LeadingAge Magazine · September/October 2016 • Volume 06 • Number 05

Nurses, Mentors and Public Servants: These Are the People We Serve

September 04, 2016 | by The Members of LeadingAge

LeadingAge members brag about the fantastic people they work for.

Duncaster, Bloomfield, CT
It’s been 10 years since Betty Cronin and LaShawn Price last worked together. But that didn’t stop either woman from picking up right where they left off a decade ago and finding a way to work together again.

Price is now director of clinical services at Duncaster’s Caleb Hitchcock Health Center. Cronin recently became a resident of Duncaster. They once worked together at a nursing home, but hadn’t seen each other since Cronin retired in 2006. Neither realized they had Duncaster in common until they accidentally met in the hallway. It didn’t take Price long to come up with a plan to put her former colleague back to work: “As soon as I saw her I told her, ‘Forget your other volunteer jobs here. You need to tell them that you’re not available because you’ll be working in the Caleb Health Center building here at Duncaster with me!’”

The timing for their chance meeting couldn’t have been better. Much of Cronin’s nursing career was in infection control. Price had just moved an employee into the role of infection control nurse at Caleb. “I told Betty, ‘You’ll be guiding and mentoring her.’ I wouldn’t take no for an answer,” says Price. “Betty was an amazing mentor to me in my early career and I wanted that for our new infection control nurse.”

During Cronin’s 36-year career at Connecticut General she worked her way through a variety of jobs. She was a secretary, x-ray technician, field training manual writer, field office supervisor, travelling supervisor and finally a corporate auditor.

That didn’t stop her from going back to school to become a nurse in her 40s. “I was the oldest one in my nursing class,” she recalls. “I did it full-time and I was working full-time.”

Cronin and Price met in 2004. “My first impression was that this was a lady who had it all together,” says Price. “This petite lady instantly commanded your attention as soon as she walked into a room. She was organized, detail-oriented, and knowledgeable and she instantly became my mentor. I had been an infection control practitioner and she really helped me sharpen my skills.”

Cronin is anxious to get started in her new role. She loves the idea of working alongside the woman she mentored so many years ago. “I don’t feel as though I want to quit. I like what I’m doing. I like to keep going and going,” she says with a smile.

- Andrea Obston, Andrea Obston Marketing Communications

Abbey Delray South, Delray Beach, FL

Conventional knowledge suggests we learn better as children, but experts say—and Yakov Ever is proving—that people certainly can and do learn at any age. In his mid-80s, this resident at Abbey Delray South always wanted to learn a musical instrument. Of all things, he picked up an instrument that is itself seeing a revitalization of sorts—the ukulele.

Over the past year, Ever’s passion for plucking the instrument led him to start teaching others and to create a ukulele club at the senior living community. The group of a dozen residents practice every week and hold concerts periodically. They may not be quite as good as Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder and other big names who have put out uke-inspired albums in recent years … but they’re not too shabby.

Beyond music, Yakov likes to stay in good shape. If he’s not biking a dozen miles in the morning, he’s doing yoga, swimming, or spending a couple of hours daily involved in one of the various fitness classes.

Yakov says he’s living the good life. He’s one of those people who make you think, “I hope I’m like that when I’m 86.” Yakov says living at a community with a life care plan allows him to pursue the many new opportunities that surround him.

- Chelsea March, account executive, GlynnDevins

Covenant Shores, Mercer Island, WA
It only took an hour. But together, a group of Covenant Shores residents and 4 students from Medina Elementary School bridged a generational divide and made life a little cozier for some furry friends at the Seattle Humane Society.

Fifth-grade students Mei Lan Uyeno, Oviya Krishnan, Shreya Vommi and Serena Cai visited Covenant Shores with nearly 200 fleece templates in tow to create blankets for kittens living at the Seattle Humane Society. The residents and students tied and double-knotted 120 blankets using donated fleece material and repurposed fleece blankets.

The students call their service project “Share Some Happiness.” It’s part of the Destination Imagination After School Club, a nationwide program that fosters students’ creativity, courage and curiosity through open-ended academic challenges in the fields of STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics), fine arts and service learning. The group chose service learning and combined their love for animals with their love for seniors.

“Intergenerational activities benefit both residents and students,” says Roxanne Helleren, director of resident services at Covenant Shores. “Our residents have a natural affinity for community outreach, so they were delighted to help the students with their project and they enjoyed getting to know them on a personal level.”

“The kids really enjoyed the experience,” says parent Karin Uyeno. Her daughter Mei Lan developed a tender heart for seniors while visiting her grandmother at a rehabilitation facility in another state. “She was really attached to this project being part of a senior community.”

