Honoring the People We Serve
March 13, 2017 | by The Members of LeadingAge
LeadingAge members share the stories of the outstanding people they work for and employ.
LeadingAge members share the stories of the outstanding people they work for and employ.
Westminster Woods on Julington Creek, Jacksonville, FL
Tom Mackner has been an active resident volunteer since 2009. He has chaired committees, been a boat captain, led Bible studies, led fundraisers to help with the building of our rapid recovery unit, and most significantly, headed up the project to enhance the audio system in our auditorium. The sound system project took 5 years to complete. His leadership and attention to detail made the project a huge success.
Mackner noticed that fewer and fewer residents were attending our weekly Vespers services in the auditorium. He soon learned that one of the main reasons they had stopped coming was their inability to hear or understand what was being said. He worked with our maintenance director to research ways to alleviate the issue, then volunteered his time to meet with an audiologist and vendors to make sure we were going in the right direction.
The result, a project funded partly by a grant and partly from our budget, was the installation of a new “audio-intelligibility” system programmed to optimize the tones elderly people hear the best. The results are outstanding. The number of residents attending not only Vespers, but many other campus events, has skyrocketed! Mackner spent countless hours developing a training manual and has taught more than 20 people how to use this system.
Mackner has devoted significant time, talent and effort to the betterment of this community, its residents and clients, and persons living in the external community. He excels as a volunteer in enhancing the quality of life of others, and has recruited other residents and staff members to collaborate in pursuit of worthwhile goals.
- Pam Benfer, director of volunteers, Westminster Woods
Woodcrest Villa, Lancaster, PA
Pat Smith has been a Woodcrest Villa resident for more than 10 years. During that time, she has constantly found new ways to get involved, give back and improve the lives of residents and others in the greater community.
Smith has served on several resident committees and created events that enhance the lives of her friends and neighbors. In 2008, she worked with other residents to create the MarketPlace, a resident-run convenience store. Through the years, store sales have raised more than $100,000 to be reinvested into the community.
Smith is also a founding member of the Critters, a group of knitters and crocheters. In the 10-plus years of their existence, this group of residents has made and donated more than 1,400 blankets to local shelters, as well as Mennonite Home.
Recently, Smith got involved with Off the Streets, a nonprofit organization that helps people transitioning from homelessness into their own homes. In 2015, Smith organized a spring clean-up for residents to make donations, resulting in the sharing of more than 1,000 items for this group.
Through the Christmas in July program, which Smith helped start 5 years ago, residents have donated several hundred donated notebooks, pens, calculators and more to be distributed to needy students.
Smith works with other residents to coordinate an educational/informative speakers’ series. This year she is recruiting fellow residents to share their fascinating life stories and experiences through “Meet Your Neighbor” programs.
Additionally, throughout her time at Woodcrest Villa, Smith has served as a member of the resident council and even as president for a few years. She was also instrumental in initiating the showing of movies for residents every other weekend.
- Connie Buckwalter, director of marketing, Woodcrest Villa/Mennonite Home
Masonic Villages, Elizabethtown, PA
His tall, slender frame and lengthy palms say it all. Stanley “Whitey” Von Nieda, Jr., was born to rule the court. After a phenomenal basketball career, his love for the game is just as strong as it once was.
After leaving his high school team in Ephrata, PA, for Penn State, where he would eventually become its first basketball player to join the NBA, Von Nieda was on top of the world, but remained modest, as he has been his entire life.
When asked about his accomplishments, he will first give a small and modest shake of the head, because that’s just the kind of man he is. “I’m just lucky,” he said as he knocked on wood.
Von Nieda’s Penn State career was interrupted by his service in the U.S. Army in World War II; he fought in the Battle of the Bulge. Even so, his love for basketball followed him. For some of his 3-year service, the 6-foot-1-inch star played with the Fort Benning, Georgia paratroopers, and led the country, both college and service teams, in scoring.
In 1946, Von Nieda finished his degree at Penn State while playing for the Lancaster Red Roses in the Eastern Basketball League, where he again led in scoring and started to be noticed by bigger teams. In 1947, he met a huge advancement opportunity. His name was Leo Ferris, owner of the Tri-City Blackhawks. This was his chance to go pro.
