Category Archives: Sterling Spotlight

Resident Spotlight: Meet Michael

Early Days in Detroit

Few people can say they’ve spent their whole life in service to their city, their community, and their country. Michael, a veteran of the United States Army and former member of the Dearborn and Taylor Police Departments, can.

Born in the City of Detroit in the mid-1920s, Michael grew up with his family near the intersection of 24th and Myrtle. Though initially a comfortable family of four, one day, when Michael was just seven years old, his Dad left out of the blue and never came back, leaving the mother and her two sons to fend for themselves. “We had a rough time then,” Michael said, putting it mildly.

But the young family got by, and Michael was no sooner enrolled in Cass Tech High School that he was drafted into the United States Army during the closing years of World War Two. During his service, Michael was able to take classes at the University of Milan in Italy to continue his education, and upon his return, presented his certificate and credits to the Cass Tech administration. They were accepted, and Michael was able to graduate with the very next class.

Joining the Dearborn Police Force

“From there, I used the G.I. Bill to study photography at the local community college,” Michael said of the months following his Cass Tech graduation. “And shortly after that I applied at the Dearborn Police Department.” Though it took several years, Michael was hired in the patrol division where he rode around in a scout car and gave “nasty tickets to people who didn’t behave,” he said, laughing. The year was 1952, and the annual salary of a police officer was $4,250 (minus the cost of their uniforms).

Though he was working as a police officer, and a second job hauling steel around the city to make ends meet, Michael never stopped educating himself. He took special courses from the University of Applied Science out of Chicago, where he learned about fingerprinting, gathering evidence, and other essential aspects of advanced police work. After eight years on the force and completing his ongoing education, an opening came up in Dearborn’s CSI Bureau, and Michael was hired in – serving the city of Dearborn as a crime scene investigator for the next 28 years.

The job of crime scene investigator was never short on action. Michael said his unit responded to everything from homicides and suicides to bank robberies and breaking and entering – investigating just about any type of crime you could imagine. They even worked closely with federal agencies. “The FBI loved us because we did all the work and then we handed it to them,” he said with laughter.

A Life-Changing Costume Party

Despite all of the excitement of his professional life, it would be a simple costume party that would forever change his personal life. Thrown by a friend in Detroit, it was at this party that Michael, dressed as a cowboy, would meet the love of his life, Anne, and they would go on to marry on his birthday the next year. They had six children together, four girls and two boys, and lived happily in Dearborn where the kids grew up and eventually went to school.

After raising the kids, Anne, then age 45, decided to go back to work, applying for a job with the United States Treasury Department as a revenuer. She was soon hired. “If your wife wants to get even with you, that’s what she should do,” Michael joked about his wife joining the Treasury. “About two months after she was hired, I got a letter telling me I was about to undergo a full two-year audit.”

After all of his years with the Dearborn Police Department, Michael retired and spent an additional two years serving the community with the City of Taylor. When he finally took off his badge for the last time, the couple enjoyed their retirement with frequent trips to many different places including Germany, Alaska, and Disney parks on both coasts. He soon had 18 grandchildren and 28 great grandchildren – a true testament to the close-knit and loving family he had built.

His own children, too, went on to long and successful careers. One son followed Michael into the armed forces, serving in the Air Force (and eventually breaking the sound barrier on his last flight), and another became an engineer at Ford Motor Company. One daughter became a nurse, and another a physical therapist. Looking back on his life so far, Michael is quick to point out how lucky he has been. “I consider myself very fortunate,” he says of his life, “very lucky.”

A Thank You Note from Cheryl and Jim – Oakmont Sterling

At each of our Oakmont communities, we are lucky enough to receive frequent cards, letters, and notes of thanks from our residents and their families. These simple gestures mean the absolute world to us, and we are grateful to each and every author who takes the time to share their feedback. 

We received the below letter from Cheryl – the niece of a resident who called Oakmont Sterling home for more than seven years. The dedication, patience, and love Cheryl showed her aunt during their near-daily visits constantly inspired us. We are so touched that Cheryl chose to share her words with us, and we wanted to share them with you below:

Note: We have altered the letter slightly to protect the privacy of Cheryl and her family.

To the Directors & Staff at Oakmont Sterling Enhanced:

As you know, my aunt has been a resident at Oakmont Sterling for over seven years until her recent passing. I would like to take the opportunity to thank all of you for taking such wonderful care of her throughout that time. You were truly a second family to her and you made her life safe, comfortable, and very enjoyable. 

Since I had a constant presence in her life, I saw for myself first-hand how well she was treated and how the Oakmont staff always went the extra mile to make sure that not only my aunt, but all of their residents, truly felt that this was their “home” and not just another senior facility. 

