Category Archives: Manor Spotlight

Resident Spotlight: Meet Mary Ann

Some people posses the magic of finding themselves in the right place at the right time – and Mary Ann, who has now lived at Oakmont Manor for the past year, is one of those people. A common thread of fortunate happenstance has followed her through her life including randomly meeting her future husband in a crowded restaurant and coming across an ad for unexpected hobby that would become her passion.

But good fortune smiles brightest on those who are willing to work and sacrifice for their successes, which Mary Ann has done her whole life. And thanks to her tireless energy and kind spirit, all who’ve met and gotten to know her over the years have become the beneficiaries of fortunate happenstance, too.

Here’s her story…

From General Motors to Gleefully Married

Born in Detroit, Mary Ann grew up on the East Side and attended Denby High School with many of her cousins and close family members. Like so many of her generation from the Motor City, she graduated and went to work at General Motors – serving as an Executive Secretary to a department director for several years. Then, happenstance struck: Mary Ann was introduced to the man who would soon become her husband in the most unique of ways.

“We were waiting in a bar restaurant for a table and this man was eating by himself,” she said of the night they met. “So, the host asked would we like to sit with him? Would we mind having to share a table?” The rest, as they say, is history, and when that man would later ask Mary Ann to be his wife, her answer was a resounding yes. The couple was soon married, and with a daughter on the way, Mary Ann decided to leave GM and stay home to raise her family.

From Mom to Manager

The family moved to Shelby Township and life was good. Mary Ann stayed home with her daughter, while her husband supervised many different locations of Chatham’s supermarkets in the area. The family did plenty of traveling  – leaving for two-week getaways just about every year. Her favorite vacation spot was St. Petersburg, Florida, though big city or small, she relished the chance to experience new things and see new places.

As her daughter grew older and more independent, Mary Ann decided it was time to get back into the workforce. She started in Real Estate, but eventually found employment and fulfillment doing something she truly loved: helping others. She found a job at Catholic Service in Macomb, working as a program director for a senior companion program. Using both federal and state funds, the innovative program trained workers to assist at-risk seniors in their homes, free of charge. “At one point, I had 30 people working for me,” Mary Ann said of the extremely successful initiative.

After many years at Catholic Services and grandchildren on the horizon, Mary Ann decided it was time to retire. But those who know her best weren’t surprised when Mary Ann’s retirement didn’t last very long.

Happenstance Strikes Again

Always one who is up for a new challenge, the life-long traveler was again the beneficiary of happenstance’s mysterious fortunes when she saw an ad for an upcoming bus trip. She decided then and there that, thanks to her extensive travel and management experience, organizing trips would be something that she could do for fun. “I saw an ad for a trip and called on it because I like to travel,” she said. “The lady who was in charge of the trip was in Lansing, so I knew I wouldn’t be any competition [to her if I stared planning trips]. Now, I’ve been doing it for eight years.”

Mary Ann plans and enjoys three-to-four trips a year including a recent trip to New York with almost 50 passengers and an upcoming trip to Florida’s gulf-side beaches. “The big thing is, I just pick places I want to go, and that’s where we go,” she said, laughing. Trips usually include plans to visit museums, restaurants, tourist attractions, and at least one fancy dinner with entertainment that combines passengers from several tours. “We’ve met people [at that dinner] from Detroit – people we knew!,” she said excitedly. “They just happened to be on another bus tour.”

Now, a year into life at Oakmont Manor, Mary Ann is thrilled with her decision to join the community. “I’ve really enjoyed it,” she said of life at Oakmont Manor. “I really think it is a beautiful place and it just has so much atmosphere.”

With her kind heart, warm smile, and all-around bubbly personality, that atmosphere at Oakmont Manor is no-doubt a little brighter since Mary Ann moved in.

Meet Mary Ann and Richard

The greatest love stories are often filled with chance encounters, extraordinary circumstances, and plenty of meant-to-bes. For Richard and Mary Ann, residents of Oakmont Manor and a married couple of more than 40 years, their story is no different. True love found a way to win in the end.

A Tale of Two Cities

A native Michigander, Mary Ann was born into the heavily Polish neighborhood of Hamtramck – a small annex within the city limits of Detroit. Her mother worked on the line at General Motors, and her father worked for a small sausage company as a smoker. She stayed in Hamtramck throughout her childhood with her family, and, after graduating from St. Florian High School, was soon working and settled down with her first husband. The young couple would soon pick up their stakes and move to Houston, Texas, where their marriage would come to a timely end thousands of miles away from home.

While Mary Ann grew up in one of the country’s busiest and most prosperous cities, Richard had the exact opposite experience in the Hawkeye State. Born and raised in Northern Iowa on a working farm, Richard’s parents both endured the hard physical labor that comes with farm life. When medical issues forced the family to move down south to the Lone Star State, Richard was far from disappointed. “I was glad to get out of there,” he said of Iowa. “It was so hot and so flat, and the farm work was hard.”

