In their words: VHS residents share life stories for Skilled Nursing Care Week

It’s National Skilled Nursing Care Week (May 14-20)! We are spotlighting some of our VHS Residents at Virginia Health Services’ seven nursing and rehabilitation centers. Our team supports our Residents in living their best life as they age with us.

We appreciate their time and the time of their visiting families and friends who all were so open in telling their stories.

Coliseum

James Genus – or as we like to call him, Mr. G – has been at Coliseum Nursing and Rehabilitation Center since February 2021. He never misses an activity and always waves hello.

James Genus
Mr. G’s son plays in the SNL Band.

Originally from Rockville, Maryland, Mr. G was stationed at Fort Eustis after returning from flying for the Army in Vietnam. He served as a flight engineer for seven years in the Army, leaving as an E-5 in 1966.

It was while he was stationed at Fort Eustis that he met his wife. Even after struggling to find a job “as a Black man” in the area, they didn’t leave.

Instead he opened his own string of businesses, including a portable cleaning service.

“I learned I could make more money doing that than something in aviation (at that time),” he says.

Mr. G’s businesses brought in a lot of money and at its peak employed 40. His janitorial and environmental services businesses spanned several states, including Delaware and North Carolina, and they had contracts with several small colleges, he said.

“I never got a big head. Because it comes but you got a partner, and that partner’s the government. … I always stayed low-key, and I teach my son the same thing. He thanks me all the time,” he says.

Mr. G’s success translated to his son, also named James, though in a far different path. His son has played bass with the Saturday Night Live Band for about 20 years, and is also a freelance musician who has toured the world with Herbie Hancock.

He lives in Connecticut with his wife and three children. Also in Connecticut is Mr. G’s wife of 57 years, being cared for in a nursing home there following a stroke.

Mr. G has been to see his son perform on the set of “SNL” many times, he says, but couldn’t quite pinpoint a favorite host.

“I don’t know (who my favorite host was),” he says. “I was just there to see him.”

Making move from Middlesex to Hampton

Until Rosaline Burrell moved into Coliseum Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in August 2022, the only place she lived was Middlesex County.

Rosaline Burrell and her daughter Patricia
Rosaline Burrell and her daughter Patricia

She is now closer to her daughter, who lives in Hampton and comes to visit her daily.

She is 94 years old and has survived her husband and three of five children. One of her sons who passed away was her caregiver.

Rosaline and her husband were together for more than 70 years. He passed away in 2011 at age 93. She has three grandchildren. She worked alongside her husband, handling the finances of their landscape business for about 65 years before either retired.

“This was a big transition for her to leave her home and come here,” says her daughter Patricia. “We’ve not been back (to the Middlesex house).”

Rosaline enjoys the activities at Coliseum – she was looking forward to manicures this particular afternoon – and gets along well with her current roommate. She also enjoys watching TV – her favorite program is “Little House on the Prairie.”

She says “the help of the Lord” keeps her going.

Family life

Rosaline and Patricia know loss. Rosaline’s oldest son went missing without a trace from West Point 45 years ago.

Two sons passed away within months of one another.

“I wasn’t able to be there. (Patricia) took on everything about what was going on. She by both their sides when they died,” Rosaline said.

“God give her strength to do what she’s doing for me now.”

In addition to visits from Patricia, Rosaline has family who keep up with her, including a younger sister. She has frequent visitors and folks who keep in touch with her, including from the church in Middlesex.

James River

Doris Scott has been in long-term care at James River Nursing and Rehabilitation Center for about 20 years.

Doris Scott has been at James River for about 20 years.
Doris Scott has been at James River for about 20 years.

“I’ve enjoyed myself so far. Not a dull moment,” she says, citing the robust activities calendar for keeping her active.

“You don’t do the same thing every day. It’s up to you if you want to enjoy it.”

She likes the church services, flower club on Fridays where the Residents arrange flowers with the Newport News Master Gardeners, and bingo. She has seek-and-find puzzles she enjoys doing between activities.

Doris was born and raised in Newport News, in the Newsome Park area. She and her mother moved farther north and she graduated from Carver High School.

“This is my home and this always will be my home,” she says.

She has a sister in Hanover who visits every other month. Occasionally Doris will spend a weekend with her “in the country.”

Lancashire

Patricia Davenport became a Resident of Lancashire Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in August 2022, when she could no longer live independently.

“I like the people here,” she says, “but I miss my apartment and my cat. She’ll be 16 in October.”

She had a series of falls and hospital stays that have left her in physical therapy at Lancashire gaining her steadiness and ability to walk without a walker or wheelchair.

“They do very good here; I have no complaints,” she says.

Patricia Davenport has a stuffed kitty on her bed.
Patricia Davenport has a stuffed kitty on her bed.

Patricia has family who lives nearby, including two sisters. Another sister lives in Louisa.

She has a step-daughter in Florida, who is raising her step-great-granddaughters, and a stepson who lives in Texas. One of her sisters and brother-in-law are looking after her treasured cat Buttercup.

“I wouldn’t give her away to just anybody,” Patricia says with a smile. “I haven’t seen my cat since July of last year. I miss her so much.”

She keeps a stuffed kitty named Bella on her bed, and there are several photos of Buttercup in her room.

Lancaster County native

Patricia and her family are from Lancaster County, growing up in Bertrand.

Before moving to Richmond following her first marriage, Patricia worked in housekeeping at Lancashire. She returned to Kilmarnock to care for her mother in 2010 and stayed with her until her passing in 2018.

“When mom passed, the house was too big for me to live there by myself,” she says. She moved into an apartment that fall; her sister’s family and Buttercup occupy the family home now.

“I loved my apartment; I didn’t want to leave it.”

She worked in department stores, including Kmart and Kohl’s, and in a warehouse assembling hospital equipment, before returning to Kilmarnock where she worked in a now-closed department store’s catalog department.

“I enjoyed being around people. I loved in the catalog what to do. The people I worked for were real good to me,” she says. “I loved all the jobs I’ve had.”

Stylist living life at Lancashire

Ray Meyers moved to Lancashire Nursing and Rehabilitation Center about eight months ago. His sight is worsening due to a previous trauma and macular degeneration. Ray said he could no longer care for his Kilmarnock home alone, so he sold it and most of his possessions, gave away his dog and cat and moved to Lancashire, which is near his sister and her family.

Ray Meyers took as much of his life as would fit in his room when he moved to Lancashire about eight months ago.
Ray Meyers took as much of his life as would fit in his room when he moved to Lancashire about eight months ago.

“You bring what you can and sell the rest,” he says. “Overall, I’ve got three hots and a cot. The people here are fair.”

He enjoys the people at Lancashire and likes to kid around with the team to get them smiling and laughing.

“I don’t know of anybody who has lived a more fun life than I have,” Ray says.

Living the life

Since 1964 until his sight started to go, Ray cut hair.

“I was pretty good. I had the first unisex hair styling salon in Virginia. … I stole the idea. Guy (in Pennsylvania) had a great idea and didn’t know how to promote it,” he says.

He learned how to shampoo, cut and style hair, massage the scalp and be a nail technician. He trained his in entire team wherever he set up shop, which included northern Virginia.

“I went through quite a few dollars learning how to do a Farrah Fawcett haircut, a Dorothy Hamill haircut. We had to go through a lot of training to do these styles,” he says.

Ray also was a drummer.

He was married once for five years and engaged “four times with one ring.”

“I dated a lot of girls … but it was never so much about the catch as it was about the chase,” he says with a smile.

He lived in Alexandria while Vietnam was going on.

“I was prepared to go. My father was in the Marines, stepfather was in the Battle of the Bulge and brother was Army special forces, but as an asthmatic, they wouldn’t take me,” he says.

He moved to Kilmarnock in 2004 and started a business cutting hair. He’s originally from Shenandoah.

A trauma while he was robbed at gunpoint in his home led to some of the onset of his blindness.

He enjoyed hunting and fishing once he moved to Northern Neck.

Northampton

Marie Collins, who will be 99 in August, has been a Resident at Northampton Nursing and Rehabilitation Center since February 2020. She’s comfortable, happy with the team members and rehab therapists, and pleased to not have to worry about grocery shopping, cooking or cleaning her space (though she does keep it tidy and dusts).

