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.
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.
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.
“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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.”
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.
Virginia Health Services is proud to share two of our apprentices were selected as Healthcare Apprenticeship Expansion Program (HAEP) All-Stars by Argentum.
Shawn Hill and Valentina Zakieva are two of five selected All-Stars nationally. They were featured in Argentum’s January/February Senior Living Executive magazine and will honored during the Senior Living Executive Conference in New Orleans in May.
They were 2022 participants in Virginia Health Services’ earn-as-you-learn apprenticeship program that graduates Care Assistants to Nurse Aides and covers the cost of the certification exam to be a CNA.
Valentina graduated the program in February 2022 and was placed at York Nursing and Rehabilitation Center. She passed her certification exam in the spring and over the summer earned her Registered Medication Aide (RMA) license.
Shawn, who graduated to Nurse Aide in the July 2022 cohort, was studying for the certification exam while at Coliseum Nursing and Rehabilitation Center when a different opportunity came available. He recently moved into an activity assistant role at Coliseum, working with Residents in a different way.
They were nominated to the All-Star program by members of the VHS education center.
“These apprentices exemplified a commitment to service,” said Janet Andrews, Argentum’s HAEP Grant Program Manager, in a written statement. “The testimonies shared depicted the character of those willing to go the extra mile. Those that care for the communities they serve with excellence.”
The smallest tasks matter
Valentina Zakieva was the salutatorian of her 2022 cohort. She was working at York in the dietary department for six months prior and was encouraged to enroll by Dining Manager Nicole Freeman.
She says she appreciates the teamwork it takes across departments to provide the best possible care to the Residents at York and The Hamilton Assisted Living.
“This honor means people trust me,” she says. “My patients and coworkers like me and see how we work as a team to put our patients first.”
She and her husband moved to the U.S. from Russia. She is originally from Kazakhstan. It wasn’t until the move to the States that Valentina found herself drawn to healthcare.
“My background is international relations, but healthcare is in demand in the U.S.,” she says. “I like to help people.”
She says she had a good experience in the apprenticeship program under the instruction of Nora Gillespie, RN, and Director of Education Princess Henderson, RN. She adds the team at the education center helped her review for the certification exam – “I felt very prepared,” she says – and apply for opportunities within VHS.
Valentina says she takes pride in caring for her Residents and encourages new students in the apprenticeship to “look at the big picture.”
“My background is international relations, but healthcare is in demand in the U.S. I like to help people.”
That means, even if it’s a task that may fall to another department, if it is in the Resident’s interest, take care of it. That could mean taking out the trash or replacing a roll of toilet paper.
“And you have to listen to them. They need you and you want to make them feel good. Brush their hair, get them dressed, take pride and care in what you’re doing,” she says. “If they’re happy, we’re happy.”
She says she’s not stopping at CNA/RMA. She is waiting for documentation issues to be resolved for her to enroll in nursing school.
What path does she want to take?
“Of course, RN,” she says with a smile.
Helping Residents creatively
Shawn Hill graduated in the July 2022 cohort and was working at Coliseum as a Nurse Aide when the activity assistant position became available. He was drawn to working with Residents in that capacity because of his interest in arts and crafts – any avenue that allows him to be creative.
“I’m a very creative person. I’ve been doing arts and crafts since kindergarten. I enjoy being around the senior population, have since I was a boy, so it’s been destined to happen. Our Residents love music. They love Bingo.
“I’m still interacting with the Residents, just on a different level.”
He still intends on going to VHS-offered reviews and taking his certification exam to be a CNA.
“I’m not going to give that up. I still have to take the test,” he says.
Shawn says he appreciates the encouragement he has gotten from everyone across departments and facilities at VHS.
“These people really know how to share their heart. I was doing it so long by myself, to get help from the place I work was very touching.”
Shawn Hill of his holiday collections for those in need
“They tell me I’m doing a good job, even if I’ve had a tough day,” he says, referring to Coliseum Administrator Dudley Haas and Assistant Administrator Haley Holland.
He carried his holiday donation tradition to VHS last year, collecting donations of toys and gift cards to distribute to those in need.
“It was so good,” he said. “These people really know how to share their heart. I was doing it so long by myself, to get help from the place I work was very touching. I’d love to expand it and involve more of our team members.”
The apprenticeship and recognition its brought has “meant a whole lot,” he says. “I live by, ‘if you work hard, you never know what will happen.’
“It’s been good all the way through (with Virginia Health Services), from when I first got hired.”
