Savvy Senior: ‘Can I Inherit My Parents’ Debt?’ The Best New Restaurant in the Country? It’s Right Here in Geneva
PLUS Issue 46 July / August 2017
For Active Adults in the Rochester Area
Simpler Life Couple leaves everything behind to live a in a tiny home in rural Yates County
How Gary Mervis, an underpriviledged kid who grew up in Rochester, turned personal tragedy into a nonprofit that has benefited more 50,000 people from 22 states and 35 countries
Helping Refugees Pittsford resident making a difference in the lives of refugees
Retirement Joe Flaherty, founder of Rochester’s Writers & Books group, adjusting to a new life as retiree
You Just Inherited $1 Million. Now What? Financial planner Jim Terwilliger offers 10 steps to take if you are the beneficiary of a financial windfall
Living very well
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CONTENTS 55 PLUS
Savvy Senior: ‘Can I Inherit My Parent’s Debt?’ The Best New Restaurant in the Country? It’s Right Here in Geneva
PLUS Issue 46 July / August 2017
For Active Adults in the Rochester Area
Simpler Life Couple leaves everything behind to live a in a tiny home in rural Yates County
How Gary Mervis, an underpriviledged kid who grew up in Rochester, turned personal tragedy into a nonprofit that has benefited more 50,000 people from 22 states and 35 countries
Helping Refugees Pittsford resident making a difference in the lives of refugees
Retirement Joe Flaherty, founder of Rochester’s Writers & Books group, adjusting to a new life as retiree
You Just Inherited $1 Million. Now What?
Financial planner Jim Terwilliger offers 10 steps on what to do if you are the beneficiary of a financial windfall
12 Savvy Senior 6 Financial Health 8 Dining Out 10 My Turn 20 Addyman’s Corner 44 Long-term Care 48
• Roslyn Rose, 87, brings her passion for art to Rochester
• Recent visit to D. C. brings back memories to 43 local veterans
• The Oliveiras decided to create their own paradise in a tiny home in rural Yates County
22 AGING IN PLACE Last Page Q&A At 92, John Burke still participates in 5K competitions in Rochester area. “Nothing prevents me from going out on that trail and enjoying a good jog,” he says. 4
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• Start adding accessibility features to your home early on, say experts
• Equipped with cigar box, weed whacker and pickle barrel, this band gets back to basics
• When the kids leave the house
32 COVER • Profile of Gary Mervis, founder of Camp Good Days
39 REFUGEES • Pittsford resident making a difference in the lives of refugees
41 RETIREMENT • Founder of Rochester’s Writers & Books gradually adjusting to a new life as retiree
46 VISITS • Learn about New York’s Native Americans
Classes for Age 50+ Learners
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A full membership includes a year of courses, lectures, and special events during Fall 2017, plus Winter, Spring, and Summer 2018 terms. Additionally, you’ll enjoy special RIT benefits both on and off campus! Visit our website
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July/August - 55 PLUS
savvy senior By Jim Miller
Can I Inherit My Parent’s Debt?
hat happens to a person’s debt after they die? In most cases when a person with debt dies, it’s their estate — not their kids’ — that is legally responsible. Here’s how it works. When your mom (or dad) dies, her estate — which consists of the stuff she owns while she’s alive (home, car, cash, etc.) — will be responsible for paying her debts. If she doesn’t have enough cash to pay her debts, you’ll have to sell her assets and pay off her creditors with the proceeds. Whatever is left over is passed along to her heirs as dictated by the terms of her will, if she has one. If she doesn’t have a will, the intestacy laws of the state she resides in will determine how her estate will be distributed. If, however, she dies broke, or there isn’t enough money left over to pay her “unsecured debts” — credit cards, medical bills, personal loans — then her estate is declared insolvent, and her creditors will have to eat the loss. “Secured debts” — loans attached to an asset such as a house or a car — are a different story. If she has a mortgage or car loan when she dies, those monthly payments will need to be made by her estate or heirs, or the lender can seize the property. There are, however, a couple of exceptions that would make you legally responsible for her debt after she dies. One is if you are a joint holder on a credit card account that she owes on. And the other is if you cosigned a loan with her. Note to Spouses: These same debt inheritance rules apply to surviving spouses too, unless you live in a community property state — Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington
55 PLUS - July/August 2017
55PLUS roc55.com Editor and Publisher Wagner Dotto
Associate Editor Lou Sorendo
or Wisconsin. In these states, any debts that one spouse acquires after the start of a marriage belongs to the other spouse too. Therefore, spouses in community property states are usually responsible for their deceased spouses debts. Protected Assets — If your mom has any IRAs, 401(k)s, brokerage accounts, life insurance policies or employer-based pension plans, these are assets that creditors usually cannot get access to. That’s because these accounts typically have designated beneficiaries, and the money goes directly to those people without passing through the estate. Settling Her Estate — You also need to be aware that if your mom dies with debt, and she has no assets, settling her estate should be fairly simple. Her executor will need to send out letters to her creditors explaining the situation, including a copy of her death certificate, and that will probably take care of it. But her children may still have to deal with aggressive debt collectors who try to guilt you into paying. If your mom has some assets, but not enough to pay all her debts, her state’s probate court has a distinct list of what bills get priority. The details vary by state, but generally estate administrating fees, funeral expenses, taxes and last illness medical bills get paid first, followed by secured debts and lastly, credit card debts. Need Help? If you have questions regarding your situation, you should consult with a consumer law attorney or probate attorney. Or, if you just need a question or two answered, call your state’s legal hotline if available (see LegalHotlines.org), or legal services provider.
Deborah J. Sergeant Ernst Lamothe Jr., Jacob Pucci John Addyman, Donna Cordello Deborah Blackwell, Melody Burri
Jim Terwilliger, Susan Suben Jim Miller, Bruce Frassinelli John Addyman, Sandra Scott
Anne Westcott, Debra Kells H. Mat Adams, Denise Ruf
Office Assistant Kimberley Tyler
Layout and Design Dylon Clew-Thomas
55 PLUS –A Magazine for Active Adults in the Rochester Area is published six times a year by Local News, Inc., which also publishes In Good Health–Rochester—Genesee Valley’s Healthcare Newspaper.
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July/August - 55 PLUS
financial health By Jim Terwilliger
You Just Inherited $1 Million. Now What? Here are 10 steps to take if you are the beneficiary of a financial windfall
t might be an inheritance. Or a stock buy-back at work. Or an insurance or divorce settlement. Or even the lottery. It’s one of those once-in-a-lifetime events that is generally unexpected. It is exactly for this reason that most folks are ill-equipped to deal rationally with such an event. An immediate rush of euphoria quickly transforms into a panicked “now what the heck do I do?” We have all heard stories of people who achieve instant wealth and believe they are set for life, free from financial worries forever … then proceed to make terrible choices and find themselves, a year or two later, with no money, worse off than ever. Charles Sherry, founder of Financial Jumble, LLC, recently wrote on this subject. He suggested 10 steps that should be considered when dealing with sudden wealth. Let’s be clear. We’re not just talking about a million dollars plus. These same steps are just as relevant for any amount of windfall. For some, $50,000 fits the sudden wealth definition quite nicely. So, what should you do if you happen to be the beneficiary of a financial windfall? First, do nothing. That’s right, nothing. Sherry suggests waiting at least six months before making any life-changing decisions. The time spent waiting and planning allows the “shock” of your newfound wealth to wear off. Besides, you need to take time to understand exactly what you’ve received. Is it all cash? Stocks and bonds? A business or real estate? Are there income tax consequences? If so, know what they are and how they can be minimized or managed. Work with a trusted adviser. Do you already have a relationship with a financial pro-
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fessional? If yes and that person has mapped out a solid financial plan for you based on your goals, you’re all set. If not, seek out a fee-only financial planner, preferably one having the CFP® designation. Interview two or three and choose the one you are most comfortable with. Doing nothing also means not quitting your job. It may be tempting, but chances are your windfall will not sustain you for the rest of your life, perhaps not even close. Again, wait at least six months before making an irreversible job change. You will have plenty of time to consider career options and take action when you know where you are headed. Reduce/eliminate debt. Consider paying off high-interest debt. Even low-interest mortgage debt can be considered. Rely on your adviser to help you make these choices. A great outcome from paying down debt is the resulting reduction in monthly cash flow demands and associated peace-of-mind. If you don’t have one, start an emergency fund. Set aside reserves of at least three to six months, preferably the latter. The future can sometimes throw you an unexpected curve ball. Having reserves set aside will reduce your financial stress. Much like reducing cash flow demands, having an emergency fund creates financial flexibility. Allocate additional funds toward retirement. Using some portion of a windfall to enhance retirement savings is almost always a must-do. Very few folks believe that they have saved enough for retirement. Think about tax and estate planning. No one is sure what may or may not happen to the tax code this year. But it’s critical that you understand the tax ramifications
3. 4. 5. 6.