Marie Collins
Marie Collins was a senior model.

“I love it here,” she says. “I like the nurses. What more could we want?”

She has even acquiesced to play Bingo, which she says she didn’t enjoy before coming to Northampton.

Marie says it’s been difficult to outlive her friends. But, “here is where my life is now. But I just have acquaintances.”

She spent nearly 45 years of her life as a secretary, and then another 20 as a senior model in several campaigns and with community fashion shows. She spent much of her career in the U.S. Civil Service, retiring in 1986.

Her husband Jim was transferred to Ramstein Air Base in Germany after they met in Texas. She eventually traveled there and they were wed in Germany in 1956. Eventually, he was transferred back to Texas.

She tried to find a job, but was turned away because “you’re an Air Force wife. As soon as I train you, you’ll have to leave. So, I showed them. I joined the Civil Service.”

They were transferred to Hampton, and she took a job at Langley Air Force Base. The couple spent two years in Istanbul, Turkey.

“I loved it, but my husband didn’t. He was in JAG, working with the local police,” she says.

They returned stateside in 1968. Jim had two heart attacks. He was discharged from the Air Force, and the couple returned to Virginia.

Even after he passed in 1970, Marie stayed in Hampton. She spent the last 18 years of her Civil Service career at Langley.

“I never went back to Pennsylvania,” she says.

When her parents passed, she sold her half of the family farm in Hesston, Pennsylvania, back to her sister. Marie’s nephew and his wife live there now, and come visit about once a month when she goes to the doctor. They’re her remaining living family.

Her right knee started giving her trouble at 95. “Mother Nature decided it was time to slow me down.”

She wasn’t interested in getting a knee replacement at that age. After a bout with COVID, she moved into Northampton. It’s home now.

“If you’re going to live here, you’re going to make the most of it,” she said of decorating her single room as comfortable as possible.

Walter Reed

The energy from Andre Hughes’ room radiates down the hall. Walter Reed team members and Residents wave or stop in to chat when they walk by.

She maintains several plants and has brightly patterned quilts on the walls.

“I enjoy taking care of them,” Andre says of the plants. “They’re good for me – they’re good for everyone. Plants are therapy for me. They are full of life and there’s so much darkness these days, I can watch these grow and thrive.”

Andre Hughes

Andre has been a Resident of Walter Reed for about 7 years. She’s found love and marriage while there. She’s made friends. And she’s recovered from the fall that landed her here, learning to walk and write again.

“These people are my family and this is my home,” she says. “I knew eventually I’d end up here. … And I think the Lord wants me here. I still have a lot of work to do.

“There are folks in here, where all you have to do is hold their hand and their face lights up. That’s a blessing for me. So the Lord is helping me help others … My faith has carried me.”

Born in France

“I am a product of World War II,” she says.

Andre was born in France. Her father, an American, had been stationed there and met her mother, whose family owned a café in which she worked. They were married and when he resettled in the U.S., Andre, her mother and two siblings joined him.

She was a physical therapy aide – “that was my last job. When I was very young, I worked for a radio station and the telephone company.”

Wedding at Walter Reed

While a series of events have left her without family, she has made a home at Walter Reed, including meeting her late husband.

“I’m friendly with everyone,” she says. “I met a wonderful man in here. We were married in here. They had the ceremony in the dining room – it looked like a winter wonderland.

“I knew he was very ill, but we wanted to be married in the eyes of the Lord. A minister performed the ceremony. The team and volunteers pooled money to get out marriage license. It was a joyous occasion. He’s in heaven now, waiting on me.”

They were married nine weeks. James passed away five years ago.

“He blessed me so much by putting James in my life. In here. I get blessed and I get blessed,” she says.

Love where you live

She is thankful for the team at Walter Reed, not only for helping plan a lovely wedding, but also for keeping the Residents active and engaged.

“I have an abundance of friends. (Recreational directors) Julie and Jennifer are the ones that hold this place together. They go shopping for us each week. They’ll help me find something to order online. They’re absolutely gifted in their personalities,” Andre says.

“It’s a good place to be. Right now, I can’t complain about my life because I know the Lord is leading me and guiding me.”

‘From the ashes, you can rise’

Mona Dennis started calling Walter Reed home since August 2022. She had to move from the assisted living she was at when the complex changed its business model.

She remembered how well she liked being at Walter Reed during a skilled stint in 2021 after having back surgery.

Mona Dennis

“I liked it very much. The nursing staff, everybody was so nice. I took an opportunity to come over here and here I am!” she says.

She had a very positive rehab experience at Walter Reed. But she says not much can be done for her back – she has spinal stenosis.

Mona has a walker that better fits her tall frame.

“It’s nice for tall people without having to bend over. It enables you to stand up straight. For me, it’s nice because as soon as I take hold, the pain stops,” she says. “It supports the spine and is a great relief for avoiding the pain.”

Loving her new home

“I’m 77 years old – I still have so much left,” Mona says.

Since she’s able to get around the facility with the help of her walker, she visits with fellow Residents. She also is a fan of the community pets – particularly the rabbit and the fish.

“You’re going to find people in all stages here. … Try to talk with people, let them know somebody cares. They look lonesome sometimes. Mostly, they just want someone to sit there and listen. I’ll do that; I’ll stop and see people. They like to see the lady with the tall walker.”

Mona says the team at Walter Reed goes out of its way to plan activities and keep people smiling.

“One day they brought a horse in here! It was so exciting to see that little horse. … Also, I’m not a bingo lover, but I think it’s a good way to get out and see people. Go make somebody smile. That makes my day,” she says.

“I like to spread joy. And in here, it’s important. Just the human touch! What it does for people is amazing.”

Journey to Walter Reed

Mona’s husband passed away in 2016. While they didn’t have children, she has several nieces and nephews.

For a while, they didn’t know where she was. But once they did, they call her regularly.

Mona Dennis' tall walker
Mona Dennis loves her tall walker.

“My nephew called and said, ‘I want you to know that from this day on, we’ve got your back.’ … He said Aunt Mona, you were the best aunt anyone could imagine having. … I was as bad as they were! I would take them for the weekend and I’d take them roller skating or to an ice cream parlor. I guess those memories stick with you. So, he said, ‘now it’s our turn to take care of you.’”

“It just made me feel so warm. I gave them all my love because I didn’t have my own. I had a wonderful time with those kids.”

She is originally from New York. She met her second husband while in California with her father. Mona went to school to be a medical assistant.

“I was just coming out of a divorce and looking for what to do with my life and felt that was good for me. I like people. I like helping people, so it was good for me.”

She worked in doctors’ offices and in a hospital in Anaheim as an EKG tech in the emergency room.

“That was exciting work,” she says.

Now she looks out the window at the “majestic trees” and spreads joy to others at Walter Reed.

“I’m at the end of a long journey, I’m enjoying the hell out of myself!” she says.

“From the ashes, you can rise.”

York residents Alvera Sommers and Robert Owens
York residents Alvera Sommers and Robert Owens.

York

Sometimes you can find a forever friend even when you are 92.

Alvera Sommers and Robert Owens became fast friends after being introduced to one another through a social worker at York Nursing and Rehabilitation Center about two years ago.

Alvera was in an independent living community until she fell and fractured her hip about two years ago. She came to York for rehab around Christmas 2021.

She then injured her other hip, also rehabbing at York. It was then she met Bob, and as her daughter Pam tells it, “a spark flew and I couldn’t get her out of here.”

Bob was in therapy and was spending his first Christmas at York when Alvera moved in.

They both like living at York. The activities keep them going – and they’re always found together. They’ll occasionally dine together.

The two just smile at one another and keep each other in good spirits, laughing frequently when they are in a room together.

Pennsylvania native

Alvera and her family are from the Allentown area of Pennsylvania. They vacationed at Wildwood on the Jersey Shore.

Alvera was twice married with two children. Her son, who was in the Army, passed away.

Daughter Pam spent 12 years in the Air Force. She and her husband moved from Hawaii to Newport News when he was transferred to Fort Eustis. She was a nurse and retired as a civil servant from Eustis.

