Category Archives: Rochester Spotlight

Meet Rosemary

As one of the first two residents to move into Oakmont Rochester last spring, Rosemary’s upbeat personality and passion for helping others have helped shape Oakmont Rochester into a truly wonderful community. But it’s not only the community inside the walls of Oakmont that she makes better; through her volunteer efforts, she has also made a point to help countless people in need throughout all of Metro Detroit. But it all started in historic Corktown.

Courting in Corktown

Rosemary was born in a small hospital called Brent General on Dexter Avenue just across the street from the University of Detroit Mercy. Her family had settled around the historic Corktown area, before eventually moving downriver to Melvindale where she spent most of her childhood. Unbeknownst to her, her future husband and love of her life, Joe, was also growing up in Corktown, but they wouldn’t cross paths until years later in high school.

“I ran into Joe in high school, but then he went into the Air Force,” Rosemary said. “It was during the Vietnam War, and since his brother Pete was already serving in Vietnam, Joe served his time at Webb Airforce Base in Texas.”

When Joe had returned from service, Rosemary was working in the Ford Motor Company’s central medical department – a company she would remain loyal to for 30 years of her professional life. They ran into each other one day during her lunch break, and it wasn’t long before they were happily married with a son on the way.

Building a Life and a Brand New Home

After moves to Taylor and Troy with Joe now working for the Kmart Corporation and Rosemary still at Ford, the family longed for greener pastures, eventually moving to some acreage in Dryden in Lapeer County, where they continued to thrive. Joe got to explore his passions for working with his hands by building his family a home and starting up a new environmentally friendly business.

“It was called ‘Once a Tree’,” Rosemary said of her late husband’s business. “He would always say that ‘Only God can cut down a tree.’ So, he wouldn’t cut them down, but any tree that had already fallen, he would take it, bring it with his tractor, put it on the mill, take off the bark, and mill it into wood for building. He just absolutely loved trees.”

Devoted to Helping Others

After leaving Ford and caring for Joe as he recovered from sickness, Rosemary focused her attention on one of the great loves of her life: helping others. She was picked up by the Imlay City School District to serve as a bilingual aid for students who grew up with Spanish as their first language – a situation she could easily relate to.

“Up to the age of five, I spoke nothing but Spanish,” she said. “So, I became a bilingual aid for grades one through three and I loved my little kids. Many of them would come in monolingual, only speaking Spanish, and I would work to get them on an accelerated path to help them catch up to the others.”

Her work to help others didn’t stop there. Rosemary currently volunteers for the Penrickton Center for Blind Children in Taylor with a group from her old job at Ford, assisting in their monthly mailing process. She also spends time working at the Capuchin Soup Kitchen – and she’s currently considering possibly taking even more on her plate.

“I’ve been considering trying to get into the schools around her as a bilingual aid, but I’ve been having too much fun living here, so I haven’t had time,” she said, laughing.

Oakmont Rochester Independent proved to be the perfect next step for Rosemary after her beloved Joe passed away, providing her with many opportunities to meet new people and experience new things. “This is a very peaceful, carefree life,” she said. “So I figure if I last another 20 years I’m going to have a ball, a blast. And so far, I have!”

Meet James

It isn’t often that a Resident Spotlight can also serve as a Behind the Music, but when it comes to telling the story of Oakmont Rochester Independent resident James, you can’t have one without the other. Music has always been a part of his life, and whether it was using his piano skills to entertain Canadian Troops during the war, or forming a band with other residents at the age of 91, one thing is for certain: for James, the beat always goes on.

Born on the east side of Detroit in the mid-1920s, James’ courtship and marriage to his wife Gloria plays like a story from a classic song. Both graduates of Denby High School, and even dating a few times during those formative four years, the couple wouldn’t marry until later in life. “We knew each other at Denby, and then we went our separate ways,” he said of his future wife. “She married and I married, and after 30 years, my wife died and she got divorced. We had stayed in touch all those years, and now we’ve been married for 38 or 39 years.”

Before marrying his first wife and going to college, James served his country by enlisting in the Navy Air Force. “Incidentally, I really got interested [in the Navy Air Force] because of the movies,” he said. “I used to watch all of those movies with John Wayne and the flying and all of that. You know, I was 16 or 17 years old, and I thought ‘oh boy, that’s what I want to get into!’”