Participating in the service project was serendipity for Covenant Shores resident Kathy Pearson, who said there was a reason she felt a nudge that morning to volunteer for the students’ project. While talking with a parent, she learned the students were from Medina Elementary School, the same school her late husband, Jay, had worked at as a fifth grade teacher and substitute principal.

- Wendy D’Alessandro, Lynn Public Relations

Ebenezer DayBreak, Hastings, MN
Nanette Marsh and her caring staff are truly exceptional. My elderly father, who has Alzheimer's, attended DayBreak twice weekly for over 2 years. Sadly, he has declined significantly over the past few months and no longer can attend; still, the personal attention he received from Marsh was life-changing and life-saving. I believe my father's decline was slowed by his twice-weekly visits to Marsh and her staff. His memory loss doctors think the same.

Additionally, many times Marsh expertly recognized issues that required immediate medical attention, issues that were missed by nurses and resident assistants where my father lived. My difficult role in managing my father's decline was less difficult because of Marsh and her staff. Further, she could not have been more gracious, patient and understanding in attending to my father, which was and remains no simple task.

The reward for her hard work was always more hard work. But she never once complained or objected. Always positive, I've witnessed countless times Marsh's kind and caring manner with others entrusted to her care. Her ability to graciously manage the various needs of those in her care is amazing. The same can be said of her staff.

I kept my father in his home as long as safely possible, but when the time came to move him to an assisted living community, even though it would have been much more convenient for me and my family to have my father living in Bloomington, closer to the Minneapolis VA Medical Center where he receives primary medical care, I chose a care home located near DayBreak just to maintain my father's relationship—and mine—with Marsh and her incredible staff.

My father's terrible journey in darkness only deepens. But for over 2 years, Marsh brought him much-needed light. I cannot recommend, commend or thank her and her staff enough for every courtesy and consideration granted my father—and by association, me. Marsh will always hold a special place in my heart. She went above and beyond—way above and beyond!—tending to my father. But this is how she is, with all, always.

- Paul Montgomery, Bloomington, MN

Plymouth Place Senior Living, La Grange Park, IL
Residents in senior living are known for doing jigsaw puzzles, but at Plymouth Place Senior Living, residents put pieces of glass together to make a colorful mosaic mural for the health care center.

The bright and cheerful mural depicts a natural scene featuring iconic Plymouth Place symbols like the building, hydrangeas, butterflies and squirrels, and provides a focal point for health care center residents, their families and visitors.

The project started when Board Member Nancy Sutherland wanted to add original artwork to the rooftop garden and thought a mosaic might hold up against Chicago’s extreme weather. She donated the lead gift to hire a local mosaic artist, Sue Coombs, with plans to get residents involved in the design and creation of the project.

From February to April, about 20 independent living residents learned the art of mosaics. The program started with a lecture and then the residents began creating small mosaic trivets, learning how to cut tiles and glass. Residents brainstormed ideas, visited the Chicago Mosaic School and continued their work—even grouting the sections wearing rubber gloves and using toothbrushes.

“I never would have thought I could do mosaics,” says resident Karen Nordquist. “There is just so much involved in design, choosing colors and textures and then actually placing and grouting the little tiles to make a big impact.”

Mary Voigt, who worked on the project and donated money for it, says “I thoroughly enjoyed it and Sue is a great teacher. I would have loved to know how to do this 30 years ago, but I’m glad to have learned it now.”

Residents from all levels of care participated in all aspects of the project. Plymouth Place Art Therapist Anita Martin worked with residents in memory support and the health care center to place tiles for the border while other residents worked on sections of the 8-foot by 4-foot mural.

“Having the group together and the social aspect has been important,” says Nordquist. “Working together with my neighbors and friends—learning from each other and helping each other out.”

In June, a special rooftop garden unveiling party celebrated the resident mosaic artists that offered their time and talents to the project and honored Coombs.

The original project has led to the creation of additional mosaic classes and a mosaic jewelry class—and a cover story in a local newspaper. Also, residents from other levels of care enjoy going to the health care center garden and showing off their work—especially at night when spotlights make it sparkle.

- Allyson Zak, director of development and external affairs, Plymouth Place Senior Living

Hebrew HealthCare, West Hartford, CT
Paul Pavano celebrated his 84th birthday this summer. Pavano served in the U.S. Marines in the 1950s, and later returned to Connecticut, where he began a 41-year career as a truck driver. He continues to describe himself as an “ordinary guy.” Through his life he vacationed with his wife Joan and their daughter, “old-fashioned road trip style, just like anyone else taking a trip.”