Alvera’s husband built her a beauty shop in their home, and she owned one in the town where they lived for years. She was a nurse and beautician.

Alvera and her late husband traveled extensively, seeing much of Europe, Israel and Egypt. They visited Pam while she was stationed in Greece.

“Isn’t she brave?” Alvera said of Pam’s service. “We were so proud when she said she wanted to go into the military.”

Pam and her husband have been married for 31 years. They have two children, a daughter who lives in Baltimore and a son who lives nearby and visits his grandmother frequently.

Alvera has a sister who lives in Pennsylvania who is 86. She occasionally visits her sister with Pam.

She likes adult coloring books, and Pam keeps her with a good supply. Pam visits her mother frequently, often volunteering during events at York.

Bob and Alvera with her daughter Pam at an art activity at York.
Bob and Alvera with her daughter Pam at an art activity at York.
Best friend

Bob has Crohn’s disease, Parkinson’s and other ailments. He has been a bus driver, bookstore manager and worked at Walmart for 15 years. He found that keeping a few part-time jobs was better for his chronic disease management.

Bob is originally from Greensboro, N.C., finding his way to the area by way of northern Virginia, where he managed the student bookstore at J. Sargent Community College.

Thank you to our volunteers at Virginia Health Services!

We’re celebrating National Volunteer Week by highlighting our communities’ volunteers! Virginia Health Services thanks our volunteers for their time and dedication in supporting our team members and the individuals in our care to live their best life.

Coliseum

In any given month, Coliseum Nursing and Rehabilitation Center may host five or more church groups to provide services to the Residents. We’re highlighting two during National Volunteer Week.

Ebenezer Baptist Church has been coming to Coliseum for about 20 years, according to Deacon Charles Stevens Jr. Minister Tracey DeBrew with Restoration & Faith Kingdom Builders non-denominational organization also comes once a month. They both conduct services at James River Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, in addition to others in the VHS family.

Members of the Ebenezer Baptist Church Missionary Outreach Ministry, including Deacon Charles Stevens Jr. (far right).
Members of the Ebenezer Baptist Church Missionary Outreach Ministry, including Deacon Charles Stevens Jr. (far right).

Deacon Charles joined Ebenezer in 1995 after retiring from the Air Force at Langley. He uses his military logistics background to coordinate the Missionary Outreach Ministry for the church. The group visits four nursing homes consistently each month. Sometimes the dance or puppet ministries also join them.

“This entire ministry just loves something that God has put on our hearts to do. No stopping now,” he says. “We’re doing what God has told us to do. We must go outside the church walls and carry the gospel to wherever we can go and be accepted. We’re really accepted at the nursing homes. A lot of the Residents are drawn to a church service.”

Minister Tracey was ordained in November.

Minister Tracey DeBrew visits Residents at Coliseum once a month and sometimes just stops by to chat with them.
Minister Tracey DeBrew visits Residents at Coliseum once a month and sometimes just stops by to chat with them.

“I felt I was to go out in the community,” she says. “I find it very heart-warming to be able to come out and talk to the Residents. A lot of them were constant churchgoers before they came here. … It’s a blessing, not only for me, but for them.”

She says she provides her phone number in case something happens or they need one-on-one prayer time.

“I will come and pray with the family, no matter the time of night, when someone is transitioning,” she says. “I will travel wherever it is needed.”

They both said Residents are receptive to services.

“I come in with a lot of energy and I have three other people with me. We put on music, we dance, we move. It gets exciting, it gets fun,” Minister Tracey says. “I love the Residents. Sometimes I’ll just come and visit them throughout the week. I listen to them. I’m accessible. I learn so much from these people.”

Adds Deacon Charles, “We get our enjoyment when God manifests in this place.”

Lancashire

Lancashire volunteer Joyce Taylor and two Residents enjoy a morning craft.
Lancashire volunteer Joyce Taylor and two Residents enjoy a morning craft.

Joyce Taylor couldn’t stop coming in to work. After spending 14 years in the dietary department at Lancashire Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, she still can be found at the facility volunteering several times a week. She lives across the street and joins the Residents for activities such as crafts, Bingo and outings.

“I just love being with the Residents,” she says.

The Residents love having her nearby too.

The Hamilton

Gala Damato and her friend (and neighbor) Pam visit The Hamilton monthly to do a quilting activity with the Residents.
Gala Damato and her friend (and neighbor) Pam visit The Hamilton monthly to do a quilting activity with the Residents.

Gala Damato loves to quilt. And for the past year, she has been sharing her skill and time with the Residents at The Hamilton Assisted Living.

Pam and Gala work with the Residents on designing placemats in blues and greens.
Pam and Gala work with the Residents on designing placemats in blues and greens.

She comes from a family of quilters, including her mother and grandmother, and is in two guilds. She is the service project co-coordinator in one of the guilds.

“Quilters like to give back. … We just find places that will take them. A few of these ladies are quilters or were quilters,” she says.

She and her friend Pam come monthly and work with the Residents on different projects. It’s one of the best attended activities. The first time she visited, she says she brought a few quilts to talk about. It was so popular, activity director Kirstie Saunders suggested more hands-on visits.

The Residents designed placemats for their rooms as the March project. Some fabrics will help spur memories; other fabrics are colored themed to season, Gala says.

“If you have a talent to share, here’s the place,” Gala says. “My mother was in an assisted living in Oklahoma; she would have loved something like this.”

She and her husband moved to Hampton about 20 years when he was in the Air Force. He retired from Langley AFB in 2007. Gala says she substitute teaches and got serious about quilting in 2011.

The Huntington

Martha and Jerry Dodson have been fixtures in the volunteer community for more than 40 years.
Martha and Jerry Dodson have been fixtures in the volunteer community for more than 40 years.

Jerry and Martha Dodson volunteer almost daily in the community. One Monday a month, you’ll find them doing crafts with the Residents at The Huntington Assisted Living.

The Dodsons are no strangers to volunteering. They have been active in several organizations, including with Virginia Health Services communities, for more than 40 years.

They deliver Meals on Wheels and volunteer with their church, the Women’s Club of Hilton Village (Jerry’s an honorary member), an art studio, and on Saturdays are at the farmers market in Hilton Village handing out juice and crafts for kids.

During the holidays, they visit nursing homes and senior living communities dressed as Mr. and Mrs. Claus, distributing gifts and cards to the Residents. (Jerry also can be found in the spring as the Easter Bunny.)

Martha and Jerry Dodson help Huntington Residents with a spring craft during their April visit.
Martha and Jerry Dodson help Huntington Residents with a spring craft during their April visit.

They say volunteering gives them purpose.

“Volunteering doesn’t mean you have to spend a lot of time or money,” Martha said.

There are all kinds of ways you can volunteer, whether it’s by creating a card, volunteering to help with a craft project, or making a phone call.

“We fill in the gaps,” Jerry said. “We have so many relatives – and that’s OK, we don’t have any children – because Residents thought we were family.”

Martha added, “You just develop relationships and connect with folks.”

Walter Reed

Ray Agtay has been a volunteer at Walter Reed for nearly 20 years.
Ray Agtay has been a volunteer at Walter Reed for nearly 20 years.
Ray Agtay helps Residents get around the facility for meals and activities.

Ray Agtay has been volunteering at Walter Reed Nursing and Rehabilitation Center for almost 20 years – beginning shortly after he and his mother moved to Gloucester. A recognizable face around the facility, he completely has embraced the role of a team member in a volunteer capacity, coming three days a week.

“I just like helping people,” he says. “I like spending quality time with them.”

He helps mostly with activities and helping Residents get to and from their rooms around the facility. He helps with crafts and set up an audio/visual cart for Bingo so all the Residents can see and hear what’s being called.

“I love the people here,” he says. “The Residents and staff always commend me on my positivity and outlook. I don’t get paid, but I consider myself part of the staffing.”

Volunteer with VHS

All of Virginia Health Services’ communities are happy to accept volunteers.

Church and youth groups, school service organizations, Greek life and other college organizations, and individuals are needed to help facilitate activities and provide social interaction and support to Residents.

VHS Hospice also is looking for volunteers interested in assisting those in end-of-life care and their caregivers.

Contact the community nearest you to apply and discuss options with our team.

