Category Archives: Parkway Spotlight

Resident Spotlight: Lucille

It’s hard to imagine a more shocking change of pace than going from the farm country of southern Illinois to the diesel-fueled factories of Detroit. But that’s exactly what our featured resident, Lucille, did. Whether it was working on the farm or on the assembly line, Lucille’s passion for doing the job well has helped her succeed and thrive even now more than 100 years after she was born.

From the Prairie State to the Mitten

“I’m from Southern Illinois; Buckner, Illinois,” Lucille said when asked about where she spent her early childhood years. Closer to Nashville than it is to Chicago, Buckner’s vast fields and farmlands were where she called home all throughout her adolescent and teenage years. Most of her time was spent helping her family with the daily tasks of the farm, but the tiring work schedule didn’t stop her from having some fun when she could.

Soon after her 21st birthday and just a short time before World War Two began, Lucille received an invitation from her older sister and her husband to come up to Detroit and get a job in the burgeoning Paris of the Midwest. Never one to shy from adventure, that’s exactly what she did – landing a job at Briggs Manufacturing Company in the City of Detroit.

“First, I worked in the sewing room doing different kinds of work, then I went into papering cars,” Lucille said. “That was a good job, and I was there until we shut down for war work.”

Lucille and countless other women in the workforce helped transform Detroit’s auto factories, like Briggs, into the true muscle of the Allied war effort – turning assembly lines into the Arsenal of Democracy. It was during this time that she took on a new role at work, a riveter, making her one of the true “Rosie the Riveters” of the war effort. “The work I did there is how I got the name Rosie the Riveter,” she said, referring to her work during the war.

From Rosie to Retirement

After the allied victory in Europe and Japan, things went back to normal in Detroit. Lucille stayed on at Briggs where she worked full-time all the way up until her retirement in the early 1970s. She then moved from her house on Cadieux Street on Detroit’s East Side and bought a condo in Harrison Township – where she lived until she moved into Oakmont Parkway this fall.

During her retirement, Lucille relished the chance to indulge in her favorite hobbies and pastimes. She traveled often, got in as much swimming as possible, and grew closer and closer to her nieces and nephews – often inviting them to join her for a picnic. Her free time has also allowed her to participate in one of her most meaningful hobbies of her life: crocheting blankets for those in need. Through a friend’s church, Lucille has helped make countless blankets that have been handed out at veteran’s homes, homeless shelters, and other places where people are in need.

Now living at Oakmont Parkway, life for Lucille is relaxed and fun. She enjoys the food  in the dining room and the great company of her neighbors. An avid card player, she looks forward to the weekly games that residents enjoy, and never takes a single moment for granted.

Meet Geno

Visit a local Bocce Ball court and chances are good that you’ll see a crowd gathered around one of the star players named Geno – the subject of today’s resident spotlight. That’s because, along with being a resident at Oakmont Parkway, Geno is one of the best Bocce Ball players in Michigan – fronting his own team and taking home the gold in the Michigan Senior Olympics. But more than just Bocce Ball, Geno is a man of many stories, many laughs, and an all-around great neighbor for the residents and staff of Oakmont Parkway. In today’s Resident Spotlight, we learn more about what makes Geno such a popular fixture and friend.

A Wife from a Rival School

Eugene, or as he’s known to all of his friends, Geno, grew up on Detroit’s East Side. His father worked for Chrysler while his mom stayed home and helped raise her son (Geno) and his two sisters. Life was good for the young family, and the children quickly grew, with Geno enrolling in and graduating from St. Rita’s High School near Eight Mile and Woodward. It was during these formative years that Geno would meet the woman who would go on to be his best friend and life partner.

“I met my wife in High School; she went to our rival school, St. Benedict’s, in Highland Park,” he said, laughing. “Mother Superior said, ‘you can’t take her to our prom, you need to take a girl from our school.’ And I said, ‘Oh no,’ and took her to our prom anyway.”

His instincts turned out to be right on with this girl from the rival school, as she would go on to become his wife and the mother of his children. Truly high school sweethearts.

From School to Service

After graduating from High School, Geno went into the service, joining the United States Navy as a Radio Man in the early 50s. “The Navy showed me the world,” he said laughing – but it also showed him conflict. He served with eight different ships during the Korean War, helping to send and transcribe important messages and support his squad. However, the war wasn’t all bleak. Two years into his service, Geno and his long-time girlfriend officially became husband and wife, and his first son was born on Selfridge Military Base. “He was a freedom baby,” Geno said.

When his service came to an end after four years, Geno came home and got a job delivering milk for Twin Pines Farm Dairy, a former Detroit institution, before finally settling into a job with the City of St. Clair Shores where he stayed for the next 22 years. When asked what he did for the City, Geno didn’t mince words. “[I did] everything,” he said, joking. “Water department, sewer department, tree trimmer, DPW – you know, just everything you could do, I did!”