of your windfall in order to maximize the financial benefit. Additionally, life changes provide a perfect opportunity to update your estate plan, especially if the windfall increases the complexity of your financial situation or puts you into estate tax territory. Be cautious. Less-than-reputable salespeople and relatives may suddenly warm up to you, with the unspoken goal of separating you from your money. That is why a trusted adviser is critical. If you have a well-thought-out financial plan, it’s much easier to pass on potentially exploitative offers. Consider charitable giving. Do you have a favorite charity? Would you like to help a grandchild finance his/her education? Take the opportunity to explore the possibility of helping others. There are myriad lifetime charitable gifting options to explore and consider. Have some fun. There’s nothing wrong with treating yourself, particularly if your finances have been always tight. Do you like to travel? Have you thought about an addition to your home, finishing your basement, remodeling your kitchen, or upgrading appliances? But be careful not to direct a majority of your windfall to the fun category. Receiving a sudden financial windfall is a life-changing event. Work with someone you trust to ensure it yields a positive outcome for you and your family.
James Terwilliger, CFP®, is senior vice president, financial planning officer, Wealth Strategies Group, Canandaigua National Bank & Trust Company. He can be reached at 585-419-0670 ext. 50630 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Request either or both of our free booklets from our website www.AlbrightBuild.com
James W. Albright, CAPS, GMB, CGR, CGP 5205 Johnson Hill Drive, Canandaigua, NY 14424 Cell (5850 230-4280; Fax(585) 396- 5879 email@example.com www.AlbrightBuild.com
July/August - 55 PLUS
DiningOut By Jacob Pucci
First course at FLX Table.
FLX Table Finger Lakes restaurant features one table that accommodates 12 — it was named the best new restaurant in the country by recent a USA Today 10Best poll
inner at FLX Table in Geneva starts gathered around a long live-edge wooden table, slurping chilled gazpacho from ceramic saucers and savoring paper-thin sheets of Spanish ham sliced tableside from a whole leg. We mulled over the wine list and snuck another slice of jamon as we waited for the rest of our dining companions to arrive. Not long after all 12 diners arrived, we were given playing cards that corresponded to a seat at the dining room table and sat down. FLX Table is a lone 12-seat table,
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where dinner is served twice nightly from Thursday to Monday. It is located on a one-way alley with no sign except for the restaurant’s logo on a single piece of paper and a sample menu taped to the door. The only menu is a list and descriptions of the five courses, selected by chef Christopher Bates. The wine list was filled with selections from the Finger Lakes and elsewhere, but we, like everyone else at the table, opted to go for two of the five beverage pairings (Baller and FLX Baller, both $55) and again put our meal in Bates’ capable hands.
In addition to being chef and co-founder of Element Winery in Arkport, Bates is a master sommelier, the highest level a wine professional can achieve. As of this writing, there are currently only 236 master sommeliers worldwide. Dinner started with a selection of cheese, raw and roasted vegetables, fruit and charcuterie presented on a sliced tree trunk slab, along with a selection of dipping sauces, to be shared between two diners. Platters of several types of butters, including brown butter, smoked pork schmaltz and a yellow turmeric
Third course: Smoked pork fat polenta with a 64-degree egg, foie gras, black licorice and black truffle puree.
Second course: A salad of raw, pickled and roasted mushrooms atop button mushroom hummus. butter shaped like a rubber duck, were passed around the table, as one would do at a family dinner. The next dish highlighted yellowfoot, lion’s mane and maitake mushrooms, served pickled, raw, roasted and pureed to a hummus that served to bind the dish together. Black garlic and oniony ramps provided a fresh kick of flavor. The menu at FLX Table changes often, but judging from past and subsequent menus, our next dish is a frequent appearance in some form or another—and for good reason. That same smoked pork fat that we spread on our loaves of locally-baked sourdough bread in the first course was whipped into a bowl of polenta. An egg cooked to 64 degrees Celsius in a sous vide water bath was placed on top of the polenta. My knowledge of the Celsius temperature scale was admittedly rusty, so I had assumed the egg would be barely cooked with a yolk that would run over the dish at the slightest fork prick. Instead, the yolk had thickened, but not hardened, perfectly mimicking the consistency of the polenta. A dusting of black licorice on the egg helped cut some of the richness from the small piece of unctuous foie gras and streak of black truffle puree on the plate. We visited FLX Table on Easter Sunday, so to recreate the biblical lamb with bitter herbs, Bates rolled a coarse lamb sausage in a seaweed powder and served it with salty sea beans, piquant
black olive puree and ethereally tender “pee-wee” potatoes, with a scattering of finely chopped pitchblack dried olives over the plate. The seaweed powder gave the meat a grassy and intensely savory flavor that paired well with lamb’s natural mild gaminess. The sea beans, also known as sea asparagus, gave the dish a burst of salty sea freshness, like slurping down a freshly-shucked oyster. Dessert that evening was a chocolate pot de crème served with rosemary ganache, peanut dust, bitter almond brownie and brown butter caramel, topped off with a light meringue. Additional brown butter caramel was passed around the table. The unofficial sixth dish was a homemade marshmallow — with a catch. Diners had to walk to a nearby bar to receive it, from where they can keep the good times rolling. Earlier this year, FLX Table was named the best new restaurant in the country in a USA Today 10Best poll and after eating there, it’s clear to see why. Dinner at FLX Table is a deeply intimate experience, like being invited to an exclusive dinner party where all the guests know how lucky they are to be there. The food and drink is pure fine dining, but even with the initial apprehension at dining at a table of strangers, FLX Table is immensely comfortable and welcoming, thanks in part to the mismatched chairs and silverware and Eminem and Frank Sinatra playing in the open kitchen. You won’t feel weird rip-
ping off a piece of bread to scrape up the last of the butter, or reaching to pick the last piece of smoked duck breast from the farmers board. At $49, it’s an absolute steal for dinner you’ll never forget enjoyed among friends you’ve just met.
Fourth course: Lamb sausage with roasted peewee potatoes, sea beans and black olive puree.
FLX Table Address:
22 Linden St., Geneva, NY 14456. Phone:
Required. Reservations are available online at flxtable.com on the first of each month for the following month.
Thursday to Monday. Two seatings daily at 5:45 p.m. and 8:15 p.m. July/August - 55 PLUS
Roslyn Rose at her first solo show in Rochester, at the MuCC Gallery in May.