Volunteer locations

Coliseum Nursing and Rehabilitation Center

Address: 305 Marcella Road, Hampton, Virginia 23666

Phone: 757-827-8953

Contact: Shawn Hill, Activities Director

The Hamilton Assisted Living

Address: 113 Battle Road, Yorktown, Virginia 23692

Phone number: 757-243-8559

Contact: Kirstie Saunders, Activities Director

The Huntington Assisted Living

Address: 11143 Warwick Blvd., Newport News, Virginia 23601

Phone: 757-223-0888

Contact: Devyn Hotop, Activity Director

James River Nursing and Rehabilitation Center

Address: 540 Aberthaw Ave., Newport News, Virginia 23601

Phone: 757-595-2273

Contact: Shawn Hanberry, Activity Director

Lancashire Nursing and Rehabilitation Center

Address: 287 School St., Kilmarnock, Virginia 22482

Phone: 804-435-1684

Contact: Amber Watson, Activity Director

The Newport Nursing and Rehabilitation Center

Address: 11141 Warwick Blvd., Newport News, Virginia 23601

Phone: 757-595-3733

Contact: Jamel DeCosta, Activity Director

Northampton Nursing and Rehabilitation Center

Address: 1028 Topping Lane, Hampton, Virginia 23666

Phone: 757-826-4922

Contact: Charlene Craig, Activity Director

Walter Reed Nursing and Rehabilitation Center

Address: 7602 Meredith Drive, Gloucester Courthouse, Virginia 23061

Phone: 804-693-6503

Contact: Julie Boothe, Activity Director

York Nursing and Rehabilitation Center

Address: 113 Battle Road, Yorktown, Virginia 23692

Phone: 757-898-1491

Contact: Mary Garrity, Activity Director

VHS Hospice

Phone: 757-663-6276.

Contact: Ariane Minette, social work and volunteer coordinator

Arbors resident an original Port Warwick homeowner

Faye Satterthwaite knows Port Warwick, maybe better than any Resident at The Arbors Independent Living. She and her husband were some of the first to own a home in the residential Newport News neighborhood when it broke ground in the early 2000s.

The Arbors was still under construction when the Satterthwaites moved into their home, which they designed to Faye’s specifications with a library, beautiful kitchen and large sunroom.

“We were able to design the house we wanted, within certain constraints,” she says.

It was going to be their home until they could no longer keep it up.

“We had always talked about The Arbors one day; we lived behind it,” she says.

She sold the Edith Wharton Square home after her husband passed away in February 2019. After living with a son and her family in northern Virginia during the pandemic, she moved back to where she considers home: The Peninsula. She has been at The Arbors for about a year.

“The house wasn’t the same after my husband died. It no longer felt like a home. It’s very appropriate I’m here now. I know he’d be happy I’m here,” she says.

Life in Port Warwick

She feels at home again living at The Arbors with her sister.

“I love it here. It’s a little different. I feel at home here. I know the neighborhood, I know it’s safe. I know the roads,” she says.

Some of her old friends are still in the area and her church is five minutes away from The Arbors. Her doctors are nearby.

“Kathy and I are very happy here,” she says. “My husband would be happy I am here.”

While not every social activity is her cup of tea, she enjoys the dining and events offered at The Arbors. The staff is very accommodating, she says.

Port Warwick itself is different from the neighborhood she and her husband called home 20 years ago.

They were tight-knit community in the early days of Port Warwick. Families would get together for dinner, take walks on the square and support the local businesses that were springing up. In those early days, there was a bookshop, pharmacy and wine shop. They picnicked on the square, bonded as a ladies’ group and enjoyed the pottery at Starving Artist.

Faye and Kathy eating lunch at The Arbors.
Faye and her sister Kathy enjoy lunch at The Arbors dining room.

Faye says she really enjoyed that European/English village vibe Port Warwick set out to achieve in developer Bobby Freeman’s vision. She and her husband moved into their townhome before construction of The Arbors was complete.

“We made friends with the people moving in,” she says. “It was a fun place to live. This was home to me.”

She has a daughter in Norge, but in moving back to the area chose to live again in Newport News.

Her sister was also living alone at the time, and Faye asked if she would like to share an apartment at The Arbors. The answer was yes. (They debated moving to Northern Virginia, but chose the Peninsula instead.)

“My sister called and said, ‘I found the perfect place. The Arbors.’ That was it for me,” she says. “My kids all said I should spend my money how I want to.”

Family life

Faye has lived on the Peninsula (off and on) since she was 8 years old. She grew up in Hampton and attended Hampton High School.

She was divorced with two young sons in Hampton when she met who would eventually be her second husband.

“I wasn’t planning to marry again,” she says with a shrug and a smile.

Bob worked at NASA Langley in Hampton. They went to lunch on their first date at the end of July that year. They were engaged by November and married Feb. 4. He also had two children from a previous marriage, and they took in both full time after his former wife passed away.

Faye and Bob also had a son together. They were living in a two-bedroom townhome when their family suddenly went from four to six, with another on the way. They scrambled to find a larger home.

“He took care of me and my boys,” she says. “He raised them just as they were his.”

Bob was an aeronautical engineer for 40-plus years with various divisions of NASA. He worked with wind tunnels and aviation work, and supported the space program. He was at Langley as they were building out the space program with the Mercury 7 astronauts. He also worked at NASA headquarters in DC for a time, and worked on the initial plans in Houston for the International Space Station.

They eventually lived in Williamsburg for many years before moving to the Kiln Creek neighborhood when they were empty nesters. They were there briefly before putting down a deposit to build their Port Warwick home.

Their career paths brought them both to work at NASA Langley before retiring. They were able to retire around the same time and travel.

“He was such a good man and a wonderful father. We had a wonderful life with these children,” she said.

He passed away near their 47th wedding anniversary.

“We had a wonderful life here; it’s appropriate I’m at The Arbors,” she says.

Faye sits and writes at a table, with another resident beside her.
Faye, front, works on a prompt during a memoir-writing class at The Arbors. She and other Residents are working with an instructor to create a memoir of their lives for publication.

After Bob passed away, Faye moved into her youngest’s son’s home with his family in northern Virginia. It was right before the pandemic – she sold her home in Port Warwick in 2 weeks. Her son had a 5-year-old and a newborn when she moved in.

“It was a wonderful experience to have my 5-year-old grandson want to spend every day with me,” she says.

Faye moved with her son’s family to another area of northern Virginia during the pandemic and found it difficult to make friends.

As pandemic-related restrictions loosened, her grandson was back in school and the baby was in daycare.

“I was home by myself all day, and it got lonely,” she says. “I need friendship; I need to see people.”

It was then she called her sister about changing her living situation – and what brought her home to The Arbors.

Career

She has had career stints (as a civilian) with nearly every branch of the military.

Faye was in the Army recruiting command when she met her husband. She also spent 10 years at the Newport News shipyard with the Navy in administrative roles, TRADOC at Fort Monroe and the Army civilian personnel office in northern Virginia.

She also was working for Eagle Engineering, which supported NASA’s work in Houston, during one of the most tragic moments in NASA’s history.

“I had to tell my coworkers the Challenger exploded,” she says. “Seeing those guys, the tears in their eyes … They worked on that shuttle.”

She was a secretary at Langley Air Force Base when the family moved back to Williamsburg. She was a secretary in the superintendent’s office for Williamsburg-James City County Schools, and also worked in real estate for a stint.

In 1989, Faye joined NASA Langley as a temporary secretary of a branch head, then was made permanent.

“My boss there was really good and he really helped me get ahead,” she says. “I had a great career and even though I’ve been all around, I’ve worked at all of these neat places.”

She was a secretary of the office of the director at NASA Langley and an administrative officer for personnel. She then handled the training branch budgets and was program analyst. She took a buyout at NASA before turning 60.

“I never regretted any of it – the job at NASA was the best,” she says.

She’s 78 now. In retirement she also opened a photography studio, served on the Board of Directors for the Yorktown Arts Festival and the Newport News Friends of the Library and managed a gallery.

Be our neighbor

The Arbors has a move-in special running through the holiday season. Join us for a tour and experience our community! Visit vahs.com/thearbors for details and to schedule a tour.

