In their words: VHS residents share life stories for Skilled Nursing Care Week 2024

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It’s National Skilled Nursing Care Week (May 12-18)! 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 and Rehabilitation Center

James Genus

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

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.

Coliseum resident Mr. G.

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.

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.”

James River Nursing and Rehabilitation Center

Sandra Jordan

Sandra Jordan has been at James River for almost 15 years. With little family in the area, she relies on the team at James River for support.

“They look out for me and help me,” she says.

James River resident Sandra Jordan.

Sandra originally is 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 says.

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 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 and Rehabilitation Center

Sandra Scripture

Sandra Scripture has called Lancashire home since January 2023. She moved in for the extra help – and to help ease her children’s minds.

“I’m a china doll on the wall and I have somebody here to pick me up when I fall,” she says.

The 24/7 nursing care, regular meals and housekeeping are benefits to staying at Lancashire. It’s also close to some of her children. She lived in Northumberland since 1983, but was born and raised in Caroline County.

Sandra Scripture calls Lancashire home.

Sandra is a regular in the therapy room to keep up strength in her knee, using the stationary bike and other equipment when she has the chance.

She participates in Resident Council, but prefers to skip some of the activities.

“I’ve always had to meet deadlines, I enjoy just being able to relax and think and read,” she says.

Sandra was in dentistry for 50 years. She worked for a dentist as an assistant who made her learn everything, she says, “and that was the foundation for my career. I worked for several other dentists and they all found me as knowledgeable as they were.”

There is a plaque in the division of dental health in Richmond in honor of the work she did for rural Virginia. Sandra worked for state dental health division for 15 years.

“I’m just an average person who loved people and loved the Lord and enjoyed life,” she says.

With a last name like Scripture, it was inevitable Sandra’s husband would pursue ministry. He attended seminary 20 years after graduating from Virginia Tech and working for the state in Richmond in the division of health research.

“We were late in life doing things,” Sandra says.

They fostered 14 children during their marriage, adopting a son, and have three children. Sandra says there are “a bunch of grandsons and great-grandchildren – who knows where they are, but they keep in touch!” (It’s with a smile – there are just too many locations to recall in an interview.)

They both usually held two jobs. Sandra’s husband passed in November 2022.

“He preached on Sunday and died on Tuesday,” she says.

Their youngest daughter got in the pulpit the Sunday after he passed and has been preaching at Wicomico Baptist in Remo since. Sandra says she gets there every so often for services.

“As much as we think about our future – I never wanted to go to a nursing home, but it’s actually in my mind the best thing for us older people. Gives our children peace of mind that somebody’s always watching us.

“I think we elders need to rethink the thought that I don’t ever want to go to a nursing home. It’s not home, but it’s the next best thing.”

Robert Laws

Robert Laws was the maintenance tech at Lancashire.

Robert Laws has resided at Lancashire for about four years.

His many odd jobs throughout life – where he was a cook, installed fences and “everything in the name of the world” included serving as the former maintenance foreman at Lancashire.

The Lancaster County native has a lot of family members in the area and says he gets along with everyone.

“Life is a character, it goes on and on. I love my life,” he says with a kind smile. “… I’m cool, that’s all you need to know. No more, no less than that.”

Northampton Nursing and Rehabilitation Center

Charles Speller

Peninsula native Charles Speller moved to Northampton from the VA Hospital about a year ago. He served in the Navy during the Vietnam War, working aboard ships as a fireman.

Charles Speller moved into Northampton from the VA Hospital.

“It was exciting,” he says.

When he returned to dry land, he worked at the Newport News shipyard as a plumber.

“If pipes were damaged and needed fixing on ships, they would call us. I couldn’t count all the pipes on a ship,” he says.

After spending five years at the shipyard, he worked as a plumber for his uncle’s company.

At Northampton, Charles goes to as many activities as he can. Some of his favorites are live entertainment, church services, arts and crafts, Bingo and music with Mr. Teller – “the ‘Piano Man,’ he’s good,” he says.

He also appreciates the physical therapists at Northampton.

Suzanne Joyner

You get a sense of some of Suzanne Joyner’s loves when you step into her space. One the walls are photographs and paintings highlighting her joys – her family and ballroom dancing.

The former competitive ballroom dancer ran a dance studio for 27 years in Hampton.

“I never worked a day in my life,” she says of her love for dance. She also won several “best teacher” awards.

Before owning the studio, she owned a sewing machine store for 21 years. She also is devoted to her family.

Suzanne Joyner owned a ballroom dance studio in Hampton. She says she “never worked a day in my life.”

She was married for almost 60 years until he passed. They met as teenagers when he worked as a painter for her father.

“I loved him so much,” she says. “If you ever find a man you love, listen to what he says to you. You have to be friends first – be his friend.”

Suzanne has three living children, including a son who is an artist, and an adopted daughter who works for VHS Hospice and suggested Northampton. She also has six grandchildren and six great-grands – “I love them all!”

She has had two strokes, one of which “debilitated me.” She did a skilled rehabilitation stint at The Newport Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, was discharged home, and then returned more permanently to Northampton.

“I’m a determined person,” she says. “I like it (here); I’m getting used to it. … I think I get the best care they can give me.”

She participates in as many activities as she can, including Bingo, and really loves when there’s live music. She also reads and plays games on her iPad.

Walter Reed Nursing and Rehabilitation Center

Connie Strickland

When Connie Strickland came to Walter Reed about three years ago, she was paralyzed. She could barely lift her head when someone fed her.