Love in the Lone Star State

Just like any great love story, Richard and the newly single Mary Ann were helped by a bit of kismet and luck. Both were now living in Houston, countless miles away from their birthplaces, sharing apartments with roommates and working odd jobs. They met when they realized there were living on the same floor of two apartment buildings adjacent to each other, and through Richard’s roommate, were finally introduced. They liked each other immediately, and the rest, as they say, is history. “I liked him right away,” said Mary Ann.

The couple eventually moved to Austin where Richard’s parents were living, and he enrolled in college. After graduating in January with his teaching degree from the University of Texas, Richard struggled to find a job because of the time of year. One day he approached Mary Ann with an idea. “He asked me, ‘how would you like to go home to Detroit for a couple of years?’” Mary Ann said. “Now, it’s been fifty-some years and we’re still here.”

Back Home in Hamtramck

The couple moved back to Mary Ann’s hometown of Hamtramck, eventually settling into a house just one street over from where she grew up and her father still lived. He was now suffering from cancer, and their close proximity allowed her to visit every day to help take care of him. Richard was able to get a job first at Sherrard Elementary and then at Post Middle School where he taught Detroit and Hamtramck school children for more than 30 years.

Starting a family, the couple decided to move to the suburbs in the early 1970s, settling down in Sterling Heights where they lived for the next 25 years while they raised their children. Richard continued to teach, and Mary Ann worked for Hudson’s Department Store in the security division. As the kids grew, so did the couple’s desire for more space, moving eventually to what Mary Ann calls “her favorite place in Michigan” on the border of Shelby Township and Macomb. They lived there for 18 years, before some medical issues and the stresses of having to care for a three-story condo just got to be too much.

The couple toured five different senior living communities before deciding to put down roots at Oakmont Manor on the suggestion from a member of their church who also happened to be a resident. It was a perfect fit for the couple. “I liked the friendliness and the cleanliness, and for senior places, I think it’s one of the best,” Mary Ann said of their decision to move to Manor, “and I really love the people here. You feel like these people really care.”

Meet Angela

Walk through the lobby of Oakmont Manor, and there’s a good chance you’ll run into Angela, surrounded by neighbors and friends, holding court in the café. Of her many talents, bringing people together is perhaps the most evident off of the bat – but get to know her better, and you’ll realize she’s a trailblazer from the Big City who lives every moment to the fullest.

Big City Roots with a Small Town Upbringing

Life for Angela began in the Empire State. She was born right in the heart of New York City but was raised in the rural atmosphere of what was then a sparsely developed Long Island. “I enjoyed growing up there immensely,” she said of her Long Island roots. “I enjoyed the freedom of running through the tall grass with bare feet, and the whole scenario [of that lifestyle].”

With five siblings and two loving parents, the time spent with her family was some of the happiest of her life. Her mother and father, though very different in temperament, helped instill long-lasting lessons in love that have trickled all the way down to her own children and grandchildren. “My mother was a very calm, placid, and unruffled person,” she says, smiling. “She was a lady of very few words, but, in her own quiet way, could speak volumes. My father, on the other hand, was very loquacious, talkative. He loved, as we used to call it, “sermonizing,” but he always helped guide us.”

Unfortunately, Angela was just 13 when he father passed, but her mother continued to raise her and her five brothers and sisters in a happy and loving environment. She credits the strength of her family and her mother as the driving force behind the success of all of her siblings. “I don’t know if it was fate, kismet, or just luck, but we all did well.”

A Man to Marry and a Move to Michigan

Angela was serving with the USO when she met the man who would become both her husband and the father of her children – though it almost didn’t happen. She was late for their first date thanks to her apprehension, but after finally meeting, they fell quickly in love – marrying and moving to a new state together. “He had just gotten out of the Airforce, and his promise was we’d just come to Michigan for one year, get on our feet, and then go back to New York. But that last part never happened,” she said, laughing.

The year was 1953, and while her husband went to work at General Motors, Angela got a job just two days after arriving in Michigan with an insurance company – balancing the responsibilities of being a new mother, professional secretary, and loving wife all in an unfamiliar location. “I was totally lost in Michigan. I had no family, no friends – so I got a job that I worked every summer. To this day, I am still friends with the remaining people that I worked with.”

The family soon moved to Livonia, where they had four additional children, and indulged in one of their favorite pastimes: Traveling. “I came from the East Coast and we had family on the West Coast, so we used to travel across the country just like it was going around the block,” she said. “Plane travel in those days was very easy, you didn’t even need a reservation! So, on a spur the moment, you could make a plan and say ‘okay, let’s go!”

Loving Life at Oakmont

The move to Oakmont Manor wasn’t one that Angela had originally planned, but after her husband moved into Oakmont Sterling Enhanced next door, she soon realized it was the perfect fit. “They were wonderful for my husband when he moved there,” she said of the staff at Oakmont Sterling Enhanced, “and because I was here all the time, I saw a lot of this building. I believe I put a deposit down three or four times before finally selling my house and moving in,” she said.

Of her new life at Oakmont, Angela pulls no punches. “I find that life here is what you make it, and I choose to enjoy every minute of it,” she said. “I find that the whole ambiance of this particular facility is so refreshing, and the staff is totally outstanding. I really enjoy living here.”