“I only had about 10 minutes to catch the bus back to Penn State for class the next day. We were talking, and I was afraid I’d miss my ride,” Von Nieda says. “I told him I was very happy where I was.”
Ferris told Von Nieda he would match his current income and then “gave some spiel about not being a big fish in a little pond anymore.”
To seal the deal, Ferris laid $2,000 on the table and left, hoping to reel in the “big fish” he wanted.
“I decided to take the money and mail it back to him,” Von Nieda says. “So I arrived at Penn State with $2,000. I went back to my fraternity house and we had a heck of a party with it. I didn’t have all the money to send back to him, so I signed the contract.”
While with the Blackhawks, now the Atlanta Hawks, Von Nieda made the All-Rookie team, averaging 12 points a game, and the team made it to the final rounds of the playoffs both years. In 1949, the NBA was formed and Von Nieda was traded to the Baltimore Bullets, where he completed the 1949 and 1950 NBA seasons. He started every game playing both point guard and shooting guard, commonly known for his quickness on the court. “My game was all about running,” Von Nieda says.
After leaving the NBA in 1950, he coached at Elizabethtown College and in 1952, returned to the Lancaster Red Roses as a player and coach for four years. In the 30 plus years following his coaching career, Whitey worked as a salesman for the Yellow Pages and tended bar on the weekends, which he finally gave up at age 85.
Today, the 94-year-old is enjoying retirement at Masonic Village at Elizabethtown with his wife, Arlene, whom he married in 2001 after the passing of his first wife of 50 years, Dorothy.
“I’m so fortunate,” he says. “I got lucky twice.”
A life writing group on campus has encouraged him to record his stories for his 6 children and 12 grandchildren, one of whom is 6-foot-10- and plays college ball for North Dakota State. “I think he’ll be alright,” Whitey says as he knocked on wood.
- Megan Leitzell, public relations coordinator, Masonic Villages
Phoebe Ministries, Allentown, PA
Volunteering at Phoebe since 1994, Stan Harwick, 87, received a Lehigh County Unsung Hero Award from county commissioners Brad Osborne and David Jones as part of Older Americans Month. The award is given to active seniors who are making a difference in our community through their volunteer efforts, and display exceptional generosity with their time and talent to enhance the lives of others.
Harwick has enhanced the lives of residents at Phoebe since 1994, giving of his time and talents in many ways. He drove residents to special events in Phoebe’s accessible van up to 3 times a week for 22 years before retiring last year. This volunteer position not only included driving but also physically securing residents and their wheelchairs in the van.
Retiring from driving didn’t mean Harwick was ready to stop volunteering. As a long-time member of the Phoebe Ministries’ Church Relations Committee, he knew the pastoral care director needed some administrative assistance. He now spends 2 mornings a week as a clerical volunteer, which supports the work of 7 pastors in Phoebe’s 4 continuing care retirement communities.
As if all of the hours he dedicated weren’t enough, last Christmas, Harwick led a project which was featured in Sawdust magazine. The woodworking group to which he belongs, the Penn-Jersey Scrollers, created 365 wooden Phoebe tree ornaments to give as gifts to skilled nursing residents at their annual holiday parties. Harwick worked with Phoebe’s marketing department to make a logo pattern and to check that they were using the exact “Phoebe Green” paint on the ornaments. He and a few helpers painted all of the ornaments by hand before delivering them to the Community Life department. Many of the ornaments can be seen hanging from residents’ doors and windows.
Harwick’s generosity of time, flexibility, and quality of customer service to our residents and staff has been greatly appreciated over the years. He is respectful of residents, displays genuine interest in each person, and is attentive to their needs. Phoebe is thankful that he continues to be committed to service!
- Trina Johnson-Brady, community relations specialist, Phoebe Ministries
Oakwood Village University Woods, Madison, WI
At 92, you might wonder what motivates Professor Bob Bird to continue to put in 30 to 50 hours a week at the University of Wisconsin–Madison (UW).
“I can’t help myself,” says Bird. “I enjoy my work so much.”