Arbors a healthy transition for NASA Langley retiree

Maynard Sandford and his wife Nancy became residents of The Arbors Independent Living in June 2020. He was having heart trouble and the dirt he loved to play “to keep me out of trouble” was too much to maintain.

(The “dirt” was a giant yard with fish ponds and landscaping.)

“I’ve improved so much since moving,” he says.

Nancy says they both are surprised at how well he started doing after the move. He went from barely being able to walk around the block to taking 2.5-mile walks regularly.

He now manages a smaller space, taking on the landscaping for The Arbors with flower beds and hanging baskets. He also maintains a vegetable garden and supplies residents with fresh food.

“I call it the country club,” he says of The Arbors. “I’m regaining my health and keeping my wife happy.”

NASA wind tunnel

Sandford was an aerospace engineer at NASA Langley in Hampton for 35 years. He and Nancy moved to the area in 1959.

“I was there from the beginning,” he says of his placement at the TDT wind tunnel. He tested models for aerodynamics.

“There was no service for NASA employees,” he says, “even though at that time you’d expect I had been drafted. I tried to enlist and was told I was flat-footed. I couldn’t be a pilot.”

Since he was there from the transition from NACA to NASA at the Hampton campus, he did encounter the seven astronauts of the Mercury space program at the gym. While Sandford played handball, the astronauts typically gathered for racquetball.

 “I talked to them a lot,” he says.

“My job was ‘flutter,’” he says, spreading his arms out and flapping them to represent airplane wings. He gave a lot of talks to Air Force and other military officials about the results of the wind tunnel tests. They were making sure jets were safe for flight as well.

It would sometimes take months to build, test and analyze data per wind tunnel model, which often ran to be $2 million to $3 million.

He played a documentary at The Arbors on Veterans Day from his time at Langley, specifically what happened at the wind tunnel. He and the TDT team tested for all types of aircraft, including commercial, spacecraft and parachutes of the space flight modules.

Proud Papa

He retired in 1993. But his legacy at the campus continued with his son, Stephen Sandford, who spent 28 years with NASA, including as Director for Space Technology and Exploration at Langley and senior assignments at Johnson Space Center in Houston. He later published “Gravity Well” and founded a business, Psionic.

“He was a real boss,” Sandford says.

His voice bursts with pride when talking about all of he and Nancy’s three sons and six grandchildren.

They have a son who lives in Maryland and their youngest son is a Navy captain and chaplain who earned a bronze star as a Marine Corps volunteer. He has been to Iraq and Afghanistan, was at the Pentagon and is now in Okinawa, Japan.

One of his grandchildren has published a young adult book, which sits on the shelf of their living room bookcase next to “Gravity Well.”

Early years

Portrait of Nancy Sandford
Nancy Sandford

Nancy and Maynard met in high school. He attended Randolph-Macon to play football.

“I have quite a legacy there,” he says of Randolph-Macon. Two sons, their wives and one of his grandchildren all have attended (or are currently attending) the school.

Sandford says he enjoys playing tennis and regular walks. He used to hike with a friend in the Dismal Swamp regularly for 16 to 20 miles on Thursdays (until 2017). He and friends also would hike portions of the Appalachian Trail, mostly in Virginia, for about 30 years.

Now he enjoys walks around Port Warwick and nearby areas.

Be our neighbor

Does a maintenance-free lifestyle with chef-prepared meals sound enticing? We are offering a holiday move-in special and tours during our Holiday Cheer events 2 p.m. Wednesday in December. Call 757-933-2621 to reserve your space or visit us at vahs.com/thearbors to learn about the community and schedule a tour.

Navy veteran and wife learning to downsize at The Arbors

We love having veterans call The Arbors Independent Living home.

Jack Jeffords and his wife Anne looked at several places in Newport News and York County before settling in a two-bedroom apartment at The Arbors.

“We preferred this so we came here,” he says, saying that being so close to shopping and doctors were determining factors.

He knew residents at The Arbors well before he and his wife moved in. A big bridge fan, Jeffords would come to play once or twice a week.

“We like the people here – we’ve met a lot of residents over the years and enjoy the people we meet,” he says. But they are fairly “self-contained” and enjoy reading and writing in their sunny apartment.

In the Navy

Jeffords served in the Navy for 25 years. The veteran was in a fighter squadron in Vietnam and entered the Navy as an aviation electronics tech. He retired as a Lt. Commander in 1978, and left the Navy to avoid moving his family to the Washington, D.C., area to work at the Pentagon. He was a Naval officer for 15 years.

“I enjoyed the Navy, but would have missed out on everything else (if I hadn’t retired), he says.

He obtained a master’s in engineering from Old Dominion University and a law degree from William and Mary. While he and a friend opened a practice, Jeffords primarily worked for a software company and began teaching full time at ODU in 1989.

He retired from being a full-time professor at Old Dominion in 2005 and published a textbook a few years later. He continued to teach at ODU part time until 2020.

“A lot of my work involved computers,” he says, including at aviation officer school in the Navy. “My wife won’t touch a computer.”

Learning to downsize

He and Anne have six children – three each from previous marriages – and nine grandchildren. They returned to Hampton Roads about five years ago because they wanted to downsize and one of their sons lives nearby.

“Grandchildren are scattered all over,” he says.

It’s been a challenge going from a four-bedroom home to a two-bedroom apartment.

“We’re still trying to figure that out,” he says with a chuckle.

Growing up, his family lived in Texas, Chicago, upstate New York and New York City before Jeffords enrolled at the University of Virginia, about 70 years ago.

He met Anne there while she was attending Longwood, but it was 16 years before they married. It was 1966 that “really brought us together,” he says. They had previously kept in touch via Christmas cards. They’ve been married for 53 years.

“Anne never left Virginia” – she is originally from South Boston – and taught elementary and high school, and at Tidewater Community College.

Before the pandemic, Jack and Anne enjoyed traveling and would spend a lot of time visiting their children on the West Coast and weeks at a time in Florida.

Mr. Jeffords is a graduate of the University of Virginia and proudly displays the Cavaliers’ colors throughout the home.

Jeffords also enjoys going to U.Va. games – best during the George Welch era.

“It certainly has been an interesting life,” he says.

One of Jeffords current projects is genealogy. He wrote a biography of his brother for his grandchildren so they could get to know him since he passed. An Army vet, Bob Jeffords was a unit production manager on shows including “Murphy Brown” and “Spenser for Hire.”

Residents of The Arbors share why they love calling it home

What happens when the rigors of homeownership become too much? For three women residents of The Arbors Independent Living, the answer was moving in.

Without having to worry about home and lawn maintenance, cooking and cleaning, or keeping up with too much space after children had moved out, residents at The Arbors are able to enjoy themselves.

We’re celebrating Joy Week this week and taking advantage of the events the team has planned. Get to know our residents and why they decided to call The Arbors home below.

No more yardwork!

Nancy Sandford knew keeping up with the landscaping in their Hampton home had become too much for her husband. She was ready to find a place to call home that didn’t require so much work. Nancy convinced him after he retired that it was time to downsize to something with less maintenance.

She and her husband moved into The Arbors the end of June 2020.

Her husband still gets to work with his hands outside, but to a manageable degree. He does the landscaping at The Arbors, planting flowers and caring for the hanging baskets and beds.

Bridge is Nancy Sandford’s favorite game and she has found several outlets to play it as an Arbors resident.
Moving to The Arbors

“When we came here, we stopped looking,” Nancy said.

It was small, attractive and the staff was warm and sincere.

“We found a home,” she said. “We love it and wouldn’t change a thing.”

The Sanfords feel safe and enjoy taking walks around Port Warwick. The location is ideal, Nancy said.

The staff is patient and caring, particularly when it comes to helping the aging population, she said.

Living in an apartment “can be isolating,” she said. “You can make it be as homey as you want by never leaving your apartment, but if you did that, you miss the wonderful people and activities here.”

Nancy praised activity director Ora Williams and Chef Akira Johnston on adding life and fun to The Arbors. The food is tasty and the activities keep Nancy going.

She plays in several bridge groups – it’s her favorite game – and while she doesn’t care for Bingo, she does enjoy the company and camaraderie of the people.