About the program
VHS’s apprenticeship program is done in partnership with Argentum and Hamilton-Ryker, with help from a grant from the Department of Labor. Applications for the next earn-as-you-learn course open Feb. 6. Our six-week courses run throughout the year and details and how to apply can be found at vahs.com/apprenticeship.
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 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.”
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.
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.
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.
Residents and their families have the opportunity to share the holidays together thanks to the dining services teams at The Huntington and The Hamilton Assisted Living communities.
Hamilton’s Dining Services Manager Nicole Freeman and Huntington’s Dining Services Manager Annette Stringfield have listened to the Residents’ requests and are prepared to host traditional Thanksgiving dinners.
“We’re going to create a feast for them,” Nicole says. Family members were asked to RSVP if they were attending Thanksgiving lunch with their loved ones.
The Hamilton’s menu includes sliced turkey with gravy, collard greens, stuffing, candied yams, mac and cheese and glazed baked ham. The Huntington has a similar menu, adding turkey wings.
“They want traditional for Thanksgiving,” Nicole says. For Christmas, the Residents change up their wants. “Sometimes it’s lasagna, sometimes ham.”
And on New Year’s Day, the spread is consistent Nicole and Annette say: Pork (ham), collard greens, black-eyed peas and cornbread. At the Hamilton, you might be served fried chicken too.
The assisted living Residents always have their sweet tooth satisfied. At Hamilton, there will be pecan and pumpkin pies with whipped topping, and the Huntington will serve sweet potato pie.
“I love desserts. I love food, but especially the sweets,” Annette says.
“We try to create a home-like atmosphere,” she says, “especially for the holidays and incorporate items we don’t usually have on the regular menu throughout the year.”
The dietary and nursing teams ensures Residents on specific diets have something similar and don’t accidentally wind up with something they are unable to eat on their plate.
“We watch,” Nicole says. “We’re very careful.”
There also are holiday parties that will have special buffet-style spreads for families and Residents at both assisted living communities.
The Huntington, and Residents at adjoining The Newport Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, will have a dinner buffet that’s open to families and enjoy a performance from Scoundscapes on Dec. 14.
On Dec. 16, The Hamilton and adjoining York Nursing and Rehabilitation Center will have a party with heavy hors d’oeuvres with invited family.
Be our neighbor
Our assisted living communities provide a safe environment when you start to need extra assistance with your healthcare needs.
You and your loved ones will have peace of mind knowing our nursing team is available 24/7 and that your apartment is equipped with bathrooms designed for safety and ease, and a wander-guard system.
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.
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 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.
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.
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 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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
“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.
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.
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.
“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.
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.
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.
It’s National Skilled Nursing Care Week (May 8-14)! 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 Nursing & Rehabilitation Center
Man about town
Curtis Cofield is a man about town —or at least about Coliseum Nursing and Rehabilitation Center. The Newport News native uses his motorized chair to visit Residents and team members throughout the center in Hampton.
“I know everybody in here. Every day I can get out of bed, I make my rounds,” he says.
Curtis is a Vietnam War veteran and former bricklayer. He entered Coliseum about three years ago. He had a heart transplant following a massive heart attack in 2003.
“I ain’t stressing. (Not since then.) Not going to worry about it; the next time might kill me,” he says of staying calm and maintaining a routine at Coliseum.
Not only does he know the Residents and team members at Coliseum, he used to be married to a current Resident.
“My ex-wife is here too,” he says. “We’re friends. … We get along better now than when we were married!”
Curtis has a sister and one son who live nearby and visit. His other four children are “spread out across the country.”
He graduated from Phenix High School in Hampton, and lived in Hampton and Newport News most of his life. He worked as part of a bricklayer union for 29 years, “anywhere I could work.”
His father was a bricklayer and owned a business.
“The guys there taught me how to do it,” he said. “I enjoyed the work. It was a lot of fun.”
He has lost both legs by amputation since coming to Coliseum because of vascular and other issues. But being able to chat up folks around Coliseum helps him pass the day.
“I learned how to deal with it by keeping myself busy; keeping going,” he says.
She sits quietly near the same spot in the Coliseum dining room. She doesn’t like to miss the activities.
Isabel Santiago has been at Coliseum since June 2021. It’s closer to her daughter Mivia (Mimi), who visits her almost every day before going to work in the evenings. Isabel transferred there from VHS-owned Northampton Nursing and Rehabilitation Center following rehab from a stroke. She lived with Mimi for five years before that.