A Master of Metallurgical Engineering

After his service, James graduated from Wayne State with a Masters’ Degree in Metallurgical Engineering, which led him to a career working for many major manufacturers including some of the Big Three. After retiring, James and Gloria, now in their early 90s, decided they wanted to downsize and be comfortable – prompting them to move into Oakmont Rochester Independent in the spring of 2017. It was here during the course of normal dinner conversation that James realized he was surrounded by like-minded musicians – and that his musical career might just get a second act.

“We have a table of five that, since we got here in April, we sit with the same five people: my wife, myself, and three other fellas,” James said. “We found out early on that one fella plays the drums, one plays the guitar, and I play the piano.” An instant kinship was born.

Getting the Band Together

Not only did the three men have their musicianship in common, they also had some similar performing experiences when they were younger – not to mention a similar taste in music. After comparing their shared histories, they decided to get together for a jam session, and have since made plans to continue practicing at least once a month. Their planned repertoire includes Benny Goodman, Tommy Dorsey, and whatever other pieces of sheet music James has laying around in his collection.

When not practicing with the band or sharing a meal with his wife Gloria, you can most likely find James at the piano, leading a Happy Birthday singalong for residents who are celebrating In his short time at Oakmont Rochester Independent, he has become the resident Maestro – taking requests from neighbors and providing the perfect accompaniment for every new memory made.

Meet Carolyn

Carolyn and her husband John were both big sports fans. In fact, for their first time going to a game together, they attended a University of Michigan football game.

“I warned him beforehand I might wear green and white,” said Carolyn, who attended Michigan State University.

As it turns out, there are still many colors that run through their family, be it the green and white of the Spartans, the maize and blue of the Wolverines and even the scarlet and gray of Ohio State. But the important thing is the education.

“We’re kind of a mixture, that’s for sure,” she said.

Meeting her husband at General Motors

Carolyn was studying education when she was at MSU, but wound up in a different kind of classroom — she worked for General Motors in the education training department. She met her husband at GM, as he worked across the hall from her office.

Although Carolyn did not end up teaching in a school, she was inspired to get into education by her mother.

“She was a teacher way back when, and taught in schools in this area,” Carolyn said. “She taught before she was married. And in the war years, they were short of teachers, so they talked her into going back and did that for two or three years.”

Carolyn attended school in Pontiac, which often had a different schedule of vacation days than the schools where her mother worked. As a result, there were times when Carolyn joined her mom.

“Sometimes, I would go with her to wherever she was teaching. Education was always there for me,” she said.

A busy family life

Carolyn and her husband John had two kids, a boy and a girl, and both were active in sports.

“My husband said he got Wednesday off for good behavior,” she joked. “He used to come from work to watch their games, but neither one of them had games on Wednesday.”

Later, Carolyn and John both became intrigued in the genealogy of their families. “You can do a lot of it online now, which is nice,” she said. “But when we started 30 years ago, if you found out somebody was from New York, we would first call the county to see if the records were available, then plan on making a little weekend trip.”

With her mother being orphaned at a young age, Carolyn decided it would be a good idea to learn more about her family.

“We found a lot of things,” she said. “I put a lot of it on computers, and with the programs you have now, you can put the pictures in with the write-ups. So I’ve been going back and doing that lately. It takes a lot of time, but I really enjoy it. I like the computer, I do a lot of things on it.”

John died a few years ago, shortly before their 50th anniversary. Still, Carolyn keeps track of her family online, checking the happenings of family in California on Facebook.

A resident of Oakmont Rochester since April, she enjoys her new home.

“It’s very nice here, the people here are excellent,” Carolyn said. “And we’re growing.”

Meet Carolie

Experiencing a stroke a few years ago, Carolie’s active lifestyle may have been altered considerably, but it did not keep her from remaining active.

“So that kind of hampered my style,” she said. “In Florida, I played tennis three to five days a week. I was active in the church, things like that, and then I moved up here.”

Her stroke occurred while flying back after a three-week vacation to Europe. “They turned the plane around and we wound up in Dublin, Ireland,” Carolie said. After some time there, she went through rehabilitation near Flint, where two of her daughters reside.

Eventually, she came across Oakmont Rochester Independent — and instantly knew it would be the ideal location for her, especially since it was close to two more of her daughters, who live in nearby Troy.