“The people are the best part. I can have as much privacy as I want,” she said.

Out of the house
Nancy Sandford retired from being a nurse before moving into The Arbors. She loved being a middle school nurse.

Nancy and her husband were married after college and moved to Hampton in 1959. They met in high school. She attended nursing school in Richmond and he was a student at Randolph-Macon before they married.

Her husband was an aerospace engineer for NASA Langley. While his role involved testing airplane aerodynamics in the wind tunnel, when he went to the gym in those early days on Langley’s campus, he would run into the Mercury 7 astronauts.

Nancy retired from being an RN. She ended her career as a nurse at a middle school, though she said her favorite job as a nurse was the newborn nursery. She worked part-time while raising her children.

Nancy and her husband have three sons and six grandchildren.

Joyce Belote knew she wanted to call The Arbors home once her 10-room home in Newport News became too much.

Ready to make the move

Joyce Belote became an Arbors resident in May 2018, a short while after her husband of 64 years passed away.

Two years before her husband passed away, Joyce already had the notion she was ready to move into something smaller with less maintenance. The 10-room home on the cul-de-sac was too big for the two of them with her children moved out (but still living nearby).

Her husband’s dementia and reluctance to move from where he was comfortable prevented her from taking the next step, but she had on the original visit scoped out the apartment view she wanted to have.

The week of her husband’s passing, that view became available and the Arbors team worked with her to reserve it as she went through the steps of handling the estate.

“I couldn’t be happier here. I have no complaints at all,” she says.

Her sons are within “five minutes of me” and her sister recently purchased a condo across Styron Square where when the leaves fall, they’ll be able to wave at one another from their windows.

Her sister is 17 years younger, “so I’ll have a driver should I stop being able to do that,” she says with a chuckle.

And she is so happy with the location. She didn’t want to look anywhere else when she decided to move into an independent living community because the Arbors is close to everything she wants, including her doctors, shopping and restaurants, and her family.

“The location is fantastic,” she says.

Nesting

Joyce has a lot of interests and collectibles. She was a bridal consultant and keeps many dolls in wedding dresses, including one of Princess Diana, in a curio cabinet in her living room. Each of the dolls has a story and she has presented them to her peers at The Arbors during a “show and tell” in the past year.

Her kitchen is bright and cheery with a strong lemon theme.

“I didn’t start doing it until I moved here. My kitchen at my house was yellow. It had yellow cabinets,” she says. Now the color accents the space of her kitchen at The Arbors as a nod to her Maxwell Gardens home of 54 years.

Joyce has an entire bookshelf of scrapbooks. “I’m a picture freak,” she says. There are family photos and portraits all over the walls, and she loves the digital frame her family gave her where photos of the kids can be uploaded from any device.

She has four granddaughters and two great-grandchildren, including a two-month-old girl who Joyce knitted a blanket for. All of the grandchildren are in their 30s. The youngest she calls “a precious doll.”

Joyce is a big fan of Chef Akira’s food. “She is fabulous. We’re offered great meal options here. I eat very healthy here.”

She says she has a lot of dietary restrictions, but can always find something that satisfies them, and her, on the menu.

“Ora keeps us so busy we don’t know which way is up,” Joyce says of the activity director. “I go to everything that’s going on.”

She can be seen at happy hours, events and outings. Where you won’t find her is playing bridge or bingo. She loves the group she plays Mexican train dominoes with, however.

“Growing up strict Baptist, there weren’t any games. No cards unless it was Old Maid or something, so this was a change,” she says.

She also started the knitting group when she moved in. They meet on Wednesday afternoons and the dominoes group plays on Tuesday nights.

From the beginning

Joyce and her husband are from Newport News. She was a dental assistant before and after raising her children, and later worked as a bridal consultant and at the Village Stitchery in Hilton Village for 10 years until it closed. “I was still working there when I came here,” she says.

She still attends Temple Baptist, where she has been a member for 60 years, and participates in their groups. She hosts her Sunday school class occasionally at The Arbors, which caters the gathering.

Joyce grew up in the Wythe section of Hampton, graduating Hampton High School in 1953.

She met Donnie through a friend of a friend after a night out dancing at the Hampton Country Club. He was just out of the Air Force and attending William and Mary. They married in 1956 and “we were on a shoestring! I probably had as much space in that first apartment as I do now!” They were living on her salary while the GI Bill paid for Donnie’s schooling.

He became a mortgage banker and then a real estate appraiser. Despite adamantly not wanting to follow in their father’s footsteps, both sons are real estate appraisers as well.

“No one has moved from Virginia. I couldn’t keep them all in Newport News, but we’re all in the same state!”

They used to have a home in Nags Head, and now one of her sons purchased a home in Kitty Hawk, so they still are able to take advantage of going to the Outer Banks when the mood strikes.

Happy at home

“I wish more people would give the Arbors a chance,” she says. It really can have a community feel and it isn’t a place where people go to die, but to live, she says.

“This to me is just like being home,” she says. “I didn’t know anybody when I came here.”

When you move, “it’s a relief to your children.” Her sons were completely on board with her decision, and relieved to not have to worry about her living in a large house alone, concerned with its upkeep in and out.

Joyce has taken advantage of VHS Rehabilitation, which is right next door.

“They’ve got a fantastic crew there,” Joyce says. She was discharged after a knee replacement about two years ago and loved that rehab was “right here in the building.”

She says she will be 88 in January and is glad to still be driving. She knows when she no longer can, the transportation options at The Arbors are useful.

Carol Richardson’s passion for quilting is on display throughout her apartment.

Necessary move

Carol Richardson moved into The Arbors about 10 months ago because she says she knew she couldn’t live in her Newport News home from the 1970s.

“It wasn’t wheelchair accessible,” she says. No longer in a wheelchair, she still knew downsizing was the right move for her about four years after her husband’s passing.

Her children left her little choice. She moved into The Arbors after time in a rehabilitation facility where she got back on her feet following a broken leg.

Her son made the arrangements and moved in pieces of furniture, pictures and quilting supplies from her home of about 30 years.

She moved from a four-bedroom home to a studio.

“I made a move I needed to,” she says, adding that while it’s odd to be thankful for breaking her leg, the injury made her realize how necessary it was to downsize to something maintenance-free and accessible.

She was familiar with Port Warwick, but couldn’t place the location of The Arbors until she moved in. Now she takes advantage of the location and takes long walks, usually after dinner. She likes setting goals and has a goal of about 5,500 steps a day. Sometimes it’s more, sometimes it’s less, but she is happy to be moving.

“It’s a great place to walk,” she says.

“I can cook if I want, but I don’t have to. Noise hasn’t been an issue. Once I figured out the thermostat and adapted to my surroundings, I started to feel good,” she says. “I’m very easy going.”

Moving in

Carol says she has made some friends since moving into The Arbors. She says there is a good balance between maintaining privacy and socializing, being able to do as much or as little as she chooses.

“I like to stay busy,” she says.

She and friend Beverly, who recently moved in, eat together regularly. “She’s 92, and she just says things that make you laugh,” Carol says.

You can always find her enjoying events and outings. She participates in the crafting activities and enjoys starting the day with group exercise class.

“It starts my day off right,” she says.

She says The Arbors is starting to feel like home. She has even started to refer to it as such. She had to make some hard choices about what to bring and what to store or get rid of after selling her home.

Quilting

Carol has a stack of her favorite quilts in a corner, with her most prized piece on the top. She says quilting “always has been my therapy,” but while she was caring for her husband at home the last year of his life, she never even walked into her sewing room. “I don’t know why,” she says.

Following his passing, she and her quilting guild worked on a beautiful piece of bright pinks against a dark backing.

“I’m glad I got my mojo back,” she says. “I’m an artist. I can’t draw worth a lick, but I create art with fabric and thread.”

She also is planning ahead. She’s made a box of eight quilts, one for each grandchild, that resides with her daughter in New Jersey. They are intended for her great-grandchildren when they come along.

Family life

Carol married her high school sweetheart Jimmy in 1967. They were married while she was still in school, and she says her mother let her move out after graduation. They started their family soon after, with a daughter and two sons. Carol has eight grandchildren and shares with pride all they’ve accomplished in their 14 to 26 years.