She did physical therapy for about a year.

Walter Reed resident Connie Strickland.

“The therapists did a fantastic job with me. I hated them. But they got me moving, and I can do everything except walk with left leg and my back is not good. Other than that, I’m fine,” she says.

Now she visits the therapy room to encourage those there that “it isn’t hopeless,” she says. “Those therapists, I call them my angels.”

She now lives across the hall from her best friend Lola, and the women on the unit have become fast friends.

“I do find I love it here,” she says. “They’re really good to me and we all have a good time.”

She participates in as many activities as she’s able – with Bingo and “all the thinking activities” being her favorites. “I stay busy,” she says.

Connie also is an active member of Resident Council.

Originally from West Virginia, where she met her husband in 11th grade, they moved to the Gloucester area to take care of members of her husband’s family before he passed.

They were married (one month shy of) 50 years.

While in West Virginia, they did a lot of camping, fishing and boating – and had a lot of dogs. Connie has portraits of them up in her room, which drew Lola to inquire about them, igniting their friendship.

Connie taught English for 35 years – “all the way from elementary to college. I loved it,” she says.

Since moving to Virginia, she made several friends she relies on, including best friends who serve as her responsible party.

“I think this is a good place for anybody,” she says. “I was meant to be here, that’s what I’ve told people. … that’s how we all look at it. We take care of each other.”

Connie and Lola, right, live across the hall from one another and are best friends at Walter Reed Nursing and Rehabilitation Center.

Lola Colgan

Lola Colgan lives across the hall from her best friend at Walter Reed. She’s been a resident for about a year and a half, and struck up a conversation with hallmate Connie Strickland.

“I’m a fanatic about dogs and I talked to her about her pictures,” Lola says. “We found out we have a lot in common. We get along real well; we do everything together pretty much, but Bingo is our thing.”

She, Connie and their hallmates are all close. They sit in the hall and talk; help one another when they can.

“Of course, I would prefer to be well enough to live on my own again, but I’ve tried several facilities and this is the best one I’ve found,” she says.

It’s closer to her daughter in Mathews, who visits frequently. Lola also says she and her friends at Walter Reed feel heard. They attend Resident Council meetings and “we voice our opinions about diet and activities and personnel, and we do seem to get a voice and they to seem to listen to us and react to our comments,” she says.

While she’s lived in the Gloucester area for about 20 years, she moved with her family from Arkansas when she was 6 and Lola spent her earlier years living in Hampton and Newport News.

The Hampton High grad worked at Newport News Shipbuilding for more than 20 years. She started in the sewing department, but found she was more interested in building ventilation systems for air craft carriers and submarines.

“I enjoyed ventilation and rose in rank in that department. It was hands-on; I could see it being built,” Lola says.

That desire to use her hands translated to her out-of-office interests. She did a lot of crafts such as stenciling. She also liked gardening. When she and her husband moved into a house that wasn’t landscaped, they landscaped it, including digging a koi pond.

Lola met her husband of 21 years – “that was the keeper,” she says with a laugh – while working at the shipyard. She raised three children, and has two granddaughters and a grandson.

Woodland Scott Jr.

Woodland Scott isn’t the only one from his family at Walter Reed. A brother lives on another unit, so they are able to see one another frequently.

Mr. Scott visits his brother, who also is a resident at Walter Reed, often.

Originally from Middlesex, Woodland moved after graduating high school and worked for a utility company in Woodbridge, N.J., as an office administrator for more than 20 years. He returned to Virginia after retirement. Three brothers still live in New Jersey.

The Army veteran is a music fan, and going to shows was his favorite form of entertainment while living in New Jersey.

“That was about all we were doing back then, going to shows. Then there was Marvin Gaye, Gladys Knight and the Pips … after you get a certain age, they (performer names) don’t come to you as quick,” he says with a chuckle.

He says at Walter Reed, “overall, I like it because they let you just be yourself.

“It took me adjustments when I first got here, but God brought me through it, so I’m all right.”

York Nursing and Rehabilitation Center

Charles Ramirez

York resident Charles Ramirez loves music. He often can be found in the activity room, listening to a variety of genres.

You can usually find Charles listening to music somewhere at York.

But his favorite song?

“I don’t know, there are so many of them,” he says. “This might sound crazy, came out in 1961, ‘Moon River’ has always been one of my favorites, written by Henry Mancini and Johnny Mercer.”

It’s featured in the Audrey Hepburn movie “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” which inspired a recent tea party at York that Charles enjoyed.

The community King of Valentine’s Day is also is well-versed in local history, having spent most of his time living in Hampton and the Gloucester area. On a trip to the Mariners’ Museum, he shared tidbits about local athletic pros, such as Michael Vick, Ronald Curry and Allen Iverson.

Charles is a veteran, serving in the Navy for four years during the Vietnam War. He is a jack of many trades, having worked as an insurance salesman and security guard before retiring from Canon.

Learn more about us

Virginia Health Services owns and operates seven nursing and rehabilitation centers on the Peninsula, Middle Peninsula and Northern Neck. Each offers skilled care, long-term care and respite care. Coliseum Nursing and Rehabilitation Center features an on-site Dialysis Den, operated in partnership with DaVita Kidney Care. Memory Care is available at Walter Reed Nursing and Rehabilitation Center.

Learn more about our care options and employment opportunities at


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