Bird recently completed the 3rd Edition of Transport Phenomena, an internationally respected chemical engineering textbook he originally wrote in 1960 as a professor at UW. He crafted the 2nd Edition in 2001 and just finished the 3rd Edition, which will be used in classrooms this fall.
Transport Phenomena covers 3 topics: transport of momentum, energy and mass. Bird explains that these topics are closely related by their mathematical description and furthermore, each may be described at 3 mathematical levels—the molecular, the microscopic and the macroscopic.
This remarkable Oakwood resident speaks 5 languages and has his own Wikipedia page. Bird has published over a dozen books but at the end of the day, he returns to the same office on the third floor of the engineering building he’s worked in for more than 55 years—for the students.
“I still find it fascinating to be around young people,” says Bird. “I enjoy teaching. My greatest pleasure is seeing the light bulb turn on above students’ heads. I needed to complete this book because I think it will turn some light bulbs on.”
As for upcoming projects, Bird states he has no plans at this point to invest his time in writing another book.
“But who knows,” he says with a smile, “I might give in again …”
- Beth Johnson, marketing representative, Oakwood Village University Woods Campus
Schmitt Woodland Hills Retirement Community, Richland Center, WI
Laura Stoddard’s 40-plus years of experience at Schmitt Woodland Hills began in 1974. After completing a CNA course in Richland Center, she worked as a medication and treatment aide in the health center, which was an intermediate nursing home at that time. After passing a state test she was appointed to pass out medications in the health center because there was no RN on the staff at that time.
In the early 1980s, Stoddard transitioned to a part-time employee in order to complete her studies in preparation for nursing school. In 1986, she graduated from the ADN program at Southwest Technical College.
Stoddard has been a hospice volunteer at the Richland Hospital, and has been the volunteer activities coordinator here at Schmitt, establishing activities in the health center, setting up schedules and contacting volunteers. Stoddard has taken a leadership role in psychiatric care, becoming certified to perform tardive dyskinesia assessments. (Tardive dyskinesia is a difficult-to-treat and often incurable form of dyskinesia, a disorder resulting in involuntary, repetitive body movements.)
In addition to her role in the management of psychiatric care, she has functioned as the MDS coordinator. She also serves as the nursing supervisor when the director of nursing is gone, managing nursing and personnel concerns.
When on duty she focuses on the needs of the entire campus, managing resident concerns, calling physicians and families regarding changes in a resident’s condition, and assuming the role of teacher and resource person to the nursing staff and other department heads. She often stays late to offer assistance to new employees or to “just get the job done right.” Stoddard has a wonderful relationship with residents, families and physicians; she provides care to our residents as if caring for her own family.
During her time here, Stoddard has worked for all of our directors of nursing and all but one of our administrators. She likes to point out that when the current DON, Joanne Amell, became a floor nurse, she was the one appointed to orient her to the residents and the home.
We are thankful for all of our dedicated nurses, like Stoddard, for the great care they provide to our residents and their smiling faces.
- Wm. J. Bartlett, development director, Schmitt Woodland Hills
Mount Miguel Covenant Village, Spring Valley, CA
Moving to Mount Miguel gave resident Win Dean the perfect spot to settle and call home. The mountain backgrounds found in southern California were an added bonus for the traveler who had planned to continue trekking across the U.S. on a 44-year-old Honda CB750K motorcycle.
Since 2011, Dean, 85, has visited many corners of the U.S. on his motorcycle and cruised through all of the perimeter states, totaling 10,500 miles. His second ride of 6,000 miles through the interior states included a meeting in Kansas as a representative of Mount Miguel. In his travels, he has visited more than 100 countries, with New Zealand, France and Italy among his favorites.
The bike’s odometer reads over 94,000 miles. Not bad for an older Honda that had been neglected for more than 5 years because of mechanical problems before Dean became its new owner, free of charge. “If you can fix it, it’s yours,” Dean’s neighbor told him. So he did, and has put over 50,000 miles on the bike. He still does all the maintenance work on it.