She was still in a wheelchair when one of her grandsons was playing in his last high school football game. She arranged transportation to Todd Stadium in Newport News.

“Grandma wasn’t going to miss her grandson’s last game,” she says. She’s looking forward to watching him play at Christopher Newport University. “My son already has my ticket.”

Her husband worked for NASA Langley for 36 years.

“He crashed airplanes for a living,” she says, recalling bringing the children to visit the Gantry while their father worked. (You can still see the Gantry on Langley’s campus driving out of Poquoson on Wythe Creek Road. They still crash planes there, too.)

Carol’s passion and interest has been sewing, which she learned how to do at age 9. She spent a good majority of her career after child-rearing in the costume departments of Busch Gardens and the Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation.

“That was great fun. I got to make so many interesting costumes!” she says, sharing a few photos of costumes she worked on at Busch Gardens.

Call The Arbors home

With its ideal location and neighbors like Nancy, Joyce and Carol, why wouldn’t you want to call The Arbors home? Visit vahs.com/thearbors to explore our community, view floor plans and schedule a Taste & Tour, where lunch is on us. You also can call 757-933-2621 for information on services, rates and availability.

Hamilton residents love the company

We are celebrating National Assisted Living Week! Our team at The Hamilton Assisted Living will provide plenty of “Joyful Moments” for our Residents. A few residents wanted to share their experiences about what is like to move into and live at The Hamilton, which is located in York County, Virginia.

The Hamilton offers 40 private apartments with kitchenettes. The dining room provides breakfast, lunch and dinner service, and the activity director makes sure the social calendar is always full. A nursing team is available 24/7 to provide peace of mind and assist our Residents.

The Cheerleader

Carolyn Carter just recently started to call The Hamilton home. She has been a Resident since late June.

“It’s super. Everything has been so what I needed. To be with all the nice people and always do something, it’s what I like,” she says.

The former high school cheerleading coach can be found at all of The Hamilton’s events and activities.

“I like to busy, and I like to be around people a lot. I’m a nonstop person,” she says with a chuckle. She keeps her fellow Residents laughing as well.

The socialization aspect of an assisted living center was important to her when she moved.

“The Hamilton is wonderful. This is just what I needed. … I don’t like to stay in my room watching TV. I can do that at night,” she says.

The Martinsville native has a son who lives in Williamsburg and a daughter in Alabama. She has four grandchildren.

“My son is super. He’s always been so good to me,” she says. She lived with her daughter before coming to The Hamilton, saying, “I’m a Virginia girl.”

Feeling safe also was a priority. She says she feels that way at The Hamilton. The attentive staff also make her feel comfortable in her new home.

Comfortable in her home

Eva Roithmeyer starting residing at The Hamilton in May.

“I wanted an assisted living near my children (after my husband died),” she said.

She lives closest to her oldest son, who is an engineer at NASA Langley in Hampton. He and his family live in York County after moving to the area from Houston.

Eva enjoys playing Mexican train dominoes and visits from the therapy dogs!

Eva is originally from Mexico. She was working as bilingual secretary for an American company there when she met her husband, who traveled frequently to the country, through a friend of a friend.

He was a marine biologist for NOAA, and they moved from Morehead City, N.C., to Mississippi and Colorado. She has four children and seven grandchildren, who range in age from 7 to 33.

“I’m very happy with the place and people. … I like my apartment,” she says. “I like most of the activities.”

Eva often can be found in the second-floor activity room playing Mexican train dominoes with friends.

“I had a good life and I’m happy to be here: here in the world and here in this room,” she says with a smile.

The Army veteran

Alfred Richeson is still adjusting to living at The Hamilton.

Richeson served in the Army in Vietnam and then worked for IBM.

“I’d prefer to not be sick, like everyone in this room,” he says.

A man of the world, the Army veteran served in Vietnam as a member of the 82nd Airborne. After retiring from the Army in 1980, he spent 20 years working for IBM.

He was first assigned to Germany, and has lived all over the world thanks to his careers, including in Hong Kong, Toyoko, New York and Washington, D.C.

The West Point graduate is originally from Colorado and moved “to get as far away from Colorado as I could.”

He has two sons, one of whom lives in North Carolina, five grandchildren and three great-grandchildren with another “on the way.”

Call our home your home

Learn more about our community and schedule a tour by visiting vahs.com/thehamilton or call 757-933-2621 for information on services, rates and availability. Our website has floor plans and details about our community.

Huntington residents feel at ease at home

We are celebrating National Assisted Living Week! Our team at The Huntington Assisted Living will provide plenty of “Joyful Moments” for our Residents. A few residents wanted to share their experiences about what is like to move into and live at The Huntington, which is located in Newport News, Virginia. Its “yard” is the Mariners’ Museum Park.

The Huntington offers 32 private apartments with kitchenettes. The dining room provides breakfast, lunch and dinner service, and the activity director makes sure the social calendar is always full. A nursing team is available 24/7 to provide peace of mind and assist our Residents.

Loving life

Karen Waldfogel moved into The Huntington about two years ago. She recovered from an injury at The Newport Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, which is next door, and it became clear she needed more care than her support team at home could provide.

Karen enjoys our outings!

“I wanted to go home, but I can’t. I like it here,” she says.

She says the Huntington team is excellent, caring and considerate. The food “is coming along” and is usually tasty. She really likes the lasagna and pizza.

“(Activity Director) April is good to us, she always finds something fun for us to do,” she says. “If we didn’t have April, we wouldn’t know what to do.”

Karen enjoys the arts and crafts sessions with volunteers Martha and Jerry Dodson once a month.

She also has had a great experience with the VHS Rehabilitation therapists onsite.

“They’re just super,” she says. “I can get around pretty good now.”

The camaraderie with the fellow Huntington residents is genuine.

“I’ve made a lot of friends here,” she says, including her best friend who resides at The Newport.

Family life

Karen moved here with her family in 1965 when her father was transferred to NASA Langley in Hampton from Houston. He worked on the Galileo program, which explored Jupiter and its moons. He previously worked for Boeing and the family bounced from their native home of Lansing, Michigan, to various places including Seattle, California and Alabama.

“He was an amazing man,” she says. He passed away last year. She has a brother who lives with their 91-year-old mother nearby. Her mother was a nurse and she has two brothers and two sisters.

“My mom picks me up to go to church on Saturdays,” she says, when community rates of COVID-19 are lower. They attend Our Lady of Mount Carmel.

Karen has a daughter and three grandsons. She had a son who has passed away.

A room of one’s own

Marjorie Barnes was admitted after an injury for skilled rehabilitation at The Newport Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in 2018. She moved into the attached Huntington to continue her rehab.

Marjorie loves having her own space.

While she has been debating moving back to her home with her daughter, she loves her privacy and living space at The Huntington.

“Gotta hang on to something that’s mine,” she says of not being ready to sell her house to her daughter yet. She adds, “I just want my kids to live their lives.”

She enjoys her friends at The Huntington and the food. “I love the soup,” she says.

“I’ve been in Newport News for quite a while now,” she says. She and her husband moved to the area when he was transferred by the Army to Fort Eustis. He spent most of his career there, save for about two years the family moved to the base in the Azores.

“It was really nice,” she says. Most of her children – there were five kids – were school age while in the Azores. “The children really enjoyed it.”

She has several grandchildren – “too many to remember.”

“All of my children are so nice to me,” she says.

Call our home your home

Learn more about our community and schedule a tour by visiting vahs.com/thehuntington or call 757-933-2621 for information on services, rates and availability. Our website has floor plans and details about our community.

VHS Residents benefit from pet therapy by Therapy Dogs International volunteers

He has a business card with his picture on it. He carries around individual’s stories about their lives, what they’ve witnessed and what they think. And he wears a tie.

Trey is a 7-year-old Pomeranian with Therapy Dogs International.

Meet Trey, a 7-year-old Pomeranian who works with owner and handler Jean Nohle, the Peninsula chapter director of Therapy Dogs International.

There are 39 dogs and 32 handlers in the Peninsula chapter, which runs from Williamsburg to Hampton and Gloucester and all points in between. They also assist with events Southside, such as after the mass shooting in Virginia Beach in 2019.