East Siders for Life

The young family of seven, now with four daughters added to the mix, thrived, and they enjoyed family trips together to visit grandparents in Northern Michigan as well as the Sunshine State of Florida. The kids grew up and though some moved away to places like Texas and Florida, Geno and the gang always considered the East Side their home – where he remains to this day.

Happily settled into his life at Oakmont Parkway, Geno doesn’t waste a minute. He’s a board member of the St. Clair Shores Senior Center, an ambassador for the Macomb County Senior Olympics, and an avid Bocce Ball player – currently playing on an Oakmont-sponsored team in St. Clair Shores – vying again for yet another gold medal next year to add to his vast collection of accomplishments.

When asked about how he likes living at Oakmont Parkway, Geno’s answer was short and sweet. “I like it good,” he said. “There’s a lot of other places out there, and we looked at them, but here, you get a little extra.”

Resident Spotlight: Meet Jean

If you’ve spent any time in and around Oakmont Parkway over the last several years, it would be impossible not to recognize Jean. Always ready with a friendly smile and always involved in what’s going on at the community, she’s become Parkway’s unofficial resident ambassador, bringing smiles and good feelings everywhere she goes. Though she’s called Michigan home for the last 80-plus years, Jean’s story actually starts in the Keystone State. Here’s her story:

From Pennsylvania to Packard

Born in Pennsylvania, Jean, whose real name is Genevieve, moved with her family to the Motor City when she was very young. Her father, a veteran of the coal mines back in the Commonwealth, quickly got a job at Packard Motor Company after the family moved, shoveling coal into the furnaces to keep the plant up and running. While her father worked, her mother stayed home to help raise Jean and her siblings as they made their way through school.

Life was comfortable for the family, and Jean spent much of her free time playing outside and building a friendship with a boy down the street named Harry whom she would eventually marry years later. In the meantime, she graduated from Northeastern High School on the City’s northeast side and soon after got a job as an inspector at the very same Packard plant where her dad was working. It was during the years of World War Two, and Jean joined so many other women of her generation in the factories for the first time – keeping the Arsenal of Democracy up and running for the war effort.

“I remember, I had an easy job there at Packard’s. I was an inspector,” Jean said. “I used to feel so bad because my Dad had to shovel all that coal in the foundry every day. To me at that time, I thought he was real old,” she said laughing. “But here I am, this young person with this easy job, and he’s doing all that hard work, and I have to walk past him every day.”

One of her favorite memories of working at the Packard Plant was the comradery shared among all of her co-workers. Oftentimes, her boss would walk into the room singing a song, and all of the other workers would join in – almost like a scene from a movie. Whether it was patriotic numbers or the popular songs of the day, the singing helped to keep morale high and build a united workforce inside of the factory.

A Hero Turned Husband

It was during these years that Harry, her soon-to-be husband, was undergoing elite training overseas. He was a member of the 551st Parachute Infantry Battalion, training in Panama to counteract any attempt by the Germans to invade a South American country. His unit was eventually shipped out to Europe for the Battle of the Bulge where they experienced huge losses during the legendary conflict. The unit, including Harry, was eventually absorbed by the 82nd Airborne until he was discharged and returned to Jean and civilian life in Michigan.

With the love of her life back Stateside, Jean left her job at Packard to start a family. They got married, and Harry took a job at GE Carbaloid while she stayed home with the children – six in total. The family moved to Roseville, and the children grew up to pursue a wide variety of interests. Their oldest became a doctor, while another went to the Seminary. One became a nurse and moved to South Carolina, another had a 30-year career with Blue Cross, Blue Shield. They each inherited the concrete work ethic of Jean and Harry, building long and successful careers, and raising families of their own.

As time moved on after Harry passed, the family decided it was best for Jean to be in a place where she wouldn’t have to worry about the day-to-day stresses of owning a home. She soon moved to Oakmont Parkway, where she quickly made friends and joined in on the fun. She participates in many daily activities, including her favorite, Bingo, and even has her kids come to join her for dinner in the dining room most nights. On her time so far at Oakmont, Jean was quick to answer: “I’ve always had really good neighbors here,” she said, “and I like It a lot.”

Meet Joe

For many Detroiters, the Motor City runs in their blood. Cars, music, hard work – the defining factors of our City become the defining factors of their character, creating one-of-a-kind personalities and exceptional people. Without question, Joe, who lives at Oakmont Parkway, is one of those folks.

Cars Run in the Family

A native Detroiter, Joe grew up in the city, eventually graduating from St. Joseph High School on Detroit’s east side. He got his first job at Sears and Roebuck on Van Dyke, and after a year of customer service, hard times hit and Joe was part of the more than 75% of the workforce that was laid off. Always a hard worker, this didn’t stop him from earning a living – and he was soon working at the Dodge Main plant helping to put cars on the road. He worked there for several years until his father, also a veteran of another major Detroit car company, convinced him to join the family business.

“[My Dad] worked at Ford, and then he went into his own business selling fish and chickens,” Joe said. “My dad said ‘I don’t want to you to spend your time working in a factory’, so I went into his business with him – and soon after met my wife at the Vanity Ballroom.”