Roslyn Rose, 87, brings her passion for art to Rochester By Michele Reed
hen Roslyn Rose was in second grade, she drew a picture of a bird, and her teacher told her she would grow up to be an artist. “I didn’t even know what an artist was. I had to go home and ask my sister,” she says with a laugh. “I’ve been an artist ever since.” Now after more than eight decades pursuing her passion to create, the New Jersey native is making her mark on the Rochester art world. The 87-year-old artist moved to the city with her husband, Frank, in 2015 to be nearer her family. Rose set up her studio in the Anderson Alley Artist Studios and is an active participant in the community of Rochester artists, taking part in First Friday Art Walks and exhibiting
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at local galleries. She made her area debut at a group show in the Image Gallery photo exhibit in October. Her first solo exhibit in the area was at the MuCCC Theater Gallery during the month of May, and she is a participant in the RoCo 6X6 exhibit, which is on display until July 16 at the Rochester Contemporary Art Center at 137 East Ave. in the city.
Evolution of an artist Take the freight elevator up to her fourth floor studio in the Anderson Alley building, and you can see the development of her myriad interests on display. Etchings hang side by side with her photo montages, inter-
spersed with wooden box assemblages created from found objects: tiny dolls, wooden spools, bits of jewelry and fabric trim. Light floods the studio from huge windows that once illuminated workstations in the former shoe factory. Traversing the weathered wooden floors and touching the brick walls, you can almost hear the hum of the machines and smell the leather of the long-closed factory. It’s an inspirational place for making — and viewing — art. Rose has evolved as an artist over the decades. Classically trained as a painter using Renaissance techniques, she worked in oils at first, specializing in portraits of children. As word spread about her talents, so did her client base, as families commissioned
portraits. During this period, she met a man who did wood engravings for stock certificates. She became fascinated by the medium and returned to school to study etching and lithography at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. After experimenting with techniques, some of which saw the diminutive Rose pushing heavy lithograph stones across the floor to make her prints, she purchased an etching press in 1971 and rented time on it to other artists to help pay for the significant investment. Her etchings became popular and, through the New York Graphic Society, she was selling prints on a constant basis to private collectors and corporate entities. She would continue to produce prints on that press until she and husband Frank sold their suburban house and moved into a Hoboken condo in the early 2000s. That’s when Rose made the transition to photo montages. She would tear up her old prints, combining photos with bits of her etchings, experimenting with techniques as she went. A young artist introduced her to using the computer program Photoshop and she began to see the possibilities for manipulating and combining images using computer technology. “I juxtapose the neglected with the occupied, the deserted with the inhabited, one place with another, or the past with the present,” she writes in her artist’s statement, “I combine reality with unreality to go beyond the traditional photograph.” Her husband’s career in academia allowed the couple to travel to Europe and Asia in summers, and Rose has always collected images, especially historic and abandoned buildings. In her current series, “A Different View,” she opens up portals — stripping out the windows and doors — and fills those spaces with images from another time and place. “My camera and computer are mediums that I use to explain the photographs, producing montages that speak to the spectator. Viewers are invited to blend their own imagination with the illusions I present,” the artist explains. A converted warehouse in Tacoma, Wash., becomes a window on the Maine coastline. Look closer, and you see its rooms populated by penguins,
Roslyn Rose’s “The Genesee River” is her first Rochester montage. It features the Frederick Douglass–Susan B. Anthony Memorial Bridge.
All images courtesy of the artist, Roslyn Rose, and copyrighted by the artist. July/August - 55 PLUS
Roslyn Rose’s atelier in the Anderson Arts Building at 250 N. Goodman St. which Rose painstakingly silhouetted, separating each bird from its Antarctic background. When she lived in Hoboken, much of her art focused on that area, using photos of New Jersey buildings and the city’s favorite son, Frank Sinatra. Now that she is a member of the Rochester community, Rose is inspired by the local area to include images she uncovers here. With her nephew’s help, she is exploring Rochester landmarks to photograph, such as old buildings and waterfalls. “The Genesee River” features a found image of an abandoned European building with a view of the Frederick Douglass–Susan B. Anthony Memorial Bridge out the windows. The walls of the building are adorned with graffiti of a grinning octopus Rose discovered in a blocked-off station for the now-defunct Rochester subway. “Who knew there even was a subway here?” she asks with delight. “I snaked my arm through the gate closing it off, all the while shooting images of the graffiti on the walls.” Rose grins at the thought of how, if caught, she would explain why she was sneaking around an abandoned subway stop. Despite the speed of computer operations, her artwork takes weeks or months to complete. Rose hangs different versions of the montages up on her studio walls, as she lets the combinations “percolate,” and she studies tweaks she can do to make them better. 14
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Read more about Roslyn Rose’s art in her blog at https://roslynrosestudio.wordpress.com See galleries of her art at www.roslynrose.com Like her on Facebook: www. facebook.com/roslyn.rose Follow her on Twitter @jersey artist “There are so many things you can do: you have to know when to stop,” she says. Rose will often work late into the evening in her home studio, which holds her computer and photographic equipment. Rose quotes the artist Ben Shahn, who once told her that the key to being a successful artist is “having a working spouse.” But, despite the stability offered by her husband’s career, she is proud to have always made a living using her art. Her paintings, etchings and decorative objects were sold through art consultants, interior designers and print publishers. At one point she even went to work in a frame shop to learn to make her own frames. After years in the Metropolitan New York art scene, which she described as “very competitive, almost cutthroat,” Rose is pleasantly surprised at the welcoming nature of the Rochester community of artists. When she first arrived in town, she made her way around the buildings housing workspaces, looking for a space for her atelier. Other artists welcomed her and made suggestions, including leading her to her current
studio. “If you are having an exhibit, they will send out notices to their mailing lists, and they will invite you to take part in group exhibitions,” she says of the collegial atmosphere. Rose has been successful on a high level, having exhibited across the country, garnering top awards, including Best in Show at the 2015 International Society of Experimental Art. An etching of owls became a worldwide hit as a UNICEF card. Her artwork has been in many private collections from New Jersey to Texas to Georgia, and even Citibank of New York’s Moscow branch in Russia. Currently, her “Spirit of the Sea” is on exhibition around New York state until November as part of the 2017 Art Exhibit and Competition sponsored by LeadingAge NY. Listed in Who’s Who for Achievements in Art, she is a former vice president of the National Association of Women Artists. A founding member of the Hoboken artist co-op, hob’art, Rose has always been active in her community and continues so in Rochester. Now a resident of the independent living community of St. John’s Meadows, she is a member of the Art Committee there. “If I’m going to be in a group, I’m not going to just sit back,” she says. Sitting back doesn’t seem to be in the DNA of this art dynamo. Look for more from Rose at Rochester art events in the coming months and years as she continues to fulfill the prophecy of that second-grade teacher.
without settling When looking for senior living, it’s rare to find everything you want in one organization. With six campuses across Monroe County and a variety of housing options, ESLC is a good place to begin— and end— your search. We welcome your calls to 585.546.8400 or Info@EpiscopalSeniorLife.org.
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July/August - 55 PLUS
“A Natural Place of Lasting Peace” Riverside Cemetery is not only “A Natural Place of Lasting Peace”, but also a place of information. Find answers to your questions and gain peace of mind by joining us for our open house and pre-planning seminars.
