Sharing Seniors’ Stories
Celebrating the contributions of others, the uniqueness of people and the impacts made by those around us is a wonderful way to learn more about the world and to find inspiration in the most unexpected places. The month of March is National Women’s History Month. It is a special time to recognize the incredible accomplishments of strong, inventive and successful women. At Anthology Senior Living, communities came together to celebrate women and share life stories. Continuing our efforts to highlight the special women who call Anthology communities home, here are more inspiring stories.
Anthology of Farmington
At Anthology of Farmington, women shared their stories and discussed what about themselves made them proud. Many women, like Joyce, Pat W., Mary, Angie, Susan and Marie L. are all proud of being mothers. Selma is proud of working in the male-dominated field of construction. “I was a bit of a trailblazer, as it was back in 1959, and I was right in there with the guys. I did everything the men did, including using the hammers and saws. I was one tough cookie!”
While Florence K. is proud of her education. “I attended the Oklahoma Agriculture and Mechanical College, now Oklahoma State University. I graduated in January 1951. I am proud to say I was the first female graduate from the School of Architecture.”
Rita is proud of standing her ground when she was young and pursuing a life that she truly wanted, despite what her parents thought. “I was born in Turkey and came to the United States to attend my cousin’s wedding. While visiting, I fell in love with the United States and decided to become a U.S. citizen and take the oath. My parents were displeased with my choice, but it was the best decision I ever made. My life was not perfect, but I looked at the light at the end of the tunnel. While in the United States, I met some extraordinary people that enriched my life. I always had stronger morals than my parents, which allowed me to reach out to those less fortunate and to really respect humanity.”
Sandra is proud of her sense of humor. “I guess you could say I am a jokester. I especially loved April Fools’ jokes and any prank on my husband, who was always such a good sport. One day I sewed up his underwear, and all day he thought he had his boxers on backwards!” Family members also joined in the celebrating and shared senior stories, including the story of Agnes.
Agnes’ daughter shared, “Small, quiet and shy by nature, your neighbor Agnes inspired me to be a strong woman by her example. She discovered a passion for art at a young age and worked hard at it. In her high school for the arts in New York City, they told her that her dream to become an artist in animated films ‘was not a good career path for a woman.’ She graduated at 16 and had to work, but she continued her studies and art training and eventually got a job in an animation studio as a film designer, even as most women at that time were found in the ‘ink and paint’ department, adding the color to others’ cartoon designs. She was recognized for her talent and, in the ’60s, won an award from the Art Directors’ Association of Pittsburgh for an animated film she designed for Alcoa Aluminum.
“In 1970, for love, and thinking that the experience would enrich my education, she moved to Rome, Italy. She learned Italian and also reinvented her art career, shifting to painting and print making. She achieved success in this area as well, with many art shows and commissioned art projects in Europe. In 1986, she was a finalist in the International Postcard Competition for UNICEF held in Strasbourg. Another of her illustrations was selected by the Vatican Museum and is now part of their permanent collection. She also wrote and illustrated a children’s book, A Search of Rome, to introduce young readers to the sights and beauty of the city that had now become her home.
“My mother taught me to work hard to make dreams happen, the importance of education and knowledge, and to contribute to making a difference for others. She marched on Washington, D.C., for civil rights with Martin Luther King Jr. in 1963, and even today, when reminded that I am a psychologist, she smiles widely and says, ‘that’s good; you are helping people.’”
Anthology of Simsbury
At Anthology of Simsbury, friends, neighbors and family members gathered to celebrate and share women’s stories. Lois was the first student at the UMass School of Nursing, a five-year program at that time. She graduated in 1958 with a nursing pin engraved with “#1!” Since then, there have been thousands of graduates of the current four-year program. Lois was one of only four students in her class. Lois worked at Newton-Wellesley Hospital for nine months while her husband finished seminary, and then they started their family. When her three children were in school, she taught at a nursing school for nine years. Finally, she returned to nursing in long-term care in Bloomfield, where she worked for 24 years leading up to her retirement.