“They’re keeping me busy,” Isabel says. “I do whatever they have.”
She originally is from Ponce, Puerto Rico. She first came to the U.S. when she was 14 years old in search of work to help support her family at home.
“This brave lady went to New York City at 14 by herself,” her daughter says proudly. “A cab driver checked to make sure the apartment she was going to was safe before letting her out of the cab.”
Isabel is the mother of eight. She has numerous grandchildren, and great- and great-great grandchildren.
She and her husband met while they lived in New York City. They were childhood sweethearts and were married for 52 years before her husband passed away from cancer in 2013.
“The neighborhood raises family,” Mimi said of growing up in the Bronx where everyone looked out for everyone else’s kids.
Isabel got her GED so she wouldn’t have to quit her jobs to go to school. She traveled between family in Puerto Rico and NYC. She was a social worker in New York City and helped mediate gang relations in schools.
“I enjoy relating to people,” she says.
Isabel also moved to where her children were, spending time in Texas and Florida before moving to Virginia to be closer to Mimi.
“I have friends in a lot of places,” she said, adding she really liked Texas.
She was a receptionist at a hospital in Texas, and in other health clinics. She retired at age 72.
Isabel says she is enjoying her time at Coliseum, and really likes the staff and the activity programs. She and her daughter are happy with the rehabilitation services.
“She’s doing really good here,” Mimi says.
James River Nursing and Rehabilitation Center
Katherine Gatewood has been at James River Nursing and Rehabilitation Center “a long, long time,” she says, smiling. She can’t recall the date, but estimates it was around 2005.
She will be 100 years old on May 14, which she greets with a shrug.
“If I were able to go out, be more active, I’d enjoy (turning 100) more,” she says.
Katherine says she is hopes her family is able to visit for the milestone.
She was joined for our interview by her therapist Mavis, who says they do “talk therapy.”
They have been working together for about a year and a half, Mavis said.
Katherine says she was born and raised in Newport News, and a bit of a homebody in that she didn’t travel much. But she did have an active social life, she says.
She worked as a telephone operator and bookkeeper—“nothing to brag about,” she says with a shrug — and says her greatest accomplishment was raising her children.
“Raising children was the most fun, watching them grow and mature,” she says.
One son and his family live in Wilmington, N.C., and another is in Virginia Beach. He comes to visit weekly and does her laundry. Both sons call every day.
They help keep her abreast of the family, which includes one grandson and two great-granddaughters who are in college and have studied abroad in France and Italy.
Her room at James River is homey, with lots of family photos on the walls. Her sons “made the room feel like home. Guess they figured I’d be here a while,” she says with a chuckle.
Katherine’s father was a college professor and her mother stayed home to raise her. She was an only child.
Her family was the first to have a refrigerator on their block and the neighbors would come by to look at it, she says.
While she can’t recall how long she was married, she was widowed young. Her husband died at age 53. She never remarried because she says, “he was my soulmate. He was a good man.”
She developed many friendships over the years, including several friends from St. Vincent’s Catholic Church. They keep in touch now more by phone because of various health issues — “I might be in the best shape of all them,” she says.
Kind word for all
Sandra Jordan has been at James River for 12 years. She recently lost her only son, and there’s little family remaining.
The team at James River “look out for me and help me,” she says. She uses a wheelchair.
Sandra was from New York, and moved to the area first to attend Hampton University. In her first year, she met and married her husband.
“I just stayed after that,” she says.
They divorced when their son turned 18, she says, but remained friends.
“I’ve been single ever since.”
She worked as a kitchen supervisor at Sentara for 15 years and Riverside for 10 years, so “I’m particular about the food,” she says.
Sandra believes in giving a kind word to all. She tries to help her roommate when she can.
She enjoys the daily activity programs. Sandra says she enjoys bingo and the live music the most.
“It’s one day at a time,” she says.
Lancashire Nursing & Rehabilitation Center
‘The therapists are wonderful’
Aldrema McMillan has her sights set on the future—when she can leave Lancashire Nursing and Rehabilitation Center fully or partially recovered. And she knows the care she is receiving at Lancashire will get her there.
“I appreciate the therapists here,” she says. “They really worked with me to recover. Whether it’s a partial or complete recovery, I’m (hopefully) going home.”
Aldrema is recovering from a fall in which she injured her neck. She moved into Lancashire in August 2021, and hopes by this August, she will move home.