Chapel of Peace Mausoleum Thursdays, August 24, September 21 & October 12
6:00—7:30pm Presentation will begin promptly at 6:oopm followed by open discussion and tour of the grounds and facilities. Riverside Cemetery 2650 Lake Avenue Rochester, New York 14612
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Phone: 585-428-7775 www.cityofrochester.gov/riverside
A Simpler Life Vinny and Pamela Oliveira of East Bloomfield sold their campground and decided to create their own paradise in a tiny home in rural Yates County, where they will generate their own electricity and embark on a life centered around simplicity, community and nature By Melody Burri
inny and Pamela Oliveira took a plunge most might not consider midway through their 50s. It happened while they were chasing their dream of a life centered around simplicity, community and nature. The owners and operators of Creek-N-Wood Campground in East Bloomfield met, fell in love and married. But in fall 2016, after almost three years operating the campground, they left it all behind and moved to a seven-acre piece of land in Dundee, Yates County. There they hope to build an off-the-grid community homestead, all while living in a tiny home. “We operated the campground for almost three years, and it was a wonderful experience,” said Pamela. “We see it as a needed stepping stone experience for what we are doing now. There’s something about camping and getting back to nature that helps us to reconnect with ourselves and our creator. It’s also a time when we learn to live with a lot less stuff, and realize that it’s not only possible, but a simple life can be fun too.” The Oliveiras’ seven-acre parcel is surrounded by farmland, with no electric service. It has a driveway, a pond, and a shed building with a small septic system. The couple plans to use solar energy for power and heating. Q. How did you know it was time for a change? A. When we started off at the campground, my husband and I were just friends. He was our maintenance man. We soon discovered that we share the same heart toward living more simply, in oneness with nature, and being in community with others. These ideals were intensified when we fell in love and got married a few months later. To some degree we were able to live out these ideals at the campground, but we also found limitations because it was just a seasonal community. Also, the business side of things, like paying bills and complying with government oversight, was taking too much time and energy away from the things we felt were more important. As much as we loved and grew July/August - 55 PLUS
close to the people at the campground, our hearts were dreaming of a more permanent place to call home — one that allowed us to have more freedom. Q. How did you go about searching for your ideal property? A. While we waited for the campground to sell, we spent a lot of time looking for a place to invest in. Our goal was to find something that was inexpensive per acre, had a good southern exposure for gardening and fruit trees, was rural enough to allow us to stay in our tiny house without zoning issues -— and yet was near enough to a small town and a diner with Wi-Fi. We went for a lot of drives and looked at almost 50 properties, but we kept being drawn to a certain area and found ourselves focusing a lot of our energy looking there. When we first saw our property, it was love at first sight. Q. Describe what you mean by an off-the-grid community homestead? A. We hope to use solar energy for all our power and heating needs. But at the same time, it doesn’t mean that we want to live isolated lives. Our spiritual beliefs encourage us to live in peace and harmony with others, and to collaborate with our neighbors by sharing resources and wisdom. Even from a practical standpoint, our experience has been that many small farms and family homesteads burn out from trying to do everything on their own. We want to bring something different to our community, by demonstrating a more radical way of doing life. This might include some people living with us on the property sharing in the costs and rewards, or it might mean a strong connection with our neighbors. Either way, we describe our current lifestyle venture as simply, “living for a living.” Q. What made you choose to live in a tiny house? A.When we were just friends, we both lived in our own tiny houses on the campground. I renovated mine out of a shed mounted to a trailer. But when we fell in love, we realized that we needed a bigger tiny house, so we sold our two little ones and bought a larger one that we found on Craigslist. It’s actually an RVIA [RV certified] Park Model cabin 18
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Vinny and Pamela Oliveira live in this tiny home in their off-the-grid community homestead in Dundee.
Pond-side garden at Vinny and Pam Oliveira’s off-the-grid community homestead in Dundee
A scenic pond was one of the elements the Oliveira considered last year to buy their new Dundee property.
The sign says it all for Vinny and Pamela Oliveira, who live in a tiny house while they build an off-the-grid community homestead in Dundee
on wheels. We love living small. We’re not tempted to buy too much stuff, and we’re encouraged to expand our lifestyle outside our four walls more. We also are forced to get along, too — in a good way. Q. What challenges/goals are ahead for you? A. Interestingly enough, it sometimes takes money to get free of money. We have to invest what we believe is temporary for something we believe is more lasting. Yes, it feels like a risk. Especially when we are going to run out of money very soon. Our greatest challenge is not believing the lie that our security lies in a bank account, retirement plans, or insurance. While we are not totally against these things, we believe they are ultimately substitutes for what loving community can be for all of us. Q. Where do you see yourself in five years? A. We envision a small property, producing a regenerative abundance of food and resources that not only provides for our needs, but can be shared with our neighbors for no charge. We also see ourselves in a small community of loving, respectful people who help each other and share their abundance with each other. Q. Why was this the right choice for you? A. Quite simply, it gives us more peace and happiness, and less stress in our life. Q. What advice do you have for others? A. First get out of debt, no matter what it takes. Then pare down your possessions more and more. Make it a practice to get rid of at least two items for every item than you bring into your home. And finally, invest what little you may have into things that are more lasting. When it comes to your dreams, never wait for a big opportunity before taking small steps. Take small steps now, wherever you are, and you’ll be surprised at how many big opportunities will open up for you.
For Those 55 and Above ~ Adult Lifestyle Communities
Village Heights Senior Apartments • 844.381.5948 1 & 2-bedroom Apartments
www.VillageHeightsApts.com/55 | 134 High Street | Fairport, NY 14450
The Marquis At The Woods • 844.376.1328 1 & 2-bedroom Apartments & Townhomes
www.MarquisAtTheWoods.com/55 | 1010 Hazelnut Bend | Webster, NY 14580
Villa Capri Senior Apartments • 844.206.0714 1 & 2-bedroom Apartments
www.VillaCapriGates.com/55 | 200 Frank Dimino Way | Rochester, NY 14624
How’s Life in a Tiny House For those interested in keeping tabs on the Oliveiras progress, the couple is journaling their adventure in a blog at www.OurLittleEden. com.
Orchard View Senior Apartments • 844.515.0418 1 & 2-bedroom Apartments and 2-bedroom Townhomes
www.OrchardViewApartments.com/55 | 1 Orchard View Drive | Rochester, NY 14612
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my turn By Bruce Frassinelli Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
My 60th-year Class Reunion
y high school class of 1957 celebrated our 60thyear reunion in May, a bittersweet time filled with pleasant memories but also regret that 13 of our class members are no longer with us. Ours was a small class — just 42 — at a time before consolidation of local school districts into much larger regional units in Pennsylvania. The high school had just three grades back then — seniors, juniors and sophomores; ninth-graders went to junior high school with the eighthand seventh-graders. There was no such thing as a middle school, which grew in popularity starting in the mid-1960s. Our small community had only about 5,000 residents and had been losing population ever since the anthracite coal mines began shutting down a few years earlier. Because there were few employment opportunities in our area after mining petered out, workers had to seek jobs in more metropolitan areas; many moved to New Jersey or other nearby states, where job opportunities were more plentiful and career advancements more likely. My parents ran a small grocery store that gave them a decent, if not opulent, living. When you have a grocery store attached to your home, you can always count on being well20
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fed, even if you don’t have a lot of money in your pocket. When I was elected class president in our sophomore year, I did not realize that the term was in the same category as U.S. Supreme Court justices — for life. We have had class reunions every five years until three years ago. We had so much fun at our 55th that those in attendance clamored for one between that one and this one. I thought it would be catchy to have a 57th-year reunion for the Class of ’57. Starting with our 50th-year reunion, we have had luncheons rather than evening events. Most of us old folk don’t much care for driving at night, especially if we have a drink or two. We also have them on the Thursday prior to Memorial Day since some classmates who moved out of the area return to spend time with family for this holiday. The centerpiece of any class reunion is catching up with friends whom we haven’t seen since the last reunion. It is always a treat when a class member whom we have rarely seen at reunions shows up. Despite our efforts to involve not only those who graduated in 1957, but also those students who went to school with us but dropped out before graduation, there is still a handful who have never attended even one of our 13 class reunions. We send out a mailer with
information, and in the mailer there is a self-addressed stamped envelope for replies with a deadline. If we don’t get a reply by the deadline, members of the reunion committee call the nonresponding classmates to persuade them to join us. One of our classmates who has never attended told a reunion committee member three years ago “don’t bother me anymore; I am not interested.” This reminds me of an Oswego friend whose class some years ago was celebrating its 50thyear reunion. “I guess you’re excited about going to your 50th,” I said to him. “I’m not going,” he said, with a certain amount of indignation. “Why the heck not?” I asked. “I didn’t like those bastards when I was in high school with them; why would I go out of my way to be with them now?” he replied. We always make it a point to honor our deceased classmates with a brief program in which we mention their names and light a candle for each. We also have a program that deals with reminiscences of our high school days or the history of our hometown. My granddaughter asked her friend’s father what went on at class reunions? I chuckled at his response: “You spend money, you’re nervous, and people try to lose 20 pounds in the months prior to the reunion.” Sounds about right.
