skills to use. Her first soup, creamy chicken fajita, was a big success and is now her signature soup. Today she makes homemade soups each day for the residents and staff to enjoy.
One day she met a resident with severe dementia whose entire day and most alert moments seemed to revolve around the soup special. She realized how this person’s eyes became filled with life and excitement again, and how the resident was able to engage in a meaningful conversation about the ingredients and ways of making soup. It was an a-ha moment. Logan realized how versatile soup is in being able to provide gourmet food and still comply with dietary restrictions and include residents in the process.
The Soup for the Soul Program is now another way for Logan to fulfill her passions—putting her own style on traditional recipes.
- Brian Zeidan, director of development, The Community at Brookmeade
Ohio Living Park Vista, Youngstown, OH
Mary has called Ohio Living Park Vista home for 10 years, but she’s rarely found in her apartment. Instead, she’s taking the newest exercise class, attending art lessons and exploring the town’s farmers markets, antique sales and consignment shops. Since her retirement, Mary has filled her days with the hobbies she didn’t have time for when she was working.
A year after retiring from her 41-year career at General Electric, Mary began taking watercolor classes at the Ohio Living Senior Center, where she learned about Ohio Living Park Vista. She has since added work with acrylic paints, alcohol ink and photography. She has had pieces in three Ohio Living resident art calendars, which are judged by local artists, and several juried shows throughout the Mahoning Valley. She is also a member of the Mahoning Valley Watercolor Society.
Her interests aren’t limited to art, though. She has been taking fencing lessons for over a year, rounding out an already aggressive physical routine of weekly Drums Alive classes and swimming. She hikes and loves nature and gardening, maintaining two outdoor raised garden beds and 25 houseplants. She regularly attends the Mahoning Valley Lifelong Learning Institute on Ohio Living Park Vista’s campus and is still an active member of the Ohio Living Senior Center.
- Colleen Stoker, corporate manager of internal communications, Ohio Living
Thanks to the many LeadingAge members who wrote the stories included in this article. To contribute more stories of diverse, remarkable elders—and the staff, board members and volunteers who serve them—contact Editor Gene Mitchell at GMitchell@LeadingAge.org or 202-508-9424.