“I do like it here,” she says. She has a private room and enjoys the activities programs. She also likes having a bird feeder out of her window.
“The therapists are wonderful,” she says. Aldrema is working with occupational and physical therapists in her recovery.
She is originally from Lancaster County. While she has detoured to New York City, northern Virginia and the Peninsula, she returned to her home county for her rehab.
Aldrema left for NYC after high school.
“The journey to New York is the ultimate challenge,” she said. “If you can live there, you can live anywhere.”
It was there she met her husband, who worked for TWA and then American Airlines at airports in the Mid-Atlantic. They lived on Long Island, and she took the train into Manhattan for her job as an underwriter for New York Life Insurance.
They married in 1972 and had four children.
Her husband, who passed away in 2009, worked at JFK for 20 years before being transferred to various other airports. When she moved to the Peninsula, he remained in northern Virginia most of the time because of his work schedule.
She has seven grandchildren and six great-grandchildren, most of whom live on the Peninsula and come to visit.
“All a nice bunch. I enjoy them,” she says of her family.
She worked as a dispatcher for the Lancaster County Sheriff’s Department, earning awards and recognition. She retired in 2013.
“I was trying to enjoy (retirement) gracefully,” she says, until her fall. “Everything is coming back except the walking.”
Aldrema continues to work with the rehab team at Lancashire on her recovery. She’s an advocate for herself and other Residents, never hesitating to speak up.
“No sense in keeping quiet,” she says with a smile.
Mildred Clark has called Lancashire Nursing and Rehabilitation Center home for the past six years. She knows she needs the extra care the team provides, and it allows her to be close to her daughter.
“I like here,” she says. “I’ve been satisfied.”
You can usually find her coloring in her room. The pages are intricate, full of detail, and Mildred’s hand moves steadily inside the lines with fine-point colored pencils.
Before she moved to Lancashire, she said she hadn’t colored since she was a little girl. Her daughter gave her a book and she took off from there. She gives away many of her pages to family and others. Some are framed and displayed in her room.
“It’s really relaxing,” she says. “Takes your mind off of everything.”
It also, along with medication, helped her keep control in her hands from the Parkinson’s disease. She also has COPD and uses oxygen regularly.
Her coloring group at Lancashire doesn’t meet as often as it used to since the pandemic, when movement was more restricted to stop the spread of the virus. But she does get more visitors, including a 3-year-old great-granddaughter she met in person for the first time recently.
“She took right to me,” Mildred says, patting the chair, “and came right up here to color with me.”
Mildred lived in Richmond and has three children, four grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. Her oldest daughter lives in Lancaster County.
She worked for a printing company in Richmond.
“It was hard work,” she says, “It’s physically hard on your body.”
After 14 years there, she retired at age 62 when social security kicked in. She moved in with her oldest daughter about 10 years ago following her divorce, then lived independently until she was in and out of the hospital too often.
“I’ve never lived outside Virginia,” Mildred says. “… I’m not a traveling woman, I don’t think.”
Northampton Nursing & Rehabilitation Center
From Civil Service to model
Marie Collins sits tall in her wheelchair, comfortable dressed with long necklaces and earrings.
She’s proud of her independence, like getting herself out of bed, showered and dressed, and making the bed to start her day at Northampton Nursing and Rehabilitation Center.
Marie will be 98 in August, and her goal is to use the walker to get to her door without needing her therapist to follow behind her with her wheelchair should her legs give out.
She has been a Resident at Northampton since February 2020, and moved from the skilled unit to a single room last August. 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).
“I’m an active Resident,” she says. “I love it here. 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 visit about once a month when she goes to the doctor. They’re her remaining living family.
“If you’re going to live here, you’re going to make the most of it.”
Northampton Resident Marie Collins
In 1994, she sold the Hampton house. She moved into an apartment, and then to smaller apartment on the first floor in 2012.
Through her involvement with the NARFE, she became president of the local chapter, which at one point had nearly 1,000 members (“there’s a lot of retired federal workers here.”)
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.
The Newport Nursing & Rehabilitation Center
Hampton “Vince” Snidow, 82, has been a Resident of The Newport for about four years. His health prevents him from moving or speaking very much some days, but you can tell by the smile on his face when he hears his wife, Nancy, speak, he’s engaged.
Vince and Nancy married July 21, 1979, and she is still by his side daily. She visits twice a day at meal times, living nearby around Christopher Newport University.
