LeadingAge Magazine · January/February 2014 • Volume 04 • Number 01

From Art to Scholarship to Ferris Wheels: These are the People We Serve

January 05, 2014 | by The Members of LeadingAge

Our members’ latest tributes to the residents, clients and staff at the center of their work.

Daily Living Centers, Bethany, OK
In the 1970s, Marion Melbourne “Tim” Burnham managed the Sheraton Inn Skyline East in Tulsa. One of the nicest features of the hotel was a putting green. Tim worked very hard to maintain it and redesigned it himself. One day a very important guest stayed at his hotel and used his putting green. Bob Hope was in town to play in a charity golf tournament. As Hope told Burnham, “You can make some big money on this putting green.”

Burnham also was known for his ice sculptures (including an eagle carved from a 900 pound block of ice). While working at Oklahoma City Golf & Country Club, he became friends with Gray Frederickson, who produced classics like the Godfather movies, Apocalypse Now and The Outsiders, and he lived in Oklahoma City. “Sitting and having a conversation with him was a dream come true,” says Burnham.

He was also good friends with actor Dale Robertson and Oklahoma City restaurant owner Jack “Sussy” Sussman of Nomad II (originally known as Sussy’s), which was popular with politicians. Sussy introduced him to Jack Ruby, a nightclub operator in Dallas who later became famous for killing JFK assassin Lee Harvey Oswald.

Today, Burnham, like many of our clients, understands the importance of staying healthy. He stays active and tells stories of his exciting life, including his service in the Korean War. This father of three says, “I can’t say enough good things about the Daily Living Centers. I love coming here.”

- Pam Timmons, vice president of development, Daily Living Centers

Regents Point, Irvine, CA
Doris Segar didn’t discover her flair for color and painting until she became a septuagenarian.

When Segar turned 70, she says she wanted to do something new, and a friend suggested that Segar accompany her to a painting class. “I can’t draw two straight lines with a ruler,” Segar says she told her friend. Despite her initial hesitation, she attended the class.

“The teacher tacked a canvas to the wall and said, ‘Show me what you know about color.’ And that’s when I started to paint,” she says. Her newfound passion has resulted in more than 100 paintings, completed for friends and charity. Some of those paintings cover the walls of her Regents Point apartment.

Segar’s collection of work reflects a life that’s been just as colorful. Born on a farm in Iowa, she attended college in Des Moines and worked in Omaha. “After one cold winter, I escaped to sunny Los Angeles,” she says.

In L.A. she took flying lessons, worked at a small airport and served as executive secretary to the president of Lockheed. With her second husband, she turned a failing plastics company into a major container manufacturer and even found time to launch a fashion boutique in Denver with her daughter. Segar has traveled the globe and even competed internationally as a duplicate bridge player.

But back at home, she’s always at work on another painting. Segar was among the 20 residents who showcased their art in the community’s Festival of Art. The display spanned a variety of media which included charcoal, watercolor, acrylic, oil, computer-generated art, porcelain doll-making and original needlepoint designs.

“After the show, I had six phone calls about one of my paintings, but I don’t paint to sell them,” says Segar. “I paint for the pleasure of it.”

- Monee Fields-White, senior writer, be.group

Kidron Bethel Village, North Newton, KS
Harold Schmidt is on a mission. At 97, he believes “the good Lord is keeping me here so I can make quilts.”

And Harold is fulfilling that mission daily, using his late wife’s sewing machine to fashion quilt tops from donated scrap denim. It’s not unusual for him to step out of his apartment at Kidron Bethel Village and find the donated gift of an overflowing bag of old denim jeans or pockets awaiting his cutting wheel and needle. His interesting patchwork quilts usually feature the denim back pockets from jeans somewhere in the design.

He donates two to three quilt tops each week to the Mennonite Central Committee near his home. MCC pairs the tops with appropriately themed fabrics to make picnic comforter blankets, complete with napkins stored in the jeans pockets. He also donates his creations to the Et Cetera Shop in Newton.

His work is well-known in MCC circles, with some of his quilt projects bringing around $450 each to benefit the annual MCC Relief Sale. Harold estimates he’s made nearly 2,000 quilts and tops through the years, and he’s given away every one of them.