In Pavano’s Marine years (1953-56), he began his service at the Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune in North Carolina, and was later stationed in Quantico, VA. Fifty years after his service, Pavano was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). It is suspected that contaminated water at Camp Lejeune, which has been linked with a variety of health problems, caused his ALS.

ALS has stolen Pavano’s independence; he has lost use of all motor skills in his arms, legs and torso and can only move the muscles in his head. Paul isn’t bitter, however, and he is quick to remark that US Department of Veterans Affairs and the US Department of Defense are great components of the government; he has garnered much support from the VA and owes his professional accomplishments to his time of military service.

After Pavano was diagnosed in 2012, his wife cared for him until it recently became too difficult; she could no longer safely care for him, and his greater overall health was at risk to injury from incidents related to ALS. He came to Hebrew HealthCare in February.

While the transition was not easy, Pavano has come to appreciate his new life at Hebrew HealthCare; he has made strong relationships with staff and other residents alike. He continues to have a great outlook on his life and reflects on his accomplishments and family life modestly. He enjoys visits with family and friends, talking and reminiscing; he reminds everyone that he isn’t going anywhere. A disease does not define someone, and ALS does not define Pavano. Although he thinks he can be described as an “ordinary guy,” he is anything but.

- Lila Frankovitch, marketing associate, Hebrew HealthCare

Perham Living, Perham, MN

The Perham Living community has a smiling friend who helps make days more enjoyable: Ginny Nundahl, who was an employee of Perham Living for many years who continued her work here through volunteering. She started by fixing residents’ hair, and has since expanded her involvement by organizing fun activities for residents. With activities such as Minnesota Vikings football parties, tea parties, baking goodies, organizing picnics and other special programs/events, Nundahl personalizes experiences so all residents feel extra special.

One thing Nundahl is known for is her birthday celebrations. She has expanded the Monthly Birthday Bashes to include staples of residents’ past birthdays such as toys, games, clothes, and other tidbits about that day in history. Nundahl always goes the extra mile to ensure that there is something special planned for the residents.

Not only is Nundahl a blessing for residents, but she also is a friendly face for staff and visitors. She sets a great example for all and makes sure that there is a sense of inclusion.

Outside the Perham Living walls, Nundahl also provides great service to the surrounding community. She is heavily involved in her church and takes her sister to her cancer treatments. With her smiling face, she is always going the extra mile to make everyone’s day a little better.

- Maggie Fresonke, population health coordinator/grant writer, Perham Health/Perham Living

Otterbein Lebanon, Lebanon, OH
The Ohio Senior Games (OSG) were held this year from June 10-26 in Westerville. Otterbein Lebanon had several participants who took home a total of 17 medals in various events: 6 gold, 5 silver and 6 bronze.

The Senior Games, also known as the Ohio Senior Olympics, promote the health and wellness of men and women 50 years of age and better with opportunities to participate in competitive sports, artistic showcases and social events. The state games are held yearly. In even-numbered years, the Ohio Senior Olympics State Games are qualifying events for the National Senior Games, which are held in odd-numbered years.

“We weren’t sure what we were getting into but after we got there we had a great time! It’s amazing how many seniors are so active. We only practiced for 2 months so think how good we’ll be next year,” says Otterbein resident Ann Peacock.

Here are the medal winners from Otterbein Lebanon:

Table tennis
Bob Henry, 1 gold in singles, 1 gold in doubles, 1 silver in mixed doubles

Pole vault and high jump
Bob Arledge, 1 gold in pole vault (6’ 6”), 1 bronze in high jump (3’ 6”)


  • Jerry “The Jet” Ginn, 1 bronze in 50-yard breast stroke
  • Betty “The Barracuda” Chow, 1 gold in 50-yard freestyle, 1 silver in 100-yard freestyle
  • Ann “Wonder Woman” Peacock, 1 gold 50-yard backstroke, 1 silver in 100-yard backstroke
  • John “The King Fish” Kinsinger, 1 bronze in 100-yard freestyle
  • Austin “The Flash” Fish, 1 bronze in 50-yard freestyle
  • Kendrea “The Comet” Justice, 1 silver in 50-yard backstroke, 1 bronze in 50-yard freestyle
  • Bob “Superman” Arledge, 1 gold in 200-yard backstroke, 1 silver 100-yard backstroke, 1 bronze 50-yard backstroke

- Samantha Burnett, marketing & communications project manager, Otterbein Senior Lifestyle Choices

Oak Trace Health Center, Downers Grove, IL

It’s unusual to see a line of people waiting for their chance to take a ride in an ordinary minivan. But if Al McNeal is behind the wheel, you can bet residents at Oak Trace are excited to jump in for their chance to take a trip.