The Snidows have been “community oriented all these years,” actively participating in their churches (North Riverside Baptist and Hidenwood Presbyterian), and with organizations such as Salvation Army, Virginia Living Museum, Peninsula Rescue Mission and Menchville House.
Vince Snidow came to the area after spending three years in the Army, and then the reserves. He worked at the Newport News shipyard for 50 years as a mechanical engineer, retiring in 2011. He worked on several projects, including submarines and aircraft carriers, but also liked working on the commercial projects.
Nancy says they attended several christenings, happily remembering meeting Susan Ford during the keel laying for the carrier named after her father.
The christenings were always “very exciting,” Nancy says, “and it was just funny when they couldn’t break the bottle.”
Vince is originally from Kentucky, and has a sister named Virginia (though she lives in Kentucky). He is a Hokie through and through, sporting a Virginia Tech jersey during a recent visit. He was in the Corps at the school, and remains close friends with fellow VT Corps members.
“He keeps the postal service in business,” Nancy says of his room full of cards and tokens from friends and family, and the children from church.
Church friends and his friends from the Army and VT Corps visit when they can, Nancy says.
“Church friends have been supportive of us and kept us going,” she says.
When Nancy visits, she says she tries to stimulate Vince by playing music.
“He still remembers … he likes John Denver, Elvis, classical, bluegrass, hymns,” she says, sorting through a drawer next to his bed of CDs he’s been sent from friends.
Nancy says she and Vince love the outdoors, and they walked the Noland Trail regularly when he was well enough and volunteered to clear it on Earth Day each year.
Their charity work is focused on helping children “improve their lives,” Nancy says. Vince has a rare blood type and he donated his blood, which was used in research to help premature children and cancer patients.
“A lot of children are probably living today who wouldn’t be if it weren’t for those donations,” she says. His gift to immunodeficient patients was outlined in a Daily Press article in 2003.
The Snidows enjoyed traveling, visiting the provinces of Canada and several National Parks, including Yellowstone and Yosemite.
Vince also is a big baseball fan, and roots for the Reds. They traveled to see games in as many stadiums as possible, Nancy says, including Fenway Park in Boston.
“It was exciting to see the Green Monster.”
After his retirement, Vince started to show signs of Parkinson’s, which prevented the Snidows from traveling as much as they thought they would.
The team at The Newport has become family to the Snidows, Nancy says.
Walter Reed Nursing & Rehabilitation Center
You can tell he’s spent a majority of his time outdoors by his weathered hands and ballcap.
A former farmer and volunteer firefighter from Deltaville in Middlesex County, Carl Vaughan tends to the courtyard at Walter Reed Nursing and Rehabilitation Center almost daily.
“I do it to get outside. I’ve always been an outdoors guy,” he says.
Carl plans his garden at Walter Reed with the help of activity director Julie Boothe. They look over catalogs and she orders his seeds and supplies. The community also provides donations for the courtyard garden.
He started keeping up with the Walter Reed garden around the time of the pandemic in mid-2020. The Master Gardeners of Gloucester weren’t able to come when visitation was closed, and Carl assumed the caretaking role.
He told Julie, though, “I’m planting vegetables, not flowers.”
There are still flowers in the courtyard, but there are lots of other plants as well. Carl has planted peas, patio corn, radishes, cucumbers, lettuces, green peppers, three varieties of squash, and five types of tomatoes.
Why so many? He really enjoys a good tomato sandwich.
Carl rakes the courtyard, waters and manages the greenhouse.
He also lays net over the corn to keep the crows and other birds away.
Carl and Julie plan to experiment with other lettuces in the fall, such as kale.
York Nursing & Rehabilitation Center
Soprano & Mathematician
Virginia Wilkinson was a mathematician and a singer. She reads and does crossword puzzles daily. And she’s 105 years old.
Virginia Wilkinson is originally from Portsmouth. She’s called a lot of places home, including York Nursing and Rehabilitation Center. She enjoys talking with activity director Mary Garrity and appreciates the nursing staff.
“I don’t have to shop for groceries or cook here. What’s not to like?” she says.
Virginia recalls her youth fondly.
“I had a very happy childhood,” she says. “People always say only children are spoiled, but my parents taught me how to share.”
Her father lost his business during the Great Depression, which she said ended her chance to go to college.
Instead, Virginia worked for NACA —“that’s N.A.C.A., before it was NASA, N.A.S.A.,” she explains —in Hampton and did long division.
“I’ve never done long division like that again,” she said.
She was the lead soprano at Episcopal Church in Portsmouth for eight years.
