Refugees, Artists and Entertainers: These are the People We Serve
July 18, 2018 | 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.
Siena Village, Wayne, NJ
The crowd gathered in the Founders Great Room at Siena Village is silent as Asia Shindelman, 89, shares her story of survival with her neighbors at this Christian Health Care Center (CHCC) community.
“June 22, 1941, was a wonderful day in Lithuania … until the Nazis came. They made all the Jews wear a yellow star on the front and the back. They took away our houses and belongings. They put us in a ghetto. We were 3 families in one room. We had very little food to eat. I was hungry all day,” says Shindelman, who was 13 and was put to work first in a military airport and then a shoe factory.
“On July 1, 1944, the world changed. My mother, father, brother, and I were taken on cattle wagons to a concentration camp. No food, no water, no toilet. It was so crowded,” she says. “When we arrived at Sztutowo [the site of the Stutthof Concentration Camp] in Poland, they took away my name. I became number 54128. My father was sent to another concentration camp. My brother was killed, but we did not know that at the time.
“After cold showers, they gave us dresses and shoes. If they were too small, we had to wear them anyway. No underwear. No socks. No gloves. Then they took us to the barracks. They were so crowded. No pillow. No soap. No toothbrush. No blanket. Almost no food.”
A few months later, Shindelman, her mother and other prisoners were sent deeper into the woods to build trenches for German soldiers; later, they were forced on a death march. Along the way, they passed frozen corpses of Jewish prisoners. The prisoners were eventually locked in a barn until liberated by the Russians in May 1945. By then, she and her mother were nearly starved, filthy and sick.
In July 1945, Shindelman’s father found her and her mother. They returned to Lithuania, but Stalin sent her father to a concentration camp in Siberia for 10 years. His sentence was cut short by Stalin’s death in 1953.
Shindelman became a chemical engineer. She moved to Latvia, married Yudel, a veterinarian, and raised 2 sons: Moshe and Vlad. In 1991, the family’s dream came true when they moved to America. They settled in Queens. Shindelman, who is fluent in 7 languages, learned English at age 62 by reading Danielle Steele novels. Her husband passed away in 2006, and in 2009 she moved to Siena Village of Wayne to be closer to her sons.
Her presentation is part of CHCC’s new Resident Speakers Bureau.
“Stories are meant to be shared, and one of the best ways to gain understanding is to hear someone talk about his or her experience. Our residents and patients have valuable experiences, which have often framed their lives,” says Maureen Braen, patient experience/person- and family-centered care representative, who assisted in organizing the Resident Speakers Bureau.
Karen Hockstein, director of communications, Christian Health Care Center
Robineau Residence (CJE SeniorLife), Skokie, IL
Gerri Trimborne is very modest about her artwork. She creates small-scale collages and sometimes seems surprised that they come together as nicely as they do. If you ask her where she gets her inspiration for her works, she’ll tell you she attributes her ideas to many things from her past, including numerous art courses in college, horticulture courses, involvement in landscaping, and people she’s met. Camping, canoeing and backpacking added more nature to her life experience. A course in botanical drawing also informed her work.
Her collage materials come from many sources. Magazines and cards are the major ones. She’s experimented with fabrics, spray paint, flowers, wax, paint, branches and random objects of nature. She uses these materials in different ways to form her compositions. Shards of printed pages are cut up and arranged to form abstract patterns. Letters in different typefaces are pasted down to form intriguing phrases. Some images are pasted whole like snails or planets or butterflies or fish. The most frequent motifs of the collages are taken from nature. Flowers, leaves, branches and fruits emblazon her canvases and intertwine with each other in graceful compositions.
This poem from Trimborne sums up her feelings:
Mary Keen, marketing and communications manager, CJE SeniorLife.
Arbor Ridge (The Community at Brookmeade), Rhinebeck, NY
Ellen Steinhart has demonstrated continued fortitude throughout her life and has always come out ahead of her struggles with humility and grace. She has shown an unwavering commitment to others even in the face of adversity, and her expressed gratitude and appreciation for each day lived has inspired many.