McNeal is the community’s concierge, also known as “The Candy Man.” He got his nickname from the sweet treats he keeps in his pocket to hand out to residents and team members at the community.

His infectious smile and bubbly personality have him booked months in advance. McNeal is a huge hit with the residents in all areas of the Life Care community.

For the past two years, he’s taken hundreds of residents to and from appointments and errands. His rides can span from only a few minutes to hours. Inside the van he chats with the residents about their life history, learning from each of them. He says it’s the best perk of the job.

McNeal makes a difference in the lives of many people; dishing out kindness with a side of chocolate. His deep respect for seniors is rooted in his own family.

- Chelsea March, account executive, GlynnDevins

The Samarkand, Santa Barbara, CA
A group of juniors from San Marcos High School’s AAPLE Academy joined residents at The Samarkand retirement community for a bit of a history lesson and to glean words of advice about life, service and leadership. A few weeks later, on May 24, the group returned to present what they learned from members of this Greatest Generation.

The project is part of a program, designed by history teacher Luke Ohrn, called the Senior Leadership Service Forum. The goal is for students to learn about history by listening to firsthand accounts from people who have lived during that time. During the interaction, students learned about a resident who worked with Mother Teresa; one who was a paratrooper during World War II; and another who dropped out of high school only to eventually earn a Ph.D. at CalTech. Students learned about the impact leadership and service has on the world around them.

“Our residents have a wealth of knowledge and leadership experience to share,” says Pam Bigelow, sales director at The Samarkand. “Better than a textbook because every story they share and every question they answer is a history lesson from someone who has experienced it firsthand. The students walk away with a richer understanding.”

- Wendy D’Alessandro, Lynn Public Relations

Horizon House, Seattle, WA
As a third-generation Seattleite on both sides of her family and with many relatives in the employ of the city, Phyllis Lamphere felt a strong pull to community service, even as she studied math and science at Barnard College, worked in personnel at Boeing during WWII and computer applications for IBM and Yale University early in her career.

As a young mother with 3 children, volunteer work filled her “free” time. Lamphere focused on city government issues with the Seattle League of Women Voters and the Municipal League, leading those organizations in a multi-year campaign to convert Seattle’s government to a strong-mayor system.

Lamphere was elected to the Seattle City Council in 1967 and re-elected in 1971 and 1975. In 1977, she became the first woman to be elected president of the National League of Cities (NLC). During the same year she was traveling the country for the NLC, Lamphere also ran for mayor of Seattle. To this day she is often referred to as the “best mayor Seattle never had.” In 1978, she was appointed by President Carter to serve as western regional director for the Economic Development Administration of the U.S. Department of Commerce, working in economic development until the change of administrations.

Throughout 1980-81, Lamphere served as chair of Scandinavia Today, a year-long cultural exchange between 5 U.S. cities and the 5 Scandinavian countries. Following that effort, Lamphere formed her own public affairs consulting practice, working with both city and county governments and local business organizations.

Lamphere has served on the boards of local, state, and national organizations of many kinds. She was instrumental in the planning and development of Lake Union Park, the “new” MOHAI in South Lake Union, and the public art gallery at the Convention Center.

While at Horizon House she has served as president of the resident’s council and as a member of the board. Most recently, Lamphere has created a program called Spotlight on Seattle, whose purpose is, in her own words, “to acquaint residents new and old with the wonders of this magical city of ours.” So much for “retirement!” To read more about Lamphere and Seattle, visit the Seattle Public Library and check out her memoir, The Life of a City Girl. There is also a biographical sketch of her at HistoryLink.org.

- Hollis Palmer, director of communication, Horizon House

Brewster Place, Topeka, KS
From the day he moved into Brewster Place in 2009, Bill Larson has made it his mission to make our community a better place to live and work. He is an innovative and creative thinker who is thoroughly grounded in financial reality, but not constrained by naysayers and pessimists. He is the kind of guy who sees a problem as a challenge and a deficit as an opportunity for improvement.

He has served as vice president and president of the Resident Council, ex-officio board member, and as chair or member of numerous committees. His greatest contributions, however, have been as an astute observer and creative thinker about how to improve Brewster Place.

The biggest of Larson’s many ideas is the development of “Main Street at Brewster Place.” He recognized that an area on the back side of one of the campus’ oldest buildings, which housed a bank, beauty shop, health clinic, and a resident-run market, was crowded and difficult to navigate.

What if, Larson asked, we could rearrange some things and do some remodeling and enclose the patio area to make it an all-season gathering spot? He presented his ideas to management, and later the board, and soon they were sold on the concept.