Virginia was married for 62 years, and her husband worked for Seaboard Air Line Railroad in Norfolk. They were transferred to Richmond, which is where she mostly raised her son.
There are three grandsons, five great-grandsons, and two great-granddaughters. The family is far-flung to places including Norway and Texas, though her son at age 75 lives in Gloucester, within driving distance of York.
She says she enjoyed living in Richmond very much, especially the parties and other railway gatherings she attended with her husband.
“I had a wonderful time meeting all those people,” she says. “I’m a people person … I like to be with people.”
Virginia also enjoyed traveling. Following one business trip, she says her husband came home from a business trip and said, “I’m buying a new car, and you and I are going cross country.”
They traveled to the Pacific Northwest, and from the far-away look in her eye, it’s clear she enjoyed the trip. “It was a wonderful time, just wonderful.”
She reads as much as she can, currently starting a compilation of stories from Jan Karon.
Virginia was paired with roommate Joyce Tracy, who Mary refers to as a “social butterfly.”
Joyce Tracy is 87 years old, and says she’s had two strokes, which prompted her move to York. But she’s very comfortable getting around in her wheelchair, and visiting various team members and fellow Residents.
“I just do silly things,” she says. “I try to put a smile on peoples’ faces.
“I go down the hall and everyone knows my name. … I’ve decided life is too short to worry about being silly.”
Joyce spent 37 years working for NASA Langley in Hampton. She worked in the special documents department of the technical library. Her eyes sparkle a little as she remembers how she needed security clearance to deal with the documents in her care.
She also was a florist, and was able to travel many times while with FTD. She worked there “on and off, between having children.”
Joyce has two daughters who she says help take care of her and four grandchildren.
She is “a Bull Island girl,” from Poquoson.
Her husband was enlisted in the military after high school — “it was the only two years I didn’t live on the Peninsula” — before they returned and he worked in design at the Newport News shipyard.
Joyce retired in 2002. “I’m very fortunate to be as well as I am,” she says.
“This is nice,” she says of York. Her daughters also refer friends and family members looking for a nursing home to York. It’s clean, a great team. The best company (hand gesturing all around).
Virginia is the “perfect” roommate.
“I love everybody,” Joyce said. “Have good fun, that’s what life should be”
It’s like being in a private living room. Step off the elevator on the third floor at 1 p.m. Wednesdays and the knitters of The Arbors Independent Living are waiting to greet you warmly.
Especially if you are ready to pick up a needle and yarn.
The knitting club at The Arbors meets once a week, and when they get rolling, it’s 50-50 as to whether they’ll stop for a 2 p.m. activity or keep going.
The leader of the pack is Joyce, who taught knitting while she worked for the Village Stitchery in Newport News for 10 years.
She started knitting at age 9. “You know, you pick it up on and off,” she said.
But the title of fastest knitter, Joyce says, is 95-year-old Doris.
“I’m a fast lady,” she says with a grin.
There are typically about five or six women who gather to knit together and get advice on their projects from Joyce. The open sitting area has comfy furniture, a large window and two bookshelves with containers full of yarn and other knitting materials.
Joyce said they have been meeting for four years, since she moved into The Arbors.
Doris has been an Arbors resident for five years. She is making hats to be donated to Children’s Hospital of the Kings Daughters (CHKD).
During a recent meeting, Doris was redoing a child’s scarf to go with a hat she already made. She was unsatisfied with her first attempt and said she ripped the stitching apart to start over.
She learned to knit from her mother, who was “good at everything.”
Doris also can sew and embroider. But it was The Arbors group that drew her back into knitting.
“Joyce got me on it (at The Arbors),” Doris said, “taught me more stuff than I know.”
Teaching & Persistence
Doris said neither of her daughters knit. Joyce added her granddaughters do, but like it when she corrects their mistakes because “then I finish the row.”
She has been giving Pat tips on her afghan, which she has been working on for about a year.
“I’m persistent if nothings else,” Pat said. She found the perfect colors of yarn for it so it matches her apartment décor.
“I learned to knit and sew years ago and then took a break,” she said. The group at The Arbors drew her back into it.
Joyce recently made a blanket in bright pink yarn for her soon-to-be great-granddaughter.
There are about four to five consistent group members, though others will pop in, depending on what’s going on, Joyce said.
Doris added that it’s the people who keep her going. And activity director Ora Williams, who is learning to knit with the group.
“She has so much energy, she makes me have the energy,” Doris said.