Dean’s wife passed away in 2010. The retired high school educator, marriage and family therapist, pilot, scuba diver and U.S. Air force veteran still rides, sometimes on shorter trips with his wife of 3 years, Jody, whom he met at Mount Miguel. As weekend riders, he and Jody poke around the back roads, sometimes stopping in Julian, a small city located in the Cuyamaca mountains, for hot apple pie and ice cream. They also have an 18-foot travel trailer they have taken through most of the western states and into Canada.
When they aren’t traveling in the U.S. or overseas, Dean is behind the wheel of Mount Miguel’s cars, taking fellow residents to doctor’s appointments, the airport or the bus station. Jody is involved with the community’s women’s ministries.
- Wendy D’Alessandro, Lynn Public Relations
Saint John's on the Lake, Milwaukee, WI
C. Edward Weber is a modest man who created the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee’s School of Business Administration (UWM). In June 2016, UWM honored Weber with the Founding Dean Award “for deep appreciation for the strong foundation of service excellence he established at UWM from 1966-1976.”
In 1966, as Weber was finishing his doctorate at Princeton, the president of the University of Wisconsin recruited him to be the first dean of UWM's new business school (now the Lubar School of Business).
“I saw this as an opportunity to create the future and establish a reputation for UW-Milwaukee with its own business school separate from Madison, the only business school in the state at the time,” Weber says. “I wanted to bring the new ways of business thinking and strategic business models I’d been learning to Milwaukee, including the creation of an MBA program.”
Weber and Suzanne Brodzeller met at a student mixer at Marquette University and married in 1952. Suzanne graduated with a bachelor’s in nursing and pursued a master’s in library science while Ed taught at the University of Pittsburgh. After Weber was recruited by UWM, the couple and their sons, Paul and Mark, moved to Milwaukee. Suzanne had relatives here and was happy to return. The family settled into a large home on Hackett Avenue, within walking distance of the university.
Weber’s first tasks as dean included recruiting faculty and obtaining accreditation. He accomplished this with guidance from 3 top community executives. Under Weber’s leadership, his advisors grew to 9. They helped him understand the needs of the business community and how to satisfy those needs. They formed an information conduit between the university and Milwaukee businesses and helped promote the new school to the UW system’s board of regents.
Weber taught at UWM for many years after stepping down as dean, influencing the lives and careers of many Milwaukee professionals. Says Paul Weber, "He helped people see their best selves. His gift was helping people see their path to professional success."
At the 50th anniversary of the Lubar School of Business, Weber said he “felt like I was in a receiving line, greeting so many former colleagues and students. I was overwhelmed with the enthusiasm, happiness and appreciation from so many students and faculty whom I’d hired or mentored. It was marvelous.”
- Luci Klebar, director of marketing, Saint John’s On The Lake
Asbury Place, Kingsport, TN
On Oct. 29, Asbury Place resident Bob Miller celebrated his 98th birthday by breaking his own record as oldest person to zip line at Bays Mountain Park in Kingsport. Following Miller’s challenge to city leaders, Kingsport Mayor John Clark and Alderman Darrell Duncan also joined the fun.
Miller set the prior record for riding the park’s 310-foot Flying Squirrel zip line in 2015.
“I’m a prime example that you’re never too old to have fun,” Miller said. “Living in a retirement community doesn’t mean I’ve stopped enjoying life; it means I’m freed up from the responsibilities of homeownership so that I can get out there and celebrate.”
Miller, a 36-year Eastman Chemical Co. retiree, had a busy schedule at the end of 2016. He was inducted into the Tennessee Lions Hall of Fame and on Nov. 19, he served as grand marshal of the Kingsport Christmas Parade.
- Scott Bird, vice president, Moxley Carmichael
Waterman Village Retirement Community, Mount Dora, FL
LeadingAge magazine apparently doesn’t need to profile residents at Waterman Village because the organization is already doing so.
Jeff Bassett, gerontologist and director of Waterman Village’s Residential Living Information Center, has developed a series of profiles of engaged residents and posted them on the organization’s website. (Scroll down at that link and see the green buttons for individual resident stories.)
“Our primary purpose was to use this as a marketing tool,” says Bassett, “but it is also a way to educate the surrounding area that we have vibrant, active residents with amazing backgrounds.”
A compilation of the resident profiles is available here.
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.