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aging in place
Remodel for the Future If you renovate your home, start adding accessibility features early on, say experts
By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant
f you’re planning a home renovation, think ahead to when you may need accessibility features. They add value to your home should you sell someday. If you want to stay in your home, you’ll save money over making changes later, both because costs continue to go up and because retrofitting is usually more costly than making changes initially. Especially if you’re still working, it’s important to make home investments before your income is fixed. “Usually what we find is when folks are in their mid-50s and they’re doing remodeling, they’re still not thinking of what happens when they get older or that they may get disabled,” said Miguel Millan, vicepresident of 101 Mobility of Rochester. “They spend thousands on a bathroom that won’t do them any good in 5 to 15 years.” He recommends installing a floor drain in the center of the bathroom so that clients who may become dependent on a caregiver can protect the floors from excess moisture. He said that an attractive drain can cost as little as $200 if the floors are open for renovation anyway. Installing the sink plumbing from the wall instead of up from the floor can allow a vanity with wheelchair access so you won’t need to gut the floor later. Millan said that it’s not that difficult to make plumbing come from the wall. He advises clients against tubs with doors because while the water is draining, the user must stay in it cold and shivering for a long time, especially if your home’s plumbing is older. Many municipalities don’t allow heat lamp installation over a tub. Millan prefers a no-lip shower instead of a walk-in tub. Wheelchairs can roll in them and with a hand
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Grab bars in the bathroom, wide doors and hallways are some of the recommendations contractors make to people who plan to age in place. Photos courtesy of Albright Remodeling, Canandaigua.
sprayer, many people can bathe independently for longer. Jim Albright, 72, and owner of Albright Remodeling in Canandaigua, is a certified aging-in-place specialist designated by the National Association of Homebuilders. He said that if you’re planning major work on a room, it’s important to widen the doorway to 32 inches to allow access to a standard wheelchair or walker. “As much as possible, keep everything on the same level,” he added. If you’re getting new flooring, avoid lips between rooms by having the old flooring stripped down far enough. It will cost more, but the result will look better and may spare you a tripping hazard later. Consider moving the laundry to the first floor. Ideally, you should also have a bedroom and a bathroom on the first floor. Albright also encourages clients, whenever possible, to have bedroom and bathroom doors swing out, rather than in so if someone falls in these fallprone rooms, emergency help can open the door more easily. A fallen person may block a door from opening if it swings inward. Though you may be decades away from needing grab bars in the bathroom, installing the blocking behind the sheetrock ensures that later installation will be much easier. Albright said that at a recent renovation job, workers placed blocking behind the walls and photographed it with tape measures in the picture before installing drywall. That way, workers can later find the blocking with ease since stud finders aren’t as reliable as they may seem, according to Albright. Dee Schwarts, director of aging services at Jewish Family Service of Rochester, said that even people who don’t need a wheelchair ramp at this point should think about the future possibility. “You probably won’t want to add a ramp until you need it, but keep the areas open so you could build a ramp if you need it,” she said. “For every foot in ground space, you can go up an inch.” Constructing a pergola too close to the back door may make it difficult to add a ramp later. But as with the other renovations, planning can help you age in place with greater ease.
Primary care from
Jewish Senior Life’s Physician House Calls program brings a team of skilled, compassionate healthcare professionals and a wide range of services— directly to your home. Our doctor provides one-on-one primary care, medical assessments, and coordination of care with other home health services. The Physician House Calls team will work with you to develop a comprehensive care plan that will give you and your family peace of mind.
“It’s the idea of old-fashioned medicine, the doctor making house calls to those who have difficulty getting to an office… I get to be on a personal level with my patients.” –Dr. Baratta
“Dr. Baratta is wonderful. I feel comfortable when she’s here; she’s so welcoming and makes me smile.” –Lily, Physician House Calls patient since 2010
a program of Jewish Senior Life
This program is available to individuals 65 years and older. Call (585) 244-5993 or visit www.jslphysicianhousecalls.org to learn more. PRIMARY CARE
HEALTH ASSESSMENTS | CARE COORDINATION | MEDICATION REVIEW
July/August - 55 PLUS
Busy trio: From left are Bucky Gelo, Kevin Sprague and Tim Carmon.
Muckland Crooners Equipped with cigar box, weed whacker and pickle barrel, three-piece band gets back to basics By John Addyman “You kinda walk down this little dirt trail, and it’s pretty cool,” says Kevin Sprague, visualizing the scene for you. “They have it set up like an old juke joint or Cajun shack, and there’s a Ford Flatbed truck that sticks out over a pond – that’s the stage. The setting is kinda perfect for what we do.” That setting is the Bagg Dair Stage at Three Brothers Winery in Geneva, and the guys who think it’s perfect are members of the Muckland 24
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Crooners — Kevin Sprague, 61, Tim Carmon, 58, and Bucky Gelo, 68 — purveyors of original songs about life and the things it does to us in Upstate New York. Definitely an off-the-map acquired taste, the Muckland Crooners have been around in different iterations for about 10 years, started by Sprague and childhood friend Bill Parsons (affectionately remembered as “Captain Mudflap”) who wrote some of the songs the Crooners still
sing. Through the years, they’ve had as many as six members, but for this summer and fall, the magic number is three. And to know them is to love them. They have a following because of what they bring to every downhome performance. “The whole point of this thing,” said Sprague, “is that we do this primitive instrument thing, but the sound we come up with is pretty good. It’s a sound that doesn’t match the visual
of the instruments, so, when people come down the trail to hear us — and they see that we’re playing these old pieces of crap, kind of junk-looking instruments — it boggles their minds. That’s the fun part of it.” Sprague makes cigar box guitars. “I like to use old cigar boxes” he said. “They have to be wood, and the neat thing about them is you can actually date them because of the tax stamp on the back. Mine are all over 100 years old.” The bridges on the guitars are eyebolts or eyehooks, and one bridge is propped up and made level with a quarter. The guitars have three strings and are electrified. “We have to tie a ground wire to his ankle and ground him to the nearest pole so he doesn’t get hurt,” explains Carmon, who plays the washboard. “It’s called a ‘guitashboard,’” Carmon corrects, showing that it has a neck like a guitar, but the body is pure washboard, with an aluminum camp pot and cymbals attached. “Captain Mudflap gave it to me as a gift before
he left for Texas.” Gelo, the bass player, toils magically with a two weed whacker-stringed instrument that has a PVC pipe neck, a hand-carved head, and a resonating body made out of an old pickle barrel. Musicians will also note that the bridge is made out of a rat-trap, snapper and all. The sound the threesome gets from their instruments is pretty significant. “There is the wonderment of the disconnection between the sound and the visual of what we’re doing,” Sprague said, “when our audience sees we’re a band and we’ve got a total of five strings in the whole band. We’re playing two weed whacker strings on a pickle barrel for a bass and three strings on an old cigar box for a guitar.” Once audiences realize the Muckland Crooners are real musicians serious about having a good time, a wacky kind of fun ensues. Performances are part music, part banter amongst the group plus dialogue with the audiences; it’s always intimate and relaxed.