The new Main Street at Brewster Place opened in March 2016 and includes a full service bank; a barber shop/beauty salon; a wellness center; an outpatient services area offering physical, occupational and speech therapy as well as space for a rotating group of visiting specialists in disciplines such as audiology and podiatry; a non-denominational chapel and lecture center; the Market on Main Street serving meals and “convenience store” style necessities; and the Main Street Pavilion, a dining and socialization area that features a 12-by-20-foot glass wall that displays colorful and playful artwork created by a Brewster Place community art project. More than 120 residents, family members, and volunteers participated in the project.

The Main Street donor recognition board includes the statement. “Main Street was inspired and shepherded by Bill Larson. Without his vision and perseverance, Main Street would not exist.” The recognition board features a quote selected by Larson from George Bernard Shaw, “We don’t stop playing because we grow old. We grow old because we stop playing.” These two quotes tell the entire story. The spirit of Main Street is “never stop playing” and Bill Larson embodies that spirit.

- David Beck, president/CEO, Brewster Place

Beacon Hill, Lombard, IL
Helen Warren has played chess for 6 decades. Throughout those years, she’s met some of the greatest players who’ve ever played the game, including American World Chess Champion Bobby Fisher. Now, at age 83, she’s helping a 19-year-old learn the game.

Warren and Jonathan Moore met at Beacon Hill, where Warren is a resident and Moore works. He overheard her talking with some friends about chess one day, and started a conversation with the group.

“I learned Mrs. Warren was once the top-ranked female player in Illinois,” Moore says. “She made a career of organizing chess tournaments.”

She is also the widow of Jim Warren, one of only 2 players to play Bobby Fischer more than once without losing.

Jonathan, who was a member of his high school chess team, decided he wanted to take his chances and play Helen in a match. Since that moment, the two meet every week, divided by Helen’s board from the 1989 U.S. Open in Chicago. Each of them sits in silence, competing, waiting for a move. Both have different beliefs and strategies for playing the game.

“Jonathan is still young enough to learn and get better,” Warren says. “I’m excited to see what the future holds for him in the game of chess.”

- Chelsea March, account executive, GlynnDevins

Hoffman SummerWood Community, West Hartford, CT
Rhoda Ferber, who was an elementary school teacher for over 20 years, began another phase of life as a respected writer after her retirement. Her writings have been published in the New York Times, Sun Sentinel, Boca Raton News, and North Shore Woman's Weekly.

She moved to SummerWood after surviving the devastation of Superstorm Sandy in 2012. Here, Ferber effortlessly adjusted to the ebb and flow of her new home, and quickly made friends with residents with similar interests.

Eager to resume her passion for reading and education, and aware of the difficulty some residents have with reading an entire book, Ferber started the “Short Stories with Rhoda” reading group. The popularity of this program is remarkable. In a relatively short time, this group quickly outgrew nearly every room in our community and now meets in our largest Community Center. Ferber attributes the success of the short stories group to the lively conversations that occur within the group and the fact that all residents, regardless of any limitations, are able to participate. The discussions are always enlightening, meaningful, and passionate as members express the feelings and emotions evoked by the reading.

Ferber is also the voice of SummerWood for our recent marketing campaign, “Minutes of Our Lives.” We made a professional promotional video that would allow the viewer to experience our community from the comforts of home. Ferber was our first choice to star in this production. We crafted an outline of topics and aspects of SummerWood that we wanted to capture, along with a scripted dialogue. In her own pleasant but assertive manner, Ferber let us know that it was not in her character to follow a script. She insisted that the language should be ad libitum and authentic, and she was given the creative freedom to emphasize SummerWood according to Ferber.

Instead of simply being satisfied with her previous accomplishments, Ferber constantly makes the decision to live a quality life filled with new challenges and options for growth.

- Deborah Breedlove-Watts, administrative assistant Hoffman SummerWood Community

Village on the Isle, Venice, FL
Since arriving at our community in 2002, Jean Chapman, 84, has worked countless hours as a volunteer and resident board member.

She has served in both resident leadership and with the board of trustees. Her board term expired in December 2015, but she was asked to stay on our Vision Planning Committee as a non-voting board member due to her significant contributions and insight.

Jean volunteers countless hours with our programs and is always willing to step in and provide a helping hand. She is amazing ambassador of our marketing. I am certain, as the new CEO of this organization, that the success of our community over the last 15 years has a lot to do with Chapman’s involvement with our board leadership and the strong culture of our organization and its bond between residents and our staff.

- Joel Anderson, CEO, Village on the Isle