Just three months later, Joe and the love of his life were engaged – but there was still one very important issue he had to contend with before they could tie the knot. “She said, ‘until you get a steady job, we’re not going to get married,“ Joe said, chuckling. “So she went to the newspaper and she got me a job selling cars at Margolis Plymouth on Joseph Campeau.” The rest, as they say, is history.

The Top Car Man in Michigan

Just six months into his tenure at Margolis, it was clear that Joe was one heck of a salesman. He won a trip to the New York World’s Fair in 1964, and was soon ranked as the coveted Top Car Salesman in Michigan – a title he would hold eight more times in his extremely successful career. To this day, Joe wears a ring that features one diamond for every year he held the title.

Joe's rings for selling cars

Joe’s famous 9-time Top Car Man in Michigan ring.


From Margolis, Joe moved to Jim Riehls Roseville Chrysler-Plymouth Roseville, where he did most of his selling – winning trips to San Francisco and Las Vegas, as well as countless awards and plaques in the industry. Through his job, he not only got the chance to make customers for life but also got to rub some pretty impressive shoulders, including Detroit Red Wings all-time great Gordie Howe – a special treat for a hockey fan like Joe.

Though selling cars was his profession, Joe also always loved music – a passion that he followed from his early days in school when he took up the trumpet. He counts Harry James (another trumpet player) as his favorite artist, but he also enjoys the tunes of many of James’ contemporaries like Glenn Miller.

“My older sister and I used to go see all of those bands,” he said. “Glenn Miller, Tommy Dorsey, Jimmy Dorsey. Frank Sinatra – all of them. Many at the Fox Theater downtown.”

Familiar Faces

Though he stopped selling cars in the 90s, Joe remains as passionate as ever. He’s been at Oakmont Parkway for several years now, and is enjoying his retirement. “I’m very happy here,” Joe said. “They’re really wonderful people and they treat me good.”

And along with a bunch of new neighbors and friends, Joe also found one or two familiar faces at Parkway. “When I moved in, another resident came up to me and said ‘hey, didn’t you sell me a car?” Joe said. “It was a customer. A very happy customer of mine.”

Meet Pauline

If you walk down the hallways of Oakmont Parkway and hear the faint whirring of a sewing machine, chances are it is Pauline – a 94-year-old resident who is all about giving back and staying busy. “I’m the kind [of person] that has to keep my hands busy, as a rule,” she said, smiling. “I always have to be doing something with my hands, and so when I heard a story about the little dresses for Africa, I got involved.”

The story she’s talking about is one of a Michigan woman, Rachel O’Neill, who visited Africa with her husband and was taken by the plight of the women and children in these impoverished nations. She knew she wanted to do something to help, and began a charitable effort that involved sewing small dresses and distributing them to families across the continent. This part-time hobby quickly grew, and Little Dresses for Africa ballooned to over eight million dresses and pairs of britches delivered to 84 countries – with more than 400 sewn by Pauline. “I think it’s remarkable,” Pauline said of LDFA’s success, “how one person can have an idea and it can mushroom and grow.”

Although Pauline does most of the sewing, she’s inspired her family and neighbors to contribute to the effort as well. Seniors from throughout Oakmont Parkway are readily contributing and donating to Pauline’s cause, offering up pillowcases, fabric, yarn, and encouraging words for her efforts.- which continue to help drive her. “I try to do at least one dress a day,” Pauline says, “and sometimes I can even do two.”

A Native Michigander

A native Michigander, Pauline grew up in Detroit with parents who came to the United States from Belgium. Her father worked at a local cemetery, and her mother helped run a small family flower farm next to their house. When the flowers were in bloom, the family would head down to Eastern Market and her mother would lead the effort to keep their customers satisfied. “My mother would spend all winter making the flats out of wood,” she remembered. “In those days, a flat of flowers had 15 boxes in it, and each box had four plants. My father once tried to put just three in a box thinking that it still looked full, and my mom said, ‘No! Four plants in a box,” she said, laughing.

Following the example of her hard-working and strong-willed mother, Pauline graduated grade school and went to high school – a concept that seemed foreign to her father. “He couldn’t understand why a woman had to go to high school. ‘She’s just going to get married and have children,’” she can remember him saying. “But my mother said, ‘No. In today’s times, she needs to go to a high school,” she recalled. “My mother was a very wise woman.”



After attending Pershing High School in Detroit, Pauline got a job keeping books for a local lumber yard, and it was there that she met her husband. They stayed in the Detroit area after being married, raising six children which have blossomed into a large family that now includes a great-great-grandchild. “I have a picture of five generations [of my family]. The firstborn was always a female, and so I have this special picture of five generations of girls. I have a really good family,” she said proudly.

When asked about why she loves living at Oakmont Parkway, Pauline was quick to respond. “I don’t have to worry about anything here. The staff are just nice people, and the kitchen staff is the best in the world.” And whether it be through visiting with family, sewing dresses, or participating in activities, you can bet that Pauline is keeping her hands busy at this very moment.