For me, it was especially great to see that Oakmont offered so many activities from crafts, to exercise, to outings, to special events (like the Olympic games – my aunt has her medal to prove she participated), to bingo (with popcorn), to monthly birthday celebrations, as well as holiday celebrations and weekly entertainment. The staff always encouraged the residents to participate in these activities and made it fun to do so. 

I can’t say enough about Jodi. What a blessing. While my aunt wasn’t always able to attend all of the activities when she did participate Jodi always helped her and recognized that one of her favorites was doing watercolors. Jodi always encouraged her to participate in that activity. I have several watercolor pictures that my aunt did that I framed and I will always have special memories that while she was “painting” she was happy and had a smile on her face. I have photos of those memories thanks to Jodi. You couldn’t ask for better activities coordinators than Jodi & Debbie. It’s obvious that they enjoy what they do and they pass their enthusiasm onto the residents. They make the day brighter for those who participate in whatever activity is taking place.

Chef Ken always made sure that the residents were happy with their meals and the waitstaff were always cheerful and friendly. 

Housekeeping and laundry kept my aunt’s apartment and clothes spotless. I think I need to hire them for myself. 

While my heart is very heavy at this time with the loss of my aunt, I take great comfort in knowing that while she called Oakmont her home for over seven years, she was always safe, comfortable, was treated with respect and dignity and was loved by Oakmont’s staff. I couldn’t have asked for a better life for her. 

I want to thank everyone at Oakmont, from the bottom of my heart, for helping my aunt live her remaining golden years in the loving and caring environment that she so greatly deserved.

Having been at Oakmont almost every day for the last seven years, I, too, have made great friends and will always remember your kindness, our laughter and our tears. You have become an extension of my family as well, and I appreciate each of you for everything you have done for my aunt over the years.

I won’t be a stranger. I plan on visiting and participating in some activities along the way. Keep the popcorn coming and please remember how much all of you mean to my aunt and to me and my husband.

With much love and sincerity,

Cheryl and Jim T.


Meet Anthony and Vera

Though they may be new to the community, Oakmont Sterling Enhanced residents Anthony and Vera have quickly become familiar faces. You’ll often find them enthusiastically enjoying activities, boarding the bus for trips about town, and interacting with their favorite staff members who they now consider new friends. But the road to Oakmont wasn’t always an easy one for the couple, who were both born in Michigan during the Great Depression.

Paths Cross in the Motor City

Anthony, born and raised on the East Side of Detroit, has early memories of the economic hardship brought on by the Great Depression. “We came up the hard way, her and I,” Anthony says gesturing to his wife. “Our parents had no money at all. My dad died at 36 years old, and we had to take in 13 boarders just to survive the depression.”

Life for a young Vera, growing up just outside of Mt. Pleasant on a farm in Isabella, was a little bit easier. “I had it a little easier than he did,” she said, referring to Anthony. “My dad had a good job as a foreman at Briggs, so we had it a little bit easier. His job is what brought us to Detroit.”

Though they came from hours away, their paths would soon cross at the Hudson Motor Car Company – where they both worked during the war. When the company went bankrupt soon after the war ended, Anthony got a job working for Frito Lay, where he lasted for 36 years delivering to many of Detroit’s supermarkets and convenience stores. He was such a skilled worker that he was eventually awarded a very coveted delivery route – right by the couple’s house in the suburbs. “Frito Lay was the best place I ever worked. I never was laid off. I won a couple of awards. For me, the job really hit the right mark.”

Life in St. Clair Shores

Living in St. Clair Shores, Anthony and Vera raised their four children, putting them all through Catholic School with two eventually graduating from college and getting good jobs. Though the couple’s focus at this time was always on the wellbeing of the children, they kept their romance alive by never passing up the opportunity to spend quality time together participating in their favorite hobby: Dancing.

“The best thing we ever did in our lives was take up dancing,” Anthony said. “Every week we’d go ballroom dancing at Greystone, Vanity, Odds and Ends, all different kinds places on the West Side [of Detroit].”

“They used to have a lot of bars where they had dancing at that time too,” Vera added.

“We Thank God Every Day”

Though they’ve only been residents of Oakmont Sterling for a short time, Anthony and Vera have truly made themselves right at home – making new friends, taking advantage of the many trips and activities, and settling into a place where they feel safe. “Coming here has been a very good experience,” Anthony said. “It’s just what we wanted. Good food. Good accommodations. New friendships – what more could a person ask for?” he said, smiling.

“We thank God every day that we found this place.”

Meet Maxine

If you visit Oakmont Sterling, there’s a good chance that you’ll run into Maxine. An active 86-year-old who loves to stay involved in everything going on in her community, Maxine can usually be found playing cards, calling out “bingo” with a full card, folding newsletters, minding the resident store – even leading exercise classes on Saturday mornings. If there’s an interesting activity about to start or a need for someone to volunteer their time, Maxine is usually the first in line.

