Category Archives: Livonia Featured Spotlight

Resident Spotlight: Meet Rosemarie

The strength of America comes from families like Rosemarie’s. Through three generations intertwined by hard work and military service, she’s become the matriarch of a family made up of six children, plenty of grandchildren, and six great-grandchildren (and counting). Though she never saw herself living in a senior community, she now calls Oakmont Livonia her “home away from home;” a place where she feels safe, comfortable, and happy. But the road there had some interesting twists and turns – and it all starts in Dearborn.

Born in Dearborn; Educated in Canada

Born in Dearborn in the days before World War Two, Rosemarie and her brother enjoyed what would be considered a relatively normal childhood until the war broke out. With four uncles already serving in the war, Rosemarie’s dad was called into service as a military police officer. Her mother, like the famed Rosie the Riveter, went to work in the automotive factories in Detroit.

With her whole family fully invested in the war effort, her mother and father thought her best chance at a great education was north of the border. So Rosemarie boarded a train to Canada, where she enrolled in a boarding school several hours north of Toronto in North Bay.

Though it was a definite change of pace from what she was used to Stateside, Rosemarie enjoyed the experience of living and learning at school. “It was very good, very nice,” she said of the school. “I really enjoyed my time there.”

The Boy with the Strange Last Name

When she turned 15, Rosemarie returned to the States and begged her mother to attend Fordson High School in Dearborn because, as she says, “it looked like a castle.” She enrolled, and it was at Fordson that she first noticed the boy with the strange last name on the roster for her high school football team.

“When I saw that name, I thought ‘oh, I feel so sorry for the poor girl that marries him and gets that name,’” she said, laughing.  But destiny was not to be avoided; a chance meeting with the strange-named boy during her stint as hallway monitor eventually led to a lifelong romance that would last through 65 years of marriage – and yes, she ended up taking his last name as her own.

Soon after the young couple was married, Rosemarie’s husband was called into the armed forces, serving in the Army during the Korean War. The family moved to Kansas where they lived on a military base, and though he had orders to soon ship out overseas, the war ended just before he was due to leave. Discharged from the military, the family moved back to Michigan where they bought a house in Dearborn Heights and he went to work as a printer for the Big Three.

Grown Kids and Good Grades

While her husband returned to work after his service, Rosemarie stayed at home and raised their six children. “I was lucky enough to be able to stay home,” she said of the time. “And I didn’t go back to work until my husband became a little sick, and then I went back to nursing school.”

At the age of 39 and with some of the kids grown, Rosemarie went back to school and graduated with a degree in nursing. She quickly found work during the day at a doctor’s office while her husband still worked nights. The family thrived during this time, and the rest of her children grew up and pursued interests of their own. Some studied to become teachers; some followed in their father’s steps and joined the service. No matter what they chose to do, they all made Rosemarie proud – and gave her plenty of grandchildren.  Having such a large family has filled her life with an unending joy and happiness.

When her husband illness worsened after more than 60 years of marriage, Rosemarie and her children knew it was time for a change. They found Oakmont Livonia, and with the encouragement of her children, soon moved into a one-bedroom apartment. “I’m so glad we did,” she said. “Everybody’s so pleasant; it’s so neat and clean. My children say ‘Mom, this is the best place’ and I agree with them.”

Meet Rita

If there is any single resident who embodies the warm, friendly, and outgoing nature of Oakmont Livonia’s community, Rita might be a perfect choice. A natural people-person, and conversationalist with a caring heart, she effortlessly makes new friends and lights up every single room she enters. Her amazing story of family-focused living and passionate volunteering begins many miles away in the U.P.

From the U.P. to Detroit

Though she’s been a Michigander all of her life, Rita grew up just about as far away as you can get from her current home in Livonia: the city of Ishpeming in the state’s Upper Peninsula. When asked to describe life growing up in the U.P., Rita had one simple answer: “Cold.”

But like a true Yooper, She didn’t mind the frigid temperatures. “It was cold, but I didn’t mind it. You know, in a small town, you walk to school – there were no buses. I can’t ever remember there being a snow day – every day was a snow day.”

When she was 15, her family moved down to Detroit so her father could run a new business he bought in the city: an ice cream store. It was working here and helping her father that led Rita to eventually meeting the man she would marry. “The business my dad bought was an ice cream store and my husband loved ice cream – so that’s how I met him,” she said, laughing. “All through high school, I had to make banana splits and sundaes, and I hated it, but I did it.”

A Move to Garden City

Though her husband was home on leave from the Air Force when they first met, they didn’t lose touch, and soon married just a year after Rita graduated from Visitation Catholic High School in Detroit. The pair started their life living above the ice cream store, and thanks to a loan from Rita’s dad, they were able to buy a house in Garden City.

“I can still remember it was like $300 down and you could buy a house. So I went to my dad and said ‘can I get $300? We got the money from him and moved out to Garden City with our two-year-old and our 10-day-old newborn.”

Though the family continued to thrive, things weren’t always so rosy on the financial front. But, Rita’s husband was an extremely hard worker, and sometimes worked three jobs just to keep the family afloat. “My husband had grown up hungry and cold, so he always said his children would never go hungry or cold,” Rita said. “He’d bring home the paycheck and he’d say ‘first food.’ There had to be food on the table.”

Though she spent most of her time as a full-time mother to her children, Rita soon got the itch to do something more and entered back into the workforce. “When the kids got older, I was itching to get out and do something, so I would get jobs at places like St. Mary’s Hospital or Annapolis Hospital – but I would only work on weekends when he was home to watch the kids, because, who could afford a babysitter?” she said, laughing.

A Tireless Volunteer

When her youngest child entered school, Rita took on a more permanent job at Hudson’s – a company she’d work for for the next 38 years – retiring just 10 years ago at the age of 73. But retirement didn’t stop her from getting out and doing something new. “I used to always say, ‘someday when I retire, I’m going to be a volunteer at Garden City Hospital’ – so that’s what I did.”

Her volunteering days didn’t end there. Now, as a resident of Oakmont Livonia for the past 18 months, Rita volunteers her time at the community store – checking in with neighbors, staff, and anyone looking to have a friendly conversation. “I just love talking to people,” she says.

An avid reader and people person, Rita has found life at Oakmont Livonia an unexpected and ongoing pleasure. “I’m very happy here,” Rita said. “There’s a lot of things to do, and once I got well, I jumped right into living here with both feet. I just love it.”