Steinhart is an Arbor Ridge pioneer; she moved into Brookmeade’s independent living senior residence just 3 days after its opening in 2008. Every year, for the anniversary of our opening, she honors us with an original poem to read at our celebration.
Steinhart is a woman of true appreciation, always looking through the glass half full. At 97, she lights up the room with her gentle soul and positive outlook. She never misses a chance to attend a concert, participate in our exercise programs and swim in our pool.
Born in Berlin, Germany in 1920, Steinhart overcame, with strength and courage—and some help from family friends who helped her and her mother to emigrate to England—Nazi Germany, her escape and then refuge in England, and emigration to Canada and the United States. Still, she never gave up, always striving to be the best, working hard to overcome school challenges, and successfully earning degrees and working as a nanny, nurse and midwife.
Steinhart will tell you her life was enriched as she became a wife, mother, grandmother and great-grandmother to 14. If you acknowledge Steinhart’s strength and resilience she will credit her Jewish upbringing and strong commitment to her faith. She states, “I wake every morning and pray, thankful to be alive.” We are thankful too; she is a true heroine to admire.
Megan Smith, lifestyle coordinator, The Community at Brookmeade
St. Luke’s Lutheran Care Center, Blue Earth, MN
Kurt Steinke is a therapeutic recreation assistant in the memory care unit at St. Luke’s, known as Moonlight Lane. He has been here about 16 years and is a pleasure to have around. He has directed a few plays in town for the local Town and Country Players. He enjoys playing his role every day when he comes to work. He is a terrific singer too! He sings songs with the residents, according to their interests, during his day. He offers a wide variety of talents to assist residents to be their best selves, in a world that’s confusing for them.
He always makes residents in the unit feel needed and welcomed. He also juggles and loves to involve residents with every activity he offers and every talent he has. He has played Santa, and makes a wonderful one. Although his beard is fake and his tummy is stuffed, he knows everyone’s name and makes it more personal for each one of our residents. Families often speak about what an asset he is.
Cheryl Kolve, therapeutic recreation/activities director, St. Luke’s Lutheran Care Center
Cedar Crest, Janesville, WI
It was January 2017 when volunteer Carol Depoutiloff came to me with a picture she had painted. She asked if she could show it to a resident she was planning to visit. “Of course,” I said, but I was thinking about bigger and better things for the life enrichment program.
Depoutiloff had received an easel for a birthday gift. One or 2 painting parties that year kindled an enthusiasm in her for fun with color and canvas. She painted Toulouse Lautrec’s Le Chat Noir from a YouTube art tutorial video for her son’s birthday (on Halloween) 7 days later. After that, she was hooked.
I asked Depoutiloff if she would be comfortable teaching a painting class in our health care center. She thought about it, asked many questions, and after I confirmed that she could keep the class size small, she agreed. Fifteen months later, the residents have completed 13 projects and she has added a class to our assisted living program.
Kathy, a resident, states; “I love it, please don’t ever take this class away.” Recently Depoutiloff told me, “It is exciting to see such interest in painting.”
Recently, 2 residents have asked to do paintings as gifts. Depoutiloff sees this opportunity as a way to help these residents make a stronger connection with their loved ones. She says, “Time is precious at Cedar Crest, and a painting is worth a thousand words.”
When Depoutiloff started volunteering at Cedar Crest in 2016, she started out helping with bingo, outings, bowling, gatherings for music and one-on-one visits. Volunteer Coordinator Linda Lyke says, “Encouraging is what she excels at—pushing [residents] to try a skill outside their comfort zone and reveling in the uniqueness of each project. Adapting to the particular needs of each individual is one of her strengths, and the residents flourish.
Tammy Fatla, life enrichment manager, Cedar Crest
Fleet Landing, Atlantic Beach, FL
The residents and staff of Fleet Landing entertained friends and family with the Annual Fleet Landing Follies, a musical variety show. The theme of this year’s production was “The Golden Oldies,” featuring songs from 1900 to 1920. The Follies were directed by John Johnson with Musical Director Karen Strurtevant, and Choral Director Pat Peterson.
Olivia Bush, Fleet Landing
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.