“We get a lot of people who come to our concerts because they’ve run into us over the years and have a good time with us,” Sprague said. “And it’s young and old,” added Carmon. “The kids take to it. We’ve had kids playing a guitar.” “Every now and then we get some unusual opportunities,” Sprague said. “We played for a Jewish Social Club. Their members travel all over the country and they have a summer vacation and gathered here from all over the country and wanted to have some local entertainment. They hired us to play at Seneca Park and we had a ball.” “We separated and showed them all about our instruments and gave them a chance to play them,” said Carmon. Sprague has taught classes at the Arts Center in Newark, showing kids how to put together their own cigar box guitars. Wineries like Three Brothers have been good to the Crooners.
The Bagg Dair Stage at Three Brothers Winery in Geneva is the perfect venue for the Muckland Crooners, who looked exactly like they belonged there.
The Bagg Dair Stage at Three Brothers Winery in Geneva is the perfect ve for the Muckland Crooners, who looked exactly like they belonged there.
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area bands — the Prison City Rockers, Blind Spot, Short Bush, and Ambush (with Parsons). The Crooners have two more gigs scheduled at Three Brothers Winery July 22 and Sept. 23, and two more dates in the offing if everyone’s schedule allows. But if the phone rings, more dates can be added. “For us, the root word is ‘fun,’” said Carmon. “This is a fun occupation and most everybody who’s been involved with this band plays two or three instruments.” “These guys are also very good sports,” said Sprague. “Bucky is a very accomplished stand-up bass player, among various other instruments, and he’s a good-enough sport to play an old pickle-barrel instrument with us. Timmy is also a very good musician and we relegated him to the washboard, and he’s a good sport about that.” “You get a lot of self-satisfaction in doing this,” Carmon said. “It’s not a money-driven thing; never has been. If it were, we’d be fools. Maybe you’ve heard the old expression that a musician is the person who loads
“It’s a lot of fun playing here,” Sprague said. “The typical audience is a bridal party, where all the girls are going out for their bachelorette party.” “They love to play the washboard,” said Carmon. “We call them up on stage to participate. They also enjoy photo ops with us.” “We get them involved in the show,” adds Sprague. Gelo is retired from managing music stores in Rochester and Virginia, and he’s a Navy veteran who spent time as a Navy Band rock guitarist. At the moment, he’s playing in four bands and making wine in his spare time. Sprague is a territory manager for a heating and air conditioning distributor and Carmon is one of his clients, a self-employed HVAC contractor. Sprague was a bit of late bloomer to music, but he and Parsons grew up together musically. Carmon, who picked up an instrument at age 9, has been with the Crooners about four years, and has played with a lot of
$5,000 worth of equipment in a $500 car to go make $50 at a bar.” “That’s me,” said Gelo. “Tuesday I made $20 but I had a ball. You watch their eyes, the people in the audience, and see their smiles, and a couple of people danced.” “You’re connecting with people on a nice level,” Carmon agreed. “They look to you for a little bit of a release, to take the stress out of the day.” What to expect from a Muckland Crooners concert? You’ll hear some of their original songs like “Small Potatoes” (“It’s just a small-potato town … ”), “Proud to be a Muckland Crooner,” and “Bound to Roll.” But the guys also do some Johnny Cash, Neil Diamond, Beatles, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Bo Diddley, Neil Young, and really get into “Young Blood” by the Coasters. You can check them out on Facebook, plus there’s is a limited sample of their music on YouTube, CigarBoxNation.com and ReverbNation. com. There’s one CD, “Small Potato Town,” but that’s hard to find.
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Our one- and two-bedroom apartments feature ~ Contemporary Kitchens Architectural Lighting Pick up an application today at: Skylights ULREDC French Balconies/Patios 312 State Street Energy Star Appliances Rochester, NY 14608 Deepstar Glaze Call (585) 454-5711 Counters Fax (585) 697-1185 On Site Parking E-mail LucinC@ULR.org and Laundry Secure Entry The Mills at High Falls On-Site Management has been designed with style,comfort and convenience Community Room in mind. Our apartments are exactly what people looking for a unique urban living experience are hoping New Lofts, Townhouse and Flats in the heart of Rochesters to find — downtown luxury living at a surprisingly historic High Fall District. The Mills at High Falls features large affordable price. Heat is included.
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Genesse River. Heat is inculded. Our one- and two-bedroom apartments feature ~ Contemporary Kitchens Architectural Lighting Pick up an application today at: Restaurants n Frontier Field n High Falls Festival Site Skylights n Genesee River Gorge Trails ULREDC Pont de Rennes Bridge French Balconies/Patios 312 State Street Energy Star Appliances Rochester, NY 14608 Deepstar Glaze Call (585) 454-5711 Counters Fax (585) 697-1185 On Site Parking E-mail LucinC@ULR.org and Laundry Secure Entry On-Site Management Community Room
312 State Street Rochester, NY 14608 Call: (585) 454-5711 Email: Vwilliams-briggs@ULR.org
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Our C A S F E D C O a S O C
Time to Move On ‘My house used to be filled with noise, chatter and chaos — it almost echoes now…’ By Donna Cordello
e were always ‘the house,’ the one where everybody congregated — the place where all my children’s friends slept over and woke up to a huge Sunday brunch, the place where the entire family celebrated birthdays and all of the holidays. I would whip up dinners for 25 people without breaking a sweat. Now, I cook as little as possible and my favorite thing to make is reservations. I weeded, mowed and mulched my yard, which was always littered with bicycles, balls and toys. I planted a large vegetable and herb garden. Then, my knees and back started begging me to hire landscapers and support local farm markets. So I listened and did both. My children and their cousins would swim in our pool until their lips turned blue. And for years, when it was dark and without anyone around. I’d strip off my clothes and go ‘chubby’ dipping every night. That changed when the vast field behind us filled up with dozens of houses. Now, I’m the only person who
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still uses the pool and it’s just not the same. No more chubby dipping and my husband complains louder every year about the pool maintenance, which he compares to a part-time job. My house used to be filled with noise, chatter and chaos — it almost echoes now. The kitchen and dining room tables, which were always full, host empty chairs. The bedrooms, which were once littered with piles of clothes, book bags and instruments, now have spotless floors and unoccupied beds. So a house that we built years ago to grow our children up in has apparently outgrown us. And like many of other people in our situation, we are thinking about downsizing, which is both exciting and somewhat terrifying, especially for someone like me, who becomes attached to people, places and things. I realize some people move frequently and it’s not a big deal. But I’m not one of them. I’ve literally only lived in a handful of places my entire life and at this address for almost half of my life. Just the thought of packing up almost three decades of all the stuff we’ve accumulated over the years
gives me anxiety. I’m overwhelmed and don’t know where to start. I’ve been told that it’s best to keep the things you love and get rid of the things you don’t like or haven’t used in a year. I figure if I start weeding out now, I might be ready in a year or two. It sounds so simple in theory but I find myself interrupted with nostalgia. From tee ball to varsity, I’ve kept all the sports jerseys my kids ever wore — along with baskets of trophies. I have their confirmation and graduation gowns, awards, report cards and certificates. I have every gift that they ever made for me; clay sculptures that are supposed to look like something, boxes of cards and, of course, paper Christmas ornaments. I shake my head and wonder, “Are they ever going to want these things after I’m gone?” I have junk drawers full of “just in case” stuff with items and gadgets that may or may not ever be used. I come across mystery items also, which look important because they apparently belong to something but I don’t know what. We have a garage full of cans,
