Category Archives: Sterling Spotlight

Meet John and Virginia

John skipped out on his first meeting with Virginia. Big mistake, as he soon found out.

“We were supposed to meet on a blind date, but he didn’t show up,” Virginia said. “So there I was, with two other couples, and he didn’t show up because his mother didn’t want him to. She had another girl picked out for him.”

But John got a favorable scouting report, which helped change his mind.

Said Virginia: “His best buddy called up and said, ‘John, you don’t know what a fool you are. You gotta get down here and see this girl.'”

“It was quite an endorsement” John said. “I will say, she was pretty attractive.”

Trying to make a good impression

It took a bit of work to undo his initial reluctance, but it proved to be well worth it.

“He kept coming back and coming back, and I said I wasn’t going to meet him again,” Virginia said. “But he kept coming back so much I finally gave in. Here it is, 65 years later.

John and Virginia have had a good life together. After meeting in Bay City, they lived in several places in Michigan, as well as in New Jersey, as John worked as an auditor for several newspapers.

While it proved to be a very good, steady career, it came with a price.

“I used to leave on Sunday night and come home on Thursday,” said John, talking about his days working the west side of Michigan for the Booth Newspapers chain. “She didn’t like it, she had three kids to take care of but it was a good outfit to work for.”

As they moved about (seven times) and had three children born in three different towns, they also knew it was eventually time to come back to Michigan as John and Virginia’s parents were getting up in age and experienced health issues. That’s when they settled in Sterling Heights.

On the road for work, on the road for vacation

While Virginia was able to travel quite a bit, going to Australia, Scotland and Hawaii, among other places, John was not as thrilled about travel. And with good reason.

“That was the problem, being a traveling auditor,” he said. “You’re gone so much, eating in restaurants. The employers were very reasonable with their travel and did well for me, but still, when you’re gone several days a week, your kids are growing up and you come home and hear what the kids have done during the week…It was a trial, a real challenge. ”

While it proved to be a lot of work, it turned out well. And because they invested all that time with the kids, Virginia said she has a real appreciation for being at Oakmont Sterling.

“Everybody is so wonderful to us here,” the grandmother of six said. “The cleaning and the food, I love it here. I think it’s the greatest thing on earth, to have my food cooked and no dishes to do.

“I did it for several years, so I’m ready for this.”

Meet Millie

At the age of 99, there’s much Millie experienced in her life. That includes memories of being moved from her home in Yugoslavia (where she was born with the name Milka) to Germany during the height of World War II.

She experienced the horrors of war first-hand, as her husband made bullets for the Germans and she worked in a kitchen

“All kinds of stuff was going on,” Millie said. “People killing people. It makes me sick to think about it. I don’t even want to hear the word. People, they were killing each other and killing the babies. It’s hard to think about it.”

Her difficult upbringing included no memory of her natural mother, who died six weeks after Millie was born. But after the war was done, Millie and her husband immigrated to the United States.

Coming to America; a reason to find happiness

You would think coming to America with no money and no clue how to speak English would be enough to make her bitter. That simply isn’t the case.

“She has a great sense of humor,” Oakmont Sterling Activity Director Jodi Cavalier said. “That’s why everyone here calls her ‘Silly Millie.’ It fits, she is just the happiest person. She’s got a good sense of humor and she keeps everybody happy.”

It’s a nickname Millie embraces, too.

“They don’t call me Millie,” she said. “They call me Silly Millie. And I love it.”

It took a lot of work to make ends meet once they arrived in the Detroit area, but the young couple (which included three daughters) rented a place in Highland Park before buying a home in Detroit near Outer Drive and Van Dyke.

“It was hard when we came over here. We didn’t speak the language here, we had no money and we were looking for a job,” she said. “My husband got a job right away because my uncle used to work at Chrysler. That helped out.

“Then I got a job in a restaurant for three months. We had some friends working at Sealtest Ice Cream. So I got a job there and worked for 20 years. ‘Get the best, get Sealtest!” I still remember that.”

Learning the language, feeling proud and free

It didn’t take long for Millie to pick up the English language, although she learned through a rather informal method.

“I picked up English from other people,” she said. “I didn’t have time to go to school, plus we had the children and all that. I worked nights and my husband worked days, so we didn’t have to pay for a babysitter. We managed.”

Millie enjoyed her free time attending St. Steven Decanski Church, an Eastern Orthodox Church, in Warren, taking part in various church activities. Along with her three children, she has four grandchildren.

Although she is a long way from her original home and definitely away from the hard life of Germany during World War II, Millie has a true appreciation for where she is today.

“There’s only one America. It’s beautiful, it’s different,” she said. “In one word, different.”