Jenny K. chose to share her story in her own words. “I was born in Antwerp, Belgium, in 1936 to parents who had migrated from Poland and married only a year earlier. My father became a freelance diamond cutter, joining the major industry there at the time. In October of 1940, Belgium was occupied by Germany. I watched Kristallnacht from our front stoop as the synagogue a block away was attacked and all its sacred scrolls and prayer books burned in a bonfire.
“Two years later, by 1942, the Nazis were going from house to house, arresting the Jewish residents and shipping them to transit camps and then to concentration and death camps in Eastern Europe. Fortunately, we were able to make contact with friends in the Belgian Underground Organization who found us a hiding place in a suburb of Antwerp. For two years, I had to be very quiet and never go outside, but I could hear children next door playing, laughing and shouting; that was the hardest part. Luckily, we survived. We were liberated in September 1944. We moved to Canada in 1948. I went on to study in Canada and the U.S. to become a social worker psychotherapist and help people in need, as we had been helped by Belgians who risked their lives to save ours.”
And Laura’s story also inspired the crowd. Laura graduated from Duke University in 1958 with a degree in business administration. During her junior and senior years, she was a Cadet Corporal in the Women’s Army Corps (WAC) of the United States Army. While in the WAC, she developed lasting friendships that she still has today. Among other adventures during her service, she recalls meeting the love of her life at the Army swimming pool. After raising four children, Laura and her husband Harry traveled the world on business with his company, Texnis. She loves to travel and is filled with stories about Iceland, India, California and the Himalayas.
Anthology of Rochester Hills
At Anthology of Rochester Hills, neighbors and friends shared women’s stories of love, ambition, success and family. The audience learned that Gail loves to educate. She taught math in middle school, volunteered in Hawaii, taught in Poland for two years, has been to Africa seven times and traveled the world. She said she lived a good life and felt she was always in the right place at the right time.
June Adkins has a master’s degree in sociology from Wayne State and is a member of Delta Sigma Theta. She was a civil rights investigator under Governor Granholm and worked in equal employment opportunity. She also worked in social services in Wayne County.
Uni Susskind was born in New York and moved to Detroit in the ’50s. She has three children, was a professor at Oakland University with her husband and was a professor of chemistry. She was also nominated for several awards with the Chemical Society. Waneta Hawes is a mom of four children and has seven grandchildren and eleven great-grandchildren. Born in Goodrich, Mich., she attended Albion College and received a Master of Education from Wayne State University. She chaired a committee to get a chapel in a senior community. They told her, “You raise funds, and we will support it.” She told them God gave her the vision, and she would supply the provision. They raised $1.5 million to build the chapel, debt free and ahead of schedule.
And then there is Ronella – born in Idaho, her mother died when she was 14 months old. At this time, Ronella and her brothers moved from family to family before ending up under the care of her grandmother. She met her late husband, Don, in high school and had three daughters, four grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. Ronella went to college at 60 and earned a master’s degree in education in four years. She was offered her first of several teaching positions and soon earned a reputation as a top-notch teacher. Her family thanks her for instilling her love of learning, independent thinking, integrity and personal strength.
Anthology of Troy
For friends, families and neighbors at Anthology of Troy, International Women’s Day was a chance to learn about Darcelle. Darcelle, known affectionately to her students as Dr. Darcelle D. White or Dr. White, started her career as an attorney in Detroit, Mich., graduating from Wayne State University and the University of Detroit College of Law. After various roles, she started a career as a professor at Eastern Michigan University, where she taught in the paralegal department for over 20 years. After a medical retirement in 2020, she was selected as Professor Emeritus.
While teaching, she published articles and won the university teaching excellence award. She has a variety of mentees and students, some paralegals, associates and partners at law firms across the country. Dr. White also gave back to the community by founding the Order in the Court Law Camp, a free law camp for disadvantaged middle school and high school students, which ran for 10 years. Outside of work, she used her teaching skills to teach young ministers across the Metro Detroit area at various churches. She later founded Learn the Word Ministries, a ministry designed to teach Christians to read and understand the Bible for themselves for self-study. Some of her students now lead education departments at various churches in the Metro Detroit area.
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