Category Archives: Rochester Assisted Spotlight

A Leader in the Clubhouse: Bruce’s Return to Orchard Lake Country Club

A Day to Remember for Bruce

If you don’t know Bruce personally, then there’s a good chance you know his work. A leader in water closet engineering, Bruce is responsible for developing the first pressure-assisted water closet flush technology, which is now found in 60% of all homes in the United States.

After a long and successful career, and raising their son Chris with his wife Sue, Bruce moved into Oakmont Rochester Assisted, where he quickly struck up a friendship with Janell, the building’s activity director, and Michele, Oakmont’s Regional Manager. Delighted by Bruce’s friendship and good nature, both Janell and Michele decided they wanted to do something special for him.

Without letting Bruce in on the secret, Janell began to plan a big surprise. She asked him to keep a certain date in June free on his calendar and told him she was going to take him out to lunch. “It all started months ago when Janell told me to reserve a date in June for a trip,” Bruce said. “I was convinced we were going to a hamburger joint.”

Though Janell may have promised a hamburger joint, where she really wanted to take Bruce was much, much better. Her idea was to arrange lunch at his old club, Orchard Lake Country Club, where he had been Golf Chairman, and which he had talked about so fondly in their time together. Janell reached out to OLCC to explain her idea and let them know that she wanted to surprise Bruce with a visit. Once the staff knew who all of the festivities were for, they immediately said yes and the preparation began.

The Big Day Arrives

Bruce, Janell, Michele, and Bill.

When the day of the surprise finally came, Bruce, his friend Bill who also lives at Oakmont Rochester Assisted, Janell, and Michele, all got onto the Oakmont bus and made their way towards their destination. Slowly, as they began to drive by familiar streets, houses, and landmarks, Bruce began to put two-and-two together – quickly realizing they weren’t headed to the hamburger joint he was promised, and but were instead going to his old club.

They pulled into Orchard Lake Country Club, a place where Bruce has been a member for almost 30 years, and it was like nothing had changed. Staff members knew him by name (and member number), and welcomed him back with great delight. Bruce showed his party through the building and to the elevator which leads downstairs to a dining room for lunch. Little did he know there was another surprise waiting inside.

“When we got in the dining room, there were 17 people there – all of whom I’d known for years,” Bruce said. “And I thought, ‘son of a gun.’ Some of these guys I hadn’t talked to in a long time.”

An Incredible and Emotional Luncheon

A collection of longtime friends and club members had all come to surprise Bruce and honor him at the luncheon. A beautiful lunch commenced, with plenty of laughs, memories, and stories being told. Bruce was totally in his element, holding court at the head of the table and sharing warm smiles with old friends.

As the luncheon came to a close, Bruce went around the room and acknowledged every single person who attended by sharing a memory and thanking them for coming. It was an unforgettable moment for all. “I was overwhelmed by it,” Bruce said of the gathering of friends, old and new. “It was just incredible and emotional.”

One more surprise waited in store for Bruce before heading back home: a guided tour of the newly remodeled golf course at OLCC. Contacted by the club’s head golf pro, Bruce got to head out on a golf cart and see the newly redesigned layout first-hand. When asked how it compared to the layout he played and loved for so many years, he said simply, “well, that’s a whole other story.”

Meet Bernie

Many people grow up with dreams of traveling the world, but few people actually get to do it. Bernie, a resident of Oakmont Rochester Assisted, is one of the lucky few. Throughout his life, he’s visited more than 30 countries – from Israel to Poland – and spent much of his adult life working a job he loved. Here’s his story.

A Future Wife from Flint

Born in 1925, Bernie’s upbringing in Flint was filled with much happiness and joy. His father was a professional organist in a local Catholic church, and Bernie spent many hours accompanying him as a singer. When not in school, he gravitated towards sports – playing baseball, basketball, football – you name it – with the other kids in the neighborhood.

It was in this same neighborhood, just two streets over, that a young woman named Irene also lived – the same Irene who would eventually become Bernie’s wife. “My mother and her mother were buddies,” he said. “She lived two streets away from me all my life, and when I got out of the Navy in 1946 and went home, she was still single so we started to date. And the rest is history.”