“I take a bunch of them to the South Texas relief sale, too,” says MCC workroom supervisor Irma Gonzalez. “Harold is so sweet! I want everyone to know what good things he does with his quilting.”

- Susan Garofalo, advertising and public relations manager, Bluestem Communities

Francis Asbury Manor, Ocean Grove, NJ
“We are now about 24,000 feet up, heading for Germany … German fighters in the area ready to attack … formation approximately 20 to 30 across … coming at us from all directions.”

Bronx born and bred, Cornelius Kohlman liked to play Ring-a-levio with a pretty little Italian girl named Lucy who lived in the neighborhood. He was a typical city boy in the early part of the century, enjoying school, friendships and the games that kids played to amuse themselves in an innocent city that would forever change over the next decades.

“I could see something coming down from the lead plane—their Tail Gunner was bailing out … plane badly damaged … going down. He fell into my section.”

Lucy would have to wait. War was declared and in 1939 Kohlman joined the Air Force, was accepted to Officers Candidate School and in October 1942 received his commission as a bombardier. By 1943, he was assigned to Lady Stardust II, a B17G Flying Fortress with a crew of 10.

“I was hit over my left eye by the gunsight. The bombsight hit my right knee and the pressure from the damage to the plane pushed me back—Merle was hit by a 20mm shell … killed instantly. We had one dead, six wounded and no more bombs to drop. We had to ditch. I thought I was going to die.”

Kohlman received his Purple Heart in the hospital while recovering from his injuries. By then he had spent five years in the Air Force, earning his honorable discharge in 1945 as a First Lieutenant.

“No amount of praise … for Mike and Harold, our pilot and co-pilot, who flew a four-engine plane on one engine to bring us safely home.”

Back in the Bronx, Kohlman courted and wed Lucy. They had two daughters, Lucy Ann and Mary Ann. Neil and Lucy were wed 64 years until Lucy’s passing in 2011.

Kohlman’s legacy to his children and grandchildren: “Live a clean life. Be honest with yourself. Honor your parents because their knowledge will help you in your life.”

- Pat Darcey, marketing director, Francis Asbury Manor

Crown Center for Senior Living, St. Louis, MO
Winning is a way of life for Fay Gillerman.

“Put some zest into your life!” says Gillerman, a Crown Center resident who has now raked in thousands of dollars in cash and prizes from sweepstakes and competitions around the nation. “Entering contests keeps your brain active and keeps you from aging.”

Gillerman is a living testament to the old saying that you can’t win if you don’t play. And play she does, having spent much of the last four decades entering contest after contest, taking home prizes that range from money to bicycles to luggage to cookware. Gillerman has won a moped, a go-kart, a rotisserie oven and a washing machine and picked up awards as odd as a month of free ice cream or a trip to a cooking contest.

Cooking has brought great joy to Gillerman, who has had her recipes published in books. In 1982, she won $1,000 for her Apple Meringue Cake while her Chicken Diane was good enough to be judged the best in Missouri and sent her to the National Chicken Cooking Contest.

Gillerman’s feats are all the more impressive given that she didn’t even start to enter competitions until age 40. Since then, she has won “last line/best jingle” contests, “write the winning ad statement” contests and sweepstakes drawings.

“Contesting is a barrel of fun,” she says.

Gillerman admits there aren’t as many contests today as there were decades ago but she seems to know where to look. Although today many people enter contests on the Internet, mail-in contests are making a slow comeback.

“It’s great,” she said. “I keep an eye out in my grocery store aisles. That’s how I just won a $150 grocery store gift card.”

- Randi Schenberg, community relations associate, Crown Center for Senior Living

Selfhelp Community Services, Inc., New York, NY
Clients from Selfhelp’s Benjamin Rosenthal Prince Street Senior Center in Queens, NY, went head-to-head with SAGE’s Innovative Senior Center in Manhattan in a fight to the finish showing their skill, enthusiasm and teamwork in the City of New York’s first live online Xbox bowling challenge. The high-spirited challenge was made possible by support from Microsoft, NYC’s Department for the Aging and the NYC Department of Information Technology & Telecommunications.

“We practiced, we encouraged each other, and in the end … we won,” explains Selfhelp team captain Bernie Abramowitz with a big smile. Selfhelp’s bowlers ranged in age from 60 to 92, representing a senior center that is perhaps one of the area’s most diverse.