Meet Harold

Few people can say that their work, and their influence, can be seen in lasting structures around the world – but Oakmont Manor resident Harold is one of them. Born in Detroit in the late 1920s, Harold spent most of his life helping to build things – a passion that started when he was just a few years old. “As a kid, I was always kind of a carpenter,” he said. “I just loved to do any kind of carpentry work.”

It was a skill that would serve him well, not only in his professional life but also during his service in World War 2. After graduating from Cass Technical High School in Detroit, Harold was drafted into the 69th Petroleum Engineers unit of the Army, where his main responsibility was to help keep fleets of trucks properly fueled in the Italian countryside. When his mission of building a refueling station was complete, he was sent to work in a chemistry lab in Naples for the remainder of his service.

It was then, in 1947, that Harold moved back to Detroit, married his wife of 30 years, and began working in what he calls “a very interesting job.”

A Very Interesting Job

“I was a bricklayer by trade,” he said. “I worked with my tools for 13 years and then went into the office for 21 years as a chief estimator. We did heavy construction, and by that, I mean large buildings – 70 story buildings.”

His innate carpentry skills and proficiency in management and logistics didn’t go unnoticed, and in the early 1960s, Harold was sent to Puerto Rico to help oversee construction on one of the area’s largest children’s hospitals – a project that was near and dear to his heart. “I really felt that I was helping to fulfill a need that was there.”

After his work in Puerto Rico ended, Harold found himself hired as a consultant for the world-famous Albert Kahn Architecture Firm located in Detroit’s famous Fisher Building. It was at this time that Harold had the chance to work on two world-famous structures: Detroit’s Renaissance Center located right on the Detroit River, and Boston’s 72-story Prudential tower – both which are still in regular use today, to Harold’s great delight. “Sometimes I’ll watch TV and see somebody being interviewed in Boston,” he said, “and I can see the Prudential Tower in the background. I can always spot that thing.”

Retirement and His New Gig

Harold retired from his career in 1992, after nearly 50 years in the trade, but he didn’t allow himself to settle down. After the death of his second wife in 2009 after 30 years of marriage, Harold moved into Oakmont Manor with the goal of staying busy and bringing his love of music and performance to the community. He now leads a monthly themed singalong called Singalong with Harold (November’s theme is hits from the 30s and 40s and standards.), as well as a monthly themed disc jockey performance where he plays music during dinner or shows a performance DVD in the cinema. Both are extremely popular among his neighbors.

Always a carpenter at heart, Harold now uses the tools at his disposable (BOSE speakers, microphones, DVDs) to help build at Oakmont Manor a true sense of community that his fellow residents and staff just love. “I know I’m in the right place,” he said, smiling. “I love it here. I absolutely love it.


Meet Jerry & Peggy

Making friends and having fun? That comes pretty naturally for Jerry and Peggy, who have lived at Oakmont Manor for four years.

“It didn’t take us long to acclimate. But we like it here,” Jerry said. “It’s just our nature. We’d have parties all the time when we were younger. When we were setting up our first house, we had parties and didn’t even have furniture.”

“Absolutely,” she said. “Let’s get something going here, it’s too quiet.”

Their happy attitude might explain, in large part, why they are preparing to celebrate their 62nd anniversary this fall.

Peggy catches the eye of Jerry

They first met when they were working at General Motors.

“I was out in the lobby with a bunch of other guys. We used to watch the girls come in from lunch. I saw her walk by with a girl I knew and I thought, ooh, she looks pretty nice,” Jerry said. “I walked over and she had a little shoulder purse, so I tugged on it. She grabbed it and said, ‘There’s nothing in there.’ ”

Through a bit of investigative work, he asked Peggy’s supervisor where she lived.

“I found out she lived only a mile and a half from me. I asked because I didn’t want to run all the way out to Dearborn Heights or someplace like that,” he said.

They finally had their first date at a Chevy engineering Christmas party, were engaged the following May and were married five months later.

Shortly after they were married, Peggy became pregnant and had to leave GM (as pregnant women were not allowed to work for the company). Not knowing where to reside, Peggy’s parents offered the use of their cottage in Algonac.

A bit far from everything

As it was 35 miles from work before the advent of I-94, it proved to be a distant home.

“She got pretty lonesome there, all by herself,” Jerry said. They moved back to St. Clair Shores, where they eventually bought a house in 1956. “We stayed there for eight years, but the house got too small for the family,” he joked.

After a two-year search, the ideal home was finally found in Grosse Pointe Farms, where they lived for 25 years. Later, they retired to St. Clair.

In all, they had seven kids (five live in Southeast Michigan, the other two out of state). They also have 11 grandchildren and two great grandchildren. “Right now, we live close to two of our kids,” Jerry said. “We have a daughter that lives three miles away and we get to see her every morning. She has breakfast with us.”

Peggy was born in Toledo and moved to Michigan when she was young. She graduated from Dominican High School in Detroit. Jerry was a graduate of Catholic Central High School in Detroit.

Both of them collect items. Peggy’s collection includes German and French antique dolls; Jerry collects clocks. Aside from their collections, they have one more thing in common.

“We know how to laugh,” Peggy said.