An instant love of her new home

“It was a good move, I’m glad I moved here,” she said. She explained the community offers so much, ranging from the activities to the brightness of the building. Occupying an apartment on the east end of the building, she enjoys the morning sunlight; her cat also enjoys bird-watching from up on the third floor.

“The thing is, I always want to do things. I hate the idea of sitting around and doing nothing. Otherwise, I read and fall asleep, and that’s ridiculous,” she said.

“She’s such an amazing person,” said Charlotte Collins, activities director for Oakmont Rochester. “Nothing stops her and she puts me in a good mood, too.”

This wasn’t the first place she lived after rehab. But right away, she knew she needed something that offered much more than simply four walls. That explains the desire to jump at Oakmont Rochester once she toured it.

“Where I was living before here, I just got depressed,” Carolie said. “And as soon as I got here, there’s so much going on and I love it all. We have the greatest group now. It’s a small group, but when we get more, we will just assimilate them into the group.”

She enjoys playing card games and Rummikub, among many other things. And, she’s always on the move. “Char takes us on little jaunts around,” Carolie said. “We just go, go, go. Every time we have something to do, I just go do it.”

Growing up as a ‘farm girl’

Carolie grew up on the outskirts of Flint, on a farm in the town of Corunna.

“Learned to drive on the farm,” she said. “I drove the tractor; if they were picking up hay bales, I just drove it slow so they could pick them up.”

After graduating from Michigan State University (as a medical technologist), she and her husband (also an MSU grad) moved to Flushing. He worked as a superintendent for General Motors. Together, they were married 52 years. They retired to Florida, where he died in 2013.

“We had a good life, and the best of it was when we were in Florida,” she said. “He wasn’t working and wasn’t under pressure, and we enjoyed our time.”

While in Florida, Carolie and a friend then went on 12 cruises in three years, which included South Pacific trips to Bora Bora and Tahiti. Although travel became more difficult after her stroke, Carolie is still finding plenty to keep herself busy.

“You just gotta move on. There’s nothing I can do about this,” she said. “You just have to keep working and keep trying.”

Meet Jean

In World War II, a manpower shortage – caused by the United States being at war in both Europe and the Pacific Theatre – created the need to tap into a new resource for the Marines, as well as the Army and Navy.

That resource? Womanpower.

Jean, a 96-year-old resident at Oakmont Rochester, recalled what happened when she decided she wanted to serve her country.

“I joined the Marines to see the world and they sent me to Cleveland. It was recruiting duty, I was a secretary,” she said. “They had just opened up recruitment for women, so we decided to go for it.

“I expected to have some adventure, but Cleveland was fine.”

A woman’s work with the Marine Corps

Her work with the Marines was generally administrative, where new recruits were interviewed and inspected before they were accepted.

“I was one of four women who were sent to the recruiting office originally, to replace four able-bodied guys who want to go off and fight, which they did,” Jean said. “Then two weeks later, we heard two of them were killed. It was very sad.”

Although the Marines didn’t provide a chance to be anywhere near the action abroad, she did meet her first husband there. Their marriage produced a son; later, she divorced and moved back to Detroit.

Soon, her family would grow.

Meeting an old high school friend

“I met a fellow I knew in high school, he took me to the prom,” Jean said. “We got married and had three children.”

Her marriage lasted 51 years. Although she lost her husband and two of her sons, she still has 11 grandchildren – 10 of whom live in Michigan. That keeps her plenty busy.

Jean moved into Oakmont Rochester Independent on March 15, the first day it opened. She maintains her independence as she drives and is able to frequently visit her familiar stops in the Bloomfield Hills area, including Mass regularly at St. Hugo of the Hills.

Proud to be Polish

Jean is also still quite fluent in Polish, able to speak, read and write the language that was prevalent in her Detroit east-side neighborhood near Joseph Campau and Chene.

“We took Polish grammar in school (St. Hyacinth),” she said. “All my cousins are in Poland and I keep in contact. My mom and dad came from families of eight. Most of them were left behind. I’ve been there twice to visit. It was such a wonderful reunion.”

Her love of Poland was passed on to her family, including a granddaughter, who attended the University of Warsaw for a study abroad program. She later returned to work at an orphanage.

“There are such good people in Poland. It’s a very happy place,” Jean said.

She also has a piece of advice for young people.

“Just look forward,” she said. “It takes a while to get over the adversities we face, but keep plugging away. And enjoy your family as much as you can.”