“One of our best players,” explains another stellar team member Elena, “is Mrs. Liu, who’s 92. She is the ‘strike queen.’”

“I love this game,” says Liu in Chinese, through an interpreter.

The Kinect virtual bowling game rewards precision, with avatars representing the real bowlers on a giant screen, mirroring the players’ actual movements. But there’s nothing “virtual” about the excitement that the game generates at the senior centers among players and spectators as well.

Both teams were further elated by attendance and glowing coverage from reporters. The New York Daily News featured the teams a day before the match and again on the day-of. A Queens Courier video report is also available.

Television, radio and print reporters captured the tournament for their diverse audiences. One sports reporter said he was impressed with the skill of the contenders and even tried his hand at Xbox after the championship was won.

“Selfhelp may have won the tournament,” says Charles “The Dominator” Cole, 63, of the LGBT team from the SAGE center. “But we are sure to win the next game. I can just feel it! Besides, the friendships we’ve made through Xbox is the real trophy—and we all share in that.”

“Technology, whether it’s in the form of this Xbox virtual bowling tournament, high tech amenities in our affordable housing, or our Virtual Senior Center classes … is opening doors and changing lives for thousands,” says Leo Asen, chief innovation officer of Selfhelp Community Services.

“I may walk with a walking stick,” says Selfhelp team member Siok Hong Chang (age 88). “But the Xbox doesn’t even know that. Here, I am a real champion,” she says.

- MJ Wyatt, communications project manager for the Selfhelp Xbox Tournament

Redstone Highlands Communities, Greensburg, PA
Dr. Richard L. Morgan earned degrees from Davidson College, Wake Forest University, and Union Theological Seminary. He holds a M.A. in counseling and a Ph.D. in early Christian history. He served pastorates in West Virginia and North Carolina, where he developed a dynamic older adult ministry. While a pastor in Lenoir, NC, he was named "Man of the Year' by the city of Lenoir for his work with older adults, including building a senior center for the community. He also served as professor of religion at Peace College in Raleigh, NC, and Presbyterian College in South Carolina. He taught psychology at Mitchell Community College in Statesville, NC, and was director of counseling at Western Piedmont Community College in Morganton, NC.

Morgan also served as a pastoral counselor at the Life Enrichment Center, under the auspices of the Baptist Hospital Pastoral Care department, where he did his Certified Pastoral Education work. After his retirement, Dr. Morgan devoted himself to writing. Since 1991 he has written 15 books, including best sellers, No Wrinkles on the Soul and Remembering Your Story. His most recent book, Pilgrimage into the Last Third of Life, was co-authored with Dr. Jane Marie Thibault of Louisville, KY.

Today, Dr. Morgan is a resident at Redstone Highlands Communities, a continuing care retirement community near Pittsburgh, PA, with this wife, Alice Ann. He continues writing and is highly involved with doing Life Bios for independent living residents, worship and pastoral care for persons with Alzheimer's disease or other forms of dementia, and serves on many resident committees. Dr. Morgan has won the Annual Legacy Award of Lifetime Achievement given by Presbyterian Older Adult Ministry. His award will be presented on Oct. 8th in Atlanta.

- Shawna Miller, outreach coordinator, Redstone Highlands Communities

Maple Farm, (a Garden Spot community), Akron, PA
Ferris wheels are for children—and for the very young at heart. When Huldah Folkman, 98, mentioned that she used to enjoy riding the big wheel, a team member at Maple Farm made a special effort to help her enjoy the experience again.

Folkman grew up in a small town in rural Pennsylvania and later moved to Reading. She raised a family and spent 40 years as a waitress at Zinn’s Diner in Adamstown, a popular spot with locals and visitors to “Pennsylvania Dutch Country,” where she enjoyed meeting new people. She moved to Maple Farm in 2007, where she quickly became known for her spunk.

“It’s tough getting old,” she says. “And I should know, because I am old.” She takes only three pills a day, but she thinks that’s a lot.

In the last few years, Folkman has become close with Amanda Moyer, R.N., the nursing team leader of Franzen House, one of two skilled care households at Maple Farm. Folkman loves Moyer’s dog, Chance, a Yorkshire terrier who occasionally accompanies Amanda to work.