The Boss

Irene, a Registered Nurse who had graduated from a university in Toledo, and Bernie, a veteran of World War Two, were soon married, and Bernie took a job with the RJ Reynolds Tobacco Company – where he would stay for more than half a century. His tireless work ethic and natural talent for selling helped him quickly work his way up to the title of Area Vending Manager.

“I was the boss,” Bernie said. “I was the boss there for 54 years and it was the best job in the world. I used to go to Chicago and sell O’Hare Airport, would sell at the Port of Detroit. There are border stores now where you can buy duty-free, but at that time, those were my customers.”

World Travelers

Bernie and Irene

During his time in the Navy and working as a traveling sales manager, Bernie was bitten hard by the travel bug. And thanks to his wife’s skills as a Registered Nurse, the couple was able to travel to many places that most of us only see in travel magazines.

“We went with a group, a Michigan Catholic institution,” Bernie said, referring to his many trips. The group’s leader was in need of a nurse to join them on the trips, and though they had to pay their own way, the opportunity to travel across the world was one the couple just couldn’t pass up.

“We had to pay our own way, but we had the run of the joints wherever we went,” Bernie said. “Because a nurse was something that everyone knew, ‘yes, I’ve got protection. I’ve got an RN on board.” Their adventures took them to more than 30 countries, including Greece, Israel, Germany, Poland, Portugal, the Netherlands, Australia, and many, many more.

Now enjoying life at Oakmont Rochester Assisted, Bernie enjoys seeing his grandchildren and keeping up with all of his favorite Detroit sports teams. He still keeps his passport with him at all times; ready to jump to the next adventure wherever it may lead.

Meet Cheryl

It’s often said that “Once a teacher, always a teacher,” and Cheryl, who lives at Oakmont Rochester Assisted, is the perfect embodiment of that saying.

A child of the 1940s, Cheryl was born in Muskegon to loving, hardworking parents. Her mother was a nurse and her father made cabinets, and despite their early passing, Cheryl was determined to follow her passions and become an educator. After attending community college and eventually graduating with her teaching degree from Central Michigan University in Mount Pleasant, Cheryl began student teaching, eventually receiving a contract offer from the Utica School District – not far from where her brother was now living in Rochester. “My brother was in the area,” she said, “and Utica was offering the best salary in the state at that time – so I took it.” Fitting right in, Cheryl taught Science and Social Studies in the Utica School System for 37 years, enriching the lives of countless third, fourth, and fifth graders along the way.

“I liked the age level of fifth graders because they were able to understand your jokes,” she said, laughing. “You could tease them and they wouldn’t take it personally – they knew you were teasing them. Plus, I liked the curriculum and subject matter.”

Home in Southeastern Michigan; Travels Around the World

While teaching in Utica Schools, the Muskegon native made herself right at home in Southeastern Michigan. She bought a house, made plenty of friends, and explored her major interests in crafting and traveling. “I’ve been to Europe six times,” she said. “I’ve been to Hawaii a couple of times. I’ve been to Mexico.” But it was one particular kind of unique trip that she singles out as her favorite.

“One of the nicest things we ever did was we took a book cruise, where they brought authors aboard the ship and you could talk to them.” It was on one of these cruises that Cheryl and her friends met author Debbie Macomber, a New York Times best-selling author with over 200 million books in print. Though many people got to talk and interact with Macomber on the trip, the author was able to remember Cheryl many months later at a book signing at Great Lakes Crossing. “She saw us and said, ‘oh you’re the ones who went on a little boat ride with us.’ It was nice to be recognized by her.”

Though she’s recently been hampered by some mobility problems, Cheryl doesn’t let that stop her from pursuing her interests as much as she can. If you visit Oakmont Rochester Assisted, you’ll no-doubt find her reading, crocheting, knitting, or chatting up some friends about an exciting new book she’s reading. And she still plans to travel. Her family owns a cabin in the Muskegon area on Silver Lake that she shares with her brothers, and her goal is to make it up there soon to enjoy the beaches and the sand dunes. “I haven’t been up there in a number of years,” she says, “but we’re going to try to go soon.”