The dogs and their handlers visit Residents at Virginia Health Services’ assisted living communities and nursing and rehabilitation centers. Each visit sparks a smile from the Residents and Team Members who look forward to seeing them each week.

“It’s rewarding work for us, for the employees, for the volunteers and for the dogs,” Jean says. “It’s a win-win situation all around.”

What is Therapy Dogs International?

Therapy Dogs International (TDI) is a volunteer organization. The primary purpose of its dogs and handlers is to “provide comfort and companionship by sharing the dog with patients in hospitals, nursing homes and other institutions and wherever else the therapy dog is needed.”

Jean says the dogs will go wherever they are needed to provide comfort.

Not all dogs are meant to be in TDI, and not all situations are meant for all dogs.

“We never force our dogs to anybody,” Jean says. “You’ve got to read your dog.”

Benefits of pet therapy

Studies have shown pet-assisted therapy benefits individuals.

“It’s been proven the dogs reduce blood pressure, heart rate, improve frame of mind,” Jean says. “They work with people who have had strokes, and the (dogs) can help (individuals) relearn movements to pet the dog or walk to a dog.”

Jean said the organization gets a lot of requests for visits to first responders, such as clinical staffs, firefighters, police officers and EMTs.

Jeff is a volunteer with Therapy Dogs International. His mother is a Resident at The Hamilton Assisted Living. He brings Auggie over frequently to visit with Residents and Team Members at The Hamilton and York Nursing and Rehabilitation Center. He also makes visits to other nursing homes, including those within the VHS family, as called on.

He says it’s a great program. He and Auggie have been with the program for a few months.

TDI in VHS communities

Dogs and handlers keep to a schedule with Virginia Health Services’ communities, including The Hamilton and The Huntington Assisted Living, and Coliseum, James River, The Newport and York Nursing and Rehabilitation Centers.

Jean Nohle and Trey are volunteers with the Peninsula chapter of Therapy Dogs International.

“You’re making a commitment; those people look for you,” Jean says of the schedule. “For some, these dogs are their family.”

Team Members also keep an eye out for their four-legged visitors.

“They look for them, they need them,” Jean says. Trey, for example, has two nurses he races to every time he sees them at The Newport.

“We’ve been with some of our patients for a long, long time,” Jean says. Dogs and handlers have been to funerals, both to offer support to surviving family members and to help provide closure to the dogs.

“They know,” she says when someone they developed a relationship with passes. In addition to nursing homes, TDI also does work with individuals in hospice care.

Background story

Jean has been with TDI for 19 years.

“My mother had stroke and was in nursing home for four years,” she says. “I saw the volunteers, what they did for the Residents, and said, ‘I’m going to pay this back.’”

Leading the TDI chapter here is how she says she does that. She is a licensed evaluator for the dog and handler training and coordinates extreme situation training with members of the community.

She also is a trainer at Perfect Paws Pet Training.

VHS thanks its Nursing Assistants for all their hard work and dedication

It is National Nursing Assistants Week June 16-22, 2022, and Career Nursing Assistants Day on June 16. Virginia Health Services celebrates its nursing assistants and CNAs (certified nurse aides) for the dedicated care they provide to our Residents at our independent living and assisted living communities and nursing and rehabilitation centers, and the individuals we serve with VHS Home Health Care and VHS Hospice.

We are thankful for their guidance, expertise, patience and advocacy. VHS is committed to investing in its Team Members from the start, offering an earn-as-you-learn apprenticeship program that provides classroom and hands-on experience to Care Assistants. Once graduated to Nurse Aide, the program also covers the cost of the certification exam.

“They are essential to long-term care,” says VHS education instructor Nora Gillespie of nursing assistants. “They are the eyes and ears for the nurses. They spend the most time with the Residents.”

CNAs have been on the frontlines since World War I, when certified nurses’ aides with the American Red Cross worked alongside Army nurses to treat wounded soldiers.

Virginia Health Services has several Team Members who have spent years dedicated to providing care in our facilities as CNAs.

VHS relies on them to be ambassadors and help train new employees on the floor. We spoke with three longtime CNAs with Virginia Health Services about their experiences.

Portrait of Carrie Isaac
Carrie Isaac has been a CNA at The Newport Nursing and Rehabilitation Center for 30 years.

Carrie Isaac, The Newport

Carrie has worked as a CNA with VHS for 30 years at The Newport Nursing and Rehabilitation Center. What’s kept her in her role for this long?

“My motivation to care for people, love and take care of them … sometimes we’re the last ones they see,” she says. “The smiles on their face keeps me going.”

She is a Senior Ambassador and trains newcomers to the role.

“You have to be a people person,” Carrie says of becoming a CNA. “You have to care about people and treat them well. At the end of the day, when you leave here, know you’ve done your job well.”

Carrie says the focus on the Residents, even the smallest touch like taking care in how they are dressed and brushing their teeth, can help them have a better day.

“It’s rewarding to make them happy at the end of the day,” she says.

“They know. They know if you miss a step. When I’m off, I come back in and they say, ‘I missed you,’ and that makes me feel good. That means a lot.”

James River vet

Bonnie King started with James River Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in 1996 (though she had a brief hiatus in 2000).

“Me as a CNA, it’s a calling for me. Every day I step in that door, I know that’s where I’m supposed to be,” she says.

She’s had dreams of attending nursing school and a desire to be an RN.

“At 61, I’m not saying it can’t be done, but it would be challenging,” she says. “As a CNA, I just enjoy it.”

Bonnie is a Senior Ambassador for VHS and helps train newcomers to the floor.

“You have to come in with an open heart and an open mind, and patience and respect,” she says she tells new hires. “And I think with those things working in this field, that would get you through it. … You have to have respect (for Residents and Team Members) and be willing to help.”

She says Virginia Health Services has been supportive from when she started through now.

“James River, on a personal level and on a professional level, they have always been there for me,” she says. “Once you show yourself as a worker, that means a lot to the company.”

Years of experience at Walter Reed

Karen Hudgins has been a CNA at Walter Reed Nursing and Rehabilitation Center since October 1979.

Portrait of Karen Hudgins
Karen Hudgins

“I like my work,” she says. “I love the stories (the Residents) tell.”

In her years at Walter Reed, she has cared for three individuals who survived concentration camps during the Holocaust. She’s learned about patents created by individuals in her care, and cared for a woman who wrote a book and signed it for Karen about her father’s time running steamboats.

“People forget that those people in the nursing center that did something that made a difference. ‘Cause you have to look at the real picture, you learn things about them that made a big difference in the world,” she says.

She works with another longtime Walter Reed CNA, Marva Hodges. Together, Hudgins says, they helped “break in” now Administrator Bryant Hudgins while he was an aide at Walter Reed.

Marva has been a CNA at Walter Reed for 39 years. “I always tell people, no, I didn’t come with the building,” she says with a laugh.

Portrait of Marva Hodges
Marva Hodges

She is a restorative aide part-time, but a majority of time, she says she’s on the floor because of staffing. She’s an Elite Ambassador, and has been a senior aide on the Ware unit, and was a nursing secretary and unit secretary. As an Elite Ambassador, she had to do the restorative program and trains Care Assistants and new Nurse Aides, and assists with orientation.

“I’m really a people person, not really a desk person,” she says. “I love the patients, I like being in the mix with them.”

Marva says she can go on any unit in the building and “pretty much anyone knows who I am, just by my eyes (because the mask covers so much of her face).”

Residents matter most

To keep going in this role so long, all three said the Residents keep them motivated.

“I just love old people, that’s all. You can learn so much from them. … You see their faces when their people come in, they light up,” Karen says.

When a new hire is being orientated, Karen offers these words of advice: “Just remember one thing: They’re real people. And they did make a difference.”

Be patient, Marva says.

“Realize who you are working with. I remind them that the patient may not be able to give complete information because of their (health conditions). Learn how to talk to them, keep them calm and figure out how to redirect them.”

Carrie says the main things are the Residents and working together as a team.

“If the atmosphere is happy, they’re happy,” she says.

Join our team

We are looking for CNAs to grow with us. Visit vahs.com/careers to apply for a satisfying career with our team.