“How’s the baby doing?” Folkman asks. “He’s so cute.”

On a Wednesday in September, during the annual resident trip to the Ephrata Fair for lunch, Folkman mentioned that she liked the Ferris wheel. In the true spirit of person-centered care, Moyer came in on a Saturday afternoon to pick Folkman up for the fair. They had a great time riding the Ferris wheel!

Now, whenever Folkman sees Moyer, she says, “I wish I was back on that Ferris wheel.”

- Lora Gomboc, executive director, Maple Farm

Wesley Homes, Des Moines, WA
LaVonne Mahugh’s nursing career started in the early 1950s when she graduated from Jamestown College in North Dakota. She said jokingly, “At that time, women had two career choices: to be teachers or nurses, and I didn’t want to be a teacher.”

The relationship between Wesley Homes and Mahugh began in 1968 when she became the overnight nurse. Today, Mahugh works part-time on weekends in the Wellness Nurse Office, which covers The Gardens and The Terrace apartment buildings. She feels very blessed to work with the residents and staff, and loves how the nursing profession has always been so fulfilling. She values the fact that in her 48-year nursing career she has provided a useful and helpful role to residents.

As a wellness nurse, she doesn’t dispense even over-the-counter medication due to state laws; however, she provides several valuable functions, including consultations, peace of mind to residents and their families and promotion of positive and active lifestyles. Mahugh is humble about the time she dedicates to the residents, and she deeply enjoys consulting with independent residents to understand the best medical options on a variety of issues.

The atmosphere at Wesley Homes is very caring, compassionate and full of energy, and Mahugh really enjoys being a part of the residents’ ability to age in place. She holds dear the fact that Wesley Homes wants to use her years of expertise in nursing to assist residents; she especially enjoys being the wellness nurse for resident outings.

“The resident outings are a great way for residents to carry that sense of community, confidence and independence with them off campus,” says Mahugh. “They share a camaraderie that is inspiring.”

Through Mahugh’s personal contacts with Wesley Homes residents, she has experienced how extremely engaging, interesting and gracious the residents are. They show every day how to age gracefully and with dignity; they are an excellent example of how we should all live.

Midwest Geriatrics, Omaha, NE
There’s a good chance you’ve spent time helping others around you and had fun doing it. Maybe you love to cook and have made dinner for a sick friend. Or you enjoy children, so you’ve volunteered in a hospital nursery. For you, helping others is just as much a hobby as reading or watching movies.

The Quilting Bees at House of Hope Alzheimer’s Care & Assisted Living have shown us that they didn’t have to give up this hobby when transitioning from home to a care community. These generous and dedicated women have all spent at least some time in their lives generously giving to others. They’ve combined their charitable spirit with their love for quilting and are making blankets for Project Linus, which provides blankets to children in need around the Omaha community. Since moving to House of Hope, the group’s leader, Barb Gillett, has been instrumental in helping the residents in memory care remember sewing skills, learn to stitch, and give of their time to this amazing effort.

For each of the last several years, the Quilting Bees have donated up to 50 quilts and blankets that they created. These quilts include ones made for children in wheelchairs, as well as several coordinating blankets meant to be given to twins and triplets who have extended stays in the hospital after birth. The group has also been called upon for special blankets. One example Barb shares is a red, white and blue quilt to be given to a three-year-old boy whose father was killed in action in Afghanistan. There is no doubt this incredible gift meant the world to that little boy.

The Quilting Bees have a long history, beginning in 2004 at Florence Home Assisted Living. Since then, they have moved to House of Hope, and the ever-changing group has donated over 350 blankets to Project Linus! An impressive number for sure, this accomplishment is even more incredible when you consider the group members donate all their time and rely on the help of volunteers and donations of funds and supplies from the community.

The Life Enrichment staff at each of our care communities believe that residents should spend their time more than just being occupied … they should spend it being engaged. That’s why activities are individualized to fulfill the interests of each resident. For many who live in our care communities, those interests include continuing to give to others in need.

To donate to the Quilting Bees, please contact us at 402-827-6015.

- Jennifer Vogt, community liaison, Midwest Geriatrics, Inc.