Meet Frank

Most days, Frank makes a point to find his way to the office of Janell Allison, the activity director at Oakmont Rochester Assisted. It’s an open-door policy; if the door is open, Frank lets himself in for a morning visit with Janell.

Not only is it a part of Frank’s routine, but now, it’s a part of Janell’s.

“I always look forward to our morning visits,” Janell said. “Every morning, he stops, and we chat. I tell Frank what’s going on for the day, what’s on my schedule and what’s going on here. He’s a special man.”

“Yeah, this is my place to stop in,” he said. “I don’t think she minds at all.”

Growing up in a Polish neighborhood

Frank spent his childhood in Hamtramck, attending St. Ladislaus High School. Among the things he liked to do was play baseball.

“Were we good?” Frank said. “You better believe it. We won a few, we lost a few, but it was a good time.”

It was while he was in school Frank met the first of his two wives. He says he was a fortunate man to find both.

“I had two very good women,” he said. “I was a very lucky man. Many people don’t get to meet one good person. But me, I met two and I was very fortunate. I’ll be buried between the two of them, so that’s pretty good.”

In his younger days, he lived in both Hamtramck and Detroit. After serving in the Army during World War II and fighting the Japanese, Frank eventually became a member of the Detroit Police Department. He was on the force for 25 years.

“I really liked it,” he said. “That’s what I wanted to do, so when I got out of the Army I became a police officer. I was a good cop.”

Staying busy after his working days

Being a police officer didn’t stop with his retirement, as he was an active member and organizer of various police organizations.

“I used to be a member of lots of groups,” he said.

He still enjoys socializing, too. Recently, his son brought his wife from California to pop in on Frank.

“They were over here to see me just a couple of weeks ago. They surprised me,” he said. “I came downstairs and they were waiting for me. It was really nice.”

We spoke with Frank right before he turned 90 years old. He was excited at the prospect of celebrating his birthday.

“My niece and some other people are taking me out to dinner,” he said. “I don’t know where we’re going, but it doesn’t matter, it’ll be a nice surprise. You know, as I turn 90, I can say I’ve led a good life.”

Meet Barbara

For much of the early part of her life, Barbara did everything to get ready for the working world. After graduating from Redford High School in Detroit, she went on to attend Highland Park Junior College.

“I was in the retailing program,” she said. “But I also worked at the same time.”

So she worked her way up with the B. Siegel Company in downtown Detroit, eventually getting to the personnel department for the upscale women’s clothing store. After three years, she found a better-paying position with the Michigan Consolidated Gas Company.

But that’s also where she met her future husband, Dante. Once they married, that led her to a more fulfilling calling — motherhood.

Enjoying the family life

“My husband didn’t want me to work,” she said. “Fortunately, I was able to stay home and raise my son.”

Barbara later had two more children. While speaking of her children, she expressed gratitude for being around for all of her kids’ milestones, which is something many parents who work outside of the home don’t get to fully experience.

“Well, I think they miss a lot of things with their children,” she said. “When they are little, every day, they do something different. I remember when my oldest son first started talking. He began at 9 months. Those are things you remember about them.”

Barbara and Dante raised their family in Sterling Heights and were married for 61 years. They were able to take many trips “Up North,” especially to places like Whitefish Point, where they often rented the same cabin for many years.

“We had a good life,” she said.

Making sure she would be in good hands

When Dante developed Alzheimer’s, it became apparent he needed to be living someplace where his needs could be met. That’s what brought Dante to Oakmont Rochester Assisted. But before he left home, he had a question for Barbara.

“He asked, will you be all right at home?” she said. “I said yes, I’ll come to see you every day.”

When Barbara had a stroke, she also moved to Rochester. Dante died a year ago, but Barbara knows she is in living in the ideal place for her needs.

“I like being with people,” she said. “You know, being active, doing things. I always like playing games or singing, which we do. I’ve met some nice people here.”

It seems Barbara has discovered the key to getting the most out of living in a senior community.

“You’ve got to be a friend to make friends. And you have to enjoy people,” she said. “Everybody’s life is different. I found a couple different ladies who have things in common with all my life; places we’ve been or where our parents came from. It is still amazing to come across that.”