Meet some of our residents and hear what they have to say about retirement living at The Independence.
Diane Danis has been in a helping profession most of her life and now is using her experience to continue to lend a hand. Born in Baltimore, MD, she received her Bachelors of Science in Nursing from Catholic University in Washington, DC. After graduation she spent three years in the Navy Nurse Corps during which time she cared for injured Vietnam servicemen in US military hospitals. Later she became a certified case manager (CCM) and practiced in Northern Virginia, providing direct care services and managing operations for a managed care company. She is now a private consultant in healthcare case management.
She did not expect to use this expertise in her own home.
Diane met Gerry when he came from Canada to Washington, DC to work in the Canadian Embassy later pursuing a career as an operating engineer in construction. They married in 1967 and lived outside the nation’s capitol until he retired in 2006 when they moved to West Virginia. However, in 2008 he was diagnosed with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, an incurable disease that causes scarring on the lungs which progressively gets worse. The only way forward is a lung transplant. Gerry was fortunate to receive one on Christmas day in 2010.
During this whole process Diane managed Gerry’s care from coordinating his medical appointments and medications to finding specialists and keeping daily records of vital signs. Their son’s family lives in Afton so in 2012 the couple moved here. After trying one senior community that did not work, they moved to The Independence in January 2013. It was a good move for them both Gerry enjoyed playing golf and becoming active in community social events and Diane did the decorating of their new home. Unfortunately, in March 2014 Gerry developed a blood clot and died of a pulmonary embolism.
Diane remains at The Independence and has taken on a new challenge. She is writing a book about managing the care of a loved one. She plans to call it, Healthcare Case Management for the Layman a user-friendly guide to helping people without medical training manage their own or another person’s illness. The goal is to achieve the best possible health for the situation in a cost efficient manner. “I don’t know how someone without medical training could handle this kind of situation.” She is happy to think that her book will assist others with their family members.
A calm and steady influence, Jack Donnelly is the kind of person you can rely on. And for over 36 years many people in New York City did just that. Born and raised in the Bronx, he graduated from high school then served in the Air Force doing air and sea rescues.
After his honorable discharge, he worked for the post office in various locations in the city, “doing pretty much everything at the post office.” He learned the business from top to bottom, serving as a carrier, then a window clerk, and eventually he was a postmaster. His calm demeanor was helpful in dealing with his employees and customers.
After over three decades with the post office Jack retired and, not being one to sit around, looked for something different and interesting to do. He took a job with the New York City Schools working with disadvantaged children who had learning and behavioral problems. Sometimes he would have to remove students from the classroom as they were disruptive. Here Jack’s calm and steady influence served him well as he built relationships with the high school students.
“You had to gain the trust with the kids so you could help them,” said Jack. “I got along very well with them because they saw me as a grandparent. They have more respect for older people.” Once the individuals were taken out of the classroom Jack would talk to them and walk around the halls to calm them down. He eventually retired from the schools, but found he missed the kids. “I would go back to visit and always get hugs from them.”
Jack’s calm and steady demeanor has also served him well personally. He and his lovely wife, Edna, will soon celebrate their 58th anniversary. Congratulations to the Donnellys!
Teaching has been an important part of most of Miriam Corcoran’s life. She graduated from high school and joined a convent at 17 and was assigned to teach fifth graders in a Catholic school in South Philadelphia. It was her first teaching experience and she loved it. During her career she has taught every grade as well as served as a principal, mother superior and associate superintendent.
While she was teaching full time, she obtained her bachelor’s degree in Humanities at Villanova University. Later, she attended the University of Virginia where she received her master’s degree in Reading/Administration and Ed.D in Reading/ Research/ Comparative Education and she was the first woman to attend classes in habit.
A principalship in Danville in 1970 brought her to Virginia and later, as she traveled around the state teaching graduate courses, she noticed a void. Many schools had computer rooms installed, but they weren’t being used well. Seeing a need, in 1990 she began her own business, The Virginia Computer Institute, Inc., and she began building schools in Virginia, incorporating technology and training teachers to use that technology. Her company built seven schools and did everything from drawing up plans, walking them through the approval process and furnishing them once complete.
Miriam moved to The Independence in December, 2011. Based on her experience she has several suggestions for those considering a move to a senior community. She points out that transitions are difficult and people become attached to things which makes it hard to move on. Still the teacher, she suggests that seniors learn to embrace the advantages that a move can mean. “Have fun, enjoy the fact that you don’t have to cut grass and that transportation is available if you want it. Be willing to do and explore. Be ready to try something new…”
Singing has been important to Barbara Harris for her whole life. A Charlottesville native, she began singing in the children’s choir in her home church as well as in school choruses. So it was no surprise after settling into The Independence in May 2014 she stood up at an Activities Meeting and asked, “Would anyone here be interested in starting a chorus?” She had a positive response so she set up a meeting on a Monday evening and a few people showed up. The group agreed to present a Labor Day Sing-A-Long a few weeks later and 25 people attended. From there it continued to grow.
Activities Director Dana Settle invited the group to sing during a Veteran’s Day program last November. They happily agreed and rendered patriotic and inspirational songs all favorites of the members. Later in the year an even larger group strolled the halls of the community singing Christmas carols. Residents agreed it was “spectacular.”
“I love singing and have been singing all of my life,” said Barbara. “I am delighted by the response. People have been very supportive and have really pitched in to help. They buy folders and copy music, share ideas and encouragement. It’s a good group.”
The Independence Community Chorus meets weekly to practice, sing for their own enjoyment and enjoy each others’ company. Recently they began sharing their beautiful voices at area nursing homes.
The Independence is a community of active individuals and Enid Krieger is no exception. She is the founder of Andy’s Angels, a team of friends and family to raise money specifically for the Alzheimer’s Walk. Residents of The Independence as well as staff members supported the efforts by joining as walkers and donors. Enid organized the team in honor of her late husband and the group joined in the October 2014 Alzheimer’s Foundation Walk, raising $7,000 for this very first effort! Not satisfied with that, she, in collaboration with the activities director, are already preparing the team for an even more successful walk in October 2015.
Described by residents as “dynamic,” Enid has been in Charlottesville since 1997 and has been a resident of The Independence for over two years now. She was an RN by training, then served for 12 years with the New York State Health Department for 20 years before becoming the executive director of a community hospital in Brooklyn until she retired in 1999. She then enjoyed the beautiful home that she and Andy refurbished together.
However, her husband was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2011 so she decided to sell her home and relocate to a better environment for caregiving. She felt it was important to have a safe environment and one where she could form a support system for her and her husband.
She talked about why she organized the team. “It’s not all about my husband,” said Enid. “There are just some causes we should be involved in. Alzheimer’s is a condition that strikes so many strong and independent people. We need to do our part to find a cure.”
Enid and Andy’s Angels believe that with their help, they can make a difference.