A Life Long Michigander

A Michigander through and through, Maxine was born in the small town of Ithica, which sits just about 45 minutes north of Lansing – but she didn’t stay there long. Her family moved from Ithica to Middleton, Middleton to Royal Oak, Royal Oak to Dearborn, and Dearborn up to a town in the Upper Penninsula called Gould City. It was here that she’d graduate from high school before eventually moving back to the Lower Peninsula to land her first job working as a dispatcher for a towing company run by her cousin.

Now just shy of 19, Maxine met and married the love of her life, John, and, after a brief stint working at the now-defunct Federal’s department store, Maxine left the workforce to raise her four children, while John went to at the Dodge Main Plant in Hamtramck.

Back in the Workforce

Her life with John was exciting, taking the young couple around the state as they raised their family continued to grow. When her youngest was a junior in high school, Maxine re-joined the workforce, helping out at a small dress shop in the now trendy neighborhood of Ferndale until the store’s closing a year-or-so later. “I went to work just to see if I could go back to work,” Maxine said. “[I wanted to be ready] In case something happened to my husband because he was now a policeman.”

After her time at the dress shop, Maxine’s Michigan odyssey took her from the hustle and bustle of the suburbs of Detroit to the serene beach atmosphere of Charlevoix, where she and John lived for ten years. Now with nine grandchildren with 11 great-grandchildren on the way, the couple moved to the tip of the Mitten, calling Cheboygan their home until John’s passing six years ago.

An avid reader of romance novels (she likes things that end happily); a passionate fan of country and western music (especially the classics like Don Williams – none of that modern stuff); and a heck of a Euchre player, Maxine finds the close proximity to her daughter, and the worry-free atmosphere of life at Oakmont Sterling rewarding and relaxing.

“[I like] Not having to cook. Not having to clean. I eat my three meals here. Housekeepers make the bed and take the garbage. They do everything for you,” she says. “I love it here. It’s a really nice place.”

Meet Robert

Robert was born in 1934 with a twin brother, Ralph. And, yes, the boys did share a few things in common.

They both learned to play the piano at age 5. Both joined the Boy Scouts and earned the rank of Eagle Scout (the first twins to earn that honor in the Huron Valley Council). “I’ve never seen my dad so proud,” Robert said. Both were also in the Army, with their paths miraculously crossing during a stateside visit during World War II from Ralph.

But the current Oakmont Sterling resident also struck out for a unique life of his own, with his innovative approach to automotive engineering creating some new design and production methods.

Early in his work career, after World War II, he was working at General Motors. His analytic mind simply wasn’t content.

Looking for a better way to work

“What I’m doing doesn’t contribute to quality,” he said “There’s got to be more than that.”

After much reading about the new concept of geometric dimensioning and tolerancing (GD&T), design with respect to relationship of part features, “I said wow, how come we can’t have that here at GM?”

He took on the challenging task, which earned a promotion that led him to head up a group whose focus was GD&T. The concept was this: They wanted to build vehicles in prototype that couldn’t be built in production. It would make the most out of stellar planning, saving money on parts that weren’t precise fits the first time around.

The GD&T concept was a smashing success. He worked with General Motors in both Europe and South Africa, teaching and lecturing on the subject (which also included dimensional management) for many years.

Over the course of time, Robert owned three engineering companies. The engineering concepts alone weren’t the only thing that made the company’s successful. His management style was reasonable, giving his employees (and earlier, GM team members) a chance to truly learn real engineering through practical experience and not just “by-the-book” engineering. He recently sold the last of his engineering companies, Dimensional Control Systems. In this aspect of business, this company sold software and services geared to ensure more plant efficiency.

Staying active in his 80s

If that sounds like a lot of work, it is. And he didn’t mind it one bit, still showing up for work and imparting his wisdom each day until he turned 80.

Robert has been married twice. A month after serving as best man for Ralph’s wedding, Robert married Marjorie in the summer of 1958. (Yes, Ralph was his best man). Robert and Marjorie had a son (Michael) and were married 38 years before she died of cancer. Sometime later, Ralph mentioned that Robert’s high school prom date from 44 years earlier was back in town. She, too, lost her spouse. This December, Robert and Virginia will celebrate their 21st wedding anniversary.

These days, Robert and Virginia are active members of First Baptist Church in Rochester Hills. He noted they enjoy supporting missions involving children. Sadly, Ralph died three months ago at the age of 83. “I really miss him,” Robert said. “Ralph didn’t tell everyone he had a twin brother. When I was at the funeral, a few people were looking me really funny. That was pretty interesting, the looks I got!”