gallons, aerosols and tools. Shelves of things we might have needed at the time but no longer serve any purpose. There are bins of all the things my children left behind here when they moved out. They didn’t take these things with them but didn’t want to get rid of them either, assuming Mom and Dad could store them – indefinitely! I have plastic tubs of photos. I always had the intention of organizing them someday, which still hasn’t come. Half the pictures are of people who aren’t alive anymore and in some of the old photos, I can’t tell which kid is which because my sons looked so much alike when they were small. Regardless, I’m definitely keeping them. It will probably be a good project for me if and when I ever retire. Or better yet and more likely, a project for my children someday. I become even more anxious as my husband and I face the next quandary. Where are we going to move? Should we stay in the same neighborhood we are so familiar with or venture out into a new one? Do we want a small house, a townhouse or a condo? Should we try to find an existing structure or go with a new build? It’s confusing and makes me dizzy. I remember the day we bought our lot which was just a mountain of weeds and dirt. I think back to the excitement of digging the first shovel into the earth and watching the masons lay blocks for the foundation. I was overwhelmed with all the choices we had to make from light fixtures to cabinets, paint colors to vanities, and coordinating all the people who worked on our project. My husband and I were not only the homeowners, but the builders as well. I recall the great sense of pride and excitement we shared when our house was completed. But we were still far from done. We scrimped and saved every year in order to cross off another line from our wish list. We waited two years until we could afford to buy a dining room set. Another year we added on a deck and yet, another a sidewalk. Seeds grew into grass. The tiny saplings grew into trees and the minute balls of sticks and leaves became huge bushes. The bulbs magically sprouted into splashes of colorful flowers. Our children were young when
we built our house. So were we. Our house was new and fresh and full of hope and promise for the days and years ahead. We used and enjoyed every single room in it. We hosted parties and had thousands of dinners. We shared laughter and tears, celebrations and tragedies together, as families do. But, above all, our house was always full of love, which made it our home — and is the main reason it will be so difficult for me to leave. My children grew up here. They became adults and moved out, like they were supposed to do. Now, it’s just the two of us, living in a small portion of a large space. Someday, I’ll drive by and it will be the old house I used to live in. When we move out, we will be looking back at our past just like the new owners will be looking forward to their future. I hope they bring it back to life and these empty rooms will be messy and loud and chaotic, like they used to be. The garage will be overflowing with sneakers, cleats and sports equipment, and the lights will be on until the kids get home. I hope the next family will share and enjoy all the milestones of raising a family inside this structure, like we did. Nostalgia aside, downsizing has its benefits. There will be lower expenses and less housework and upkeep, which will be, now that I think of it, maybe wonderful! Until then, as my husband and I enter the next chapter in our lives, we will have a lot of decisions to make and a great deal of work ahead of us. We face the task of emptying a house we couldn’t wait to fill up. But, one thing is for sure. I will get rid of all the things I don’t need or use — and take the memories with me.
Donna Cordello, 60, is a freelance writer with local, national and international publications. She lives in Penfield and can be reached at donnacordello@aol. com.
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Hundreds of friends and family members gathered April 8 at the Greater Rochester International Airport to welcome a group of 43 local veterans and their “guardians” after their return from a trip to Washington D.C. as part of Honor Flight Rochester program.
On Wings of Honor Recent visit to D. C. brings back memories to 43 local veterans By Mike Costanza
undreds lined a long corridor at the Greater Rochester International Airport April 8 to welcome a large group of veterans back from Washington D.C. There was a lot of gray hair in the crowd — and a few wheelchairs — but Pat Gundrum was on her feet, ready to greet her husband, Vic. “My husband was in the Korean War,” the 78-year-old Greece resident says. “I’m proud of him.” Vic Gundrum was just one of 43 veterans that Honor Flight Rochester, Inc. flew to Washington that weekend. Founded in 2008, the nonprofit
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is one of 130 hubs of the Honor Flight Network. The all-volunteer organization transports to Washington D.C. those who served in World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War, and veterans who suffer from catastrophic illness. Once in the nation’s capital, the veterans visit the World War II Memorial, Korean War Veterans Memorial and other sites dedicated to their service. Bands play for them, members of the armed services tender crisp salutes in their honor, and the veterans are feted at a banquet. Volunteer “guardians” carry their bags and in all other ways assist them on
the trip — even the youngest World War II veteran is nearly 90 years old. Though the guardians are asked to contribute $300 toward the cost of the trip, the vets travel for free. Honor Flight Rochester pays the expenses for the six “missions” it flies each year, mostly with funds raised by local organizations and individual contributions. “Less than 10 percent of our annual revenues from contributions are derived from corporations,” says Peter Glennon, a US Air Force veteran and local attorney who co-founded Honor Flight Rochester and serves as chairman of its board of directors.
“The typical contributions are $20$30.” In front of the security doors that led to the disembarkation area, Chuck Macaluso, unit commander of the Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 20 Honor Guard, waited for Honor Flight Rochester’s guests. Thrice wounded in Vietnam, the decorated Marine Corps veteran had a personal reason for being there with the other members of the Honor Guard. “Everybody knows the history of Vietnam — how there wasn’t a welcome home, and the way the vets were treated,” the 69-year-old says. “Once the chapter started forming up, we said we never want another generation of vets to not have a ‘welcome home’ or a nice homecoming.” The doors slid open, and the veterans began trooping down the corridor to the cheers of the crowd. Vic Gundrum walked in with his daughter Sherry Martin, who had accompanied him on the trip as a guardian. Drafted into the U.S. Army at the age of 22, Gundrum found himself in Korea. “I was in the 24th Infantry Division,” he says. “Right up by the DMZ. I was the battalion commander’s driver.” The DMZ, or “demilitarized zone,” is a strip of land that separates North and South Korea. Though the warring nations had signed an armistice by the time Gundrum’s unit arrived in the area, the area was not completely quiet. “We were shot at, at the DMZ,” he says. The Korean War Veterans Memorial brought back memories of the terrible weather he and other soldiers experienced in a country where winters can be extremely cold. “We didn’t have much winter clothing — they weren’t prepared for Korea,” he explains. After leaving Korea, Gundrum spent two years in the reserves and another two in the inactive reserve. After leaving active duty, he drove for long distance bus companies and for the Eastman Kodak Co., and then steered his own tractor-trailer down the road. Nowadays, the father and grandfather shepherds a school bus part-time for the Greece Central School District. Not bad for someone who turned 83 May 18. Inducted into the Navy close to
Roger Thielking, left, enjoyed his visit to D.C. “It was reminiscent and nostalgic and very enlightening to see all of the new monuments,” says the 90-year-old father and grandfather. His son, Karl, accompanied him during his visit.
Vic Gundrum, of Greece, right, was one of the participants in the Honor Flight Rochester program that took local veteran to Washington, D.C. “I was in the 24th Infantry Division [in Korea],” he says.” I was the battalion commander’s driver.”
the end of World War II, Roger Thielking attended radio and radar training schools in the nation’s capital for 11 months. By the time he finished his technical education, there was little need for it. “Most other servicemen were being discharged,” Thielking says, with a touch of humor. “We were made ship’s company at the Norfolk [Virginia] discharge center, and we discharged everybody else and then ourselves.” The visit to Washington brought back memories of those days for Thielking. “It was reminiscent and nostalgic and very enlightening to see all of the new monuments,” says the 90-yearold father and grandfather, who resides at Heathwood Assisted Living, a community for seniors in Penfield. Thielking’s son, Karl, who accompanied him there as a guardian, found the visit touching, as well. “The thing that was highest impact was while we were in Washington, going to the memorials,” he says. “All of the people —just strangers —
would go up and thank Dad for his service.” As the mission drew to an end, local celebrities came together to praise the veterans. Popular WHAM-TV anchor Don Alhart emceed the event, in which Honor Flight Rochester President Rich Stewart, Monroe County Executive Cheryl Dinolfo and State Senator Joseph Robach of Greece all took to the rostrum to laud those assembled for their service to this country. The assembly then broke and all headed out, though at least one person present sounded as if she was ready for more. After seeing the Korean War Veterans Memorial and the Arlington National Cemetery through her father’s eyes, Sherry Martin seemed willing to look at them again—with another veteran. “I think it would be a great experience through someone else’s eyes,” she says. Counting all who disembarked at the airport that Sunday, Honor Flight Rochester has flown 2,477 veterans to the nation’s capital. July/August - 55 PLUS
Home Grown Humanitarian How Gary Mervis turned personal tragedies into triumph By Deborah Blackwell
ore than once, life-altering events shifted the path of Gary Mervis, a Rochester-born humanitarian whose resilience and strong dedication to help others is what drives him, even in his darkest moments. He suffered a debilitating car accident at age 18 that prohibited full use of his left lung. He lost his youngest daughter Teddi, 9, to brain cancer. Mervis may be best known for his two-decade stint in politics, and from what he feels is his greatest gift — founding and running Camp Good Days and Special Times in Mendon. The free residential camp for children with cancer is one of the largest organizations of its kind in the country. “I just feel those for whom much has been given, much is expected. I have always had a feeling of wanting to make a difference in people’s lives,” said Mervis, 72, who founded Camp Good Days and Special Times in 1979. “To give something back, that’s what 32
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you do, and I learned that first from my parents. They always truly believed in helping if they could.” It was his underprivileged childhood growing up in the city of Rochester with his brother and two hardworking parents that Mervis said first helped him appreciate the value in helping others. His father sold clothes at the Old National Clothing Company and his mother was a hairdresser who owned her own salon. They always rented home, he said, but it never pazed Mervis, who spent long afternoons at the local recreation center. Mervis was drawn to recreation early and wanted to be a physical education teacher. But a serious car accident shortly after high school derailed that dream when his rib cage dislocated, limiting his ability to expand his left lung. With the risk of surgical repair too high, he changed his plans. “The doctors said I couldn’t pursue physical education but I could live a normal life without the sur-
gery,” said Mervis. “After I healed from the automobile accident and realized college wasn’t for me, I got a job as assistant produce manager for Star Supermarkets and decided to marry the girl I had been going with.” But it wasn’t long before Mervis realized supermarket management was not his calling. “I asked myself, ‘Gary, do you really want to do this for the rest of your life?’ and I knew the answer,” he said. So he borrowed $180 for tuition from his uncle and enrolled in the recreation program at Monroe Community College in Rochester. In spite of his injury, Mervis pushed forward with his dream of a career in recreation. The summer after his first semester at MCC, he knew he was on the right path, but also knew he might need to pull some strings to secure a role working for the City of Rochester’s Recreation Department. “In those days, recreation positions were all political,” said Mervis.
Gary Mervis at the recreation facility of Camp Good Days and Special Times in Branchport, on the shores of Keuka Lake. Photo by Chuck Wainwright.
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“But one of my mom’s clients was the secretary with the Democratic committee, and with her help, I went to see my ward leader and got a job working on the playgrounds. I had a great summer.” He was asked to stay on with the department permanently and was able to attend MCC in the mornings and go to work in the afternoons. But that still wasn’t enough for Mervis — He wanted to manage his own recreation department. He took civil service exams and after graduating from MCC, enrolled at SUNY Brockport. For three years, Mervis studied and worked seven days a week. He ran the Carter Street Recreation Center and obtained a bachelor’s degree in recreation administration and a master’s degree in urban sociology. Then his path changed again.
Into the political arena After attending the National Recreation and Park Association conference in 1971, Mervis received a phone call from the mayor of East Brunswick, N.J., inviting him to interview for the directorship of the recreation program there. He accepted the job. But when he realized the cost of living was significantly higher in New Jersey than Rochester, he decided to commute each week.
Camp Good Days and Special Times, founded by Gary Mervis in 1979, has served nearly 50,000 campers from 22 states and 35 countries. For several months, Mervis drove five hours one way to work, living in a motel room each week while his wife Sheri and three children remained in Rochester. It wasn’t long before Mervis found another job in his hometown, this time overseeing Vietnam veterans returning home from war. But it was his part-time role teaching an evening communications class at the College Cooperative Center in 1972 that led him into politics. One of his students did an extra-credit project volunteering to work on a political campaign that introduced Mervis to former New York State Assemblyman and Monroe County Republican Chairman Don W. Cook. Shortly thereafter, Cook offered him a job as his executive assistant. “My dad said, ‘You can always find a job, but this is an opportunity that might never come again,’” said Mervis. “Here I was this guy that nobody knew. I didn’t come from a
political family, yet there I was. So I changed my voter registration to Republican and spent the next 22 years working in various roles in the New York State Assembly in Albany and Rochester.” There were times Mervis had to “pinch himself,” he said. He worked on both the local and state levels as a political strategist directing more than 75 campaigns. He was an administrative aide to Assembly Speaker and Minority Leader Perry B. Duryea, and an executive assistant to Assemblyman James F. Nagle. Throughout his tenure in politics, Mervis’ true nature of helping others was not always dictated by his party affiliation. “You learn there are good people in both parties, and you try to support people in both parties,” he said. “I never thought about what I would do down the road if we lost the election, so I sat on various committees.” Little did Mervis know his time on a pediatric hospice care committee was foreshadowing his future.
To the edge In April, 1979, Mervis learned his youngest of three children, daughter Teddi, was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor, so he left his career in politics. “Needless to say, whatever was
Campers at Camp Good Days and Special Times launch more than 100 balloons over Keuka Lake in Branchport during a summer program for children who have lost a parent or sibling to cancer. Photo provided. 34
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important the day before, it’s not so important the day after someone you love is diagnosed with cancer,” he said. “I could have never kept the kind of schedule I was keeping with her if I had stayed working in politics.” He became his daughter’s primary caregiver, which he said to this day was the hardest thing he has ever had to do. But it was not the nine-hour craniotomy or the eight weeks of radiation therapy following the surgery that were the hardest for Teddi or her father. It was the loneliness. “Here is my little girl, 9 years old, trying to understand why this was happening to her. It was 1979 and there weren’t computers or smart phones. In her world, like most 9-yearold children’s world, understanding life is what you see and hear,” said Mervis. “She was the only one dealing with cancer, and I can remember her looking up at me trying to help her understand why this was happening to her. I would try to explain it then go into the bathroom, lock the door and start crying. I couldn’t help her; I didn’t even understand what was happening.” Mervis said the cruelest part of cancer for a child is that it robs them of the childhood feeling of invincibility, the special time when we think we’re going to live forever, and he struggled with that. It was only by chance while watching NBC’s “Today Show” that Mervis saw a story about a camp for children with cancer. He was so excited about it that he called the show and spoke with the reporter who did the story. Mervis knew then what he needed to do for his little girl. He called the physician running the camp in Kalmazoo, Mich., to find out how he could start a camp in Rochester. “It was a relatively new concept. There were only three camp programs in the country. It was a way for the clinicians to see their patients outside of the clinical setting and the children to see their doctors outside of the hospital,” said Mervis. “But because it was specific to each child’s doctor and hospital, Teddi could not participate.” Determined to offer Teddi an opportunity to experience something that might help her better understand and cope with her terminal illness, Mervis called three New York state facilities and learned there were over
Campers at Camp Good Days and Special Times in Branchport enjoy lunch in the dining hall during a week-long summer program for children between the ages of 8 and 12 who have cancer.
Campers at Camp Good Days and Special Times jump into Keuka Lake in Branchport
Gary Mervis (right,) talks with Rep. Louse Slaughter (D-Fairport) and Rep. Tom Reed (R-Corning) about Cancer Mission 2020, a grass-roots initiative with a goal to put an end to cancer. Mervis presented signatures in support of the project to Reed and Slaughter to give to then Vice President Joe Biden. July/August - 55 PLUS
1,100 children being treated for cancer in those three hospitals alone. That was more than enough to start a program in Rochester, and after calling on everyone he knew who had offered to help, that’s just what Mervis did.
Escape mode Camp Good Days and Special Times is a place where children with cancer can have fun, fit in, and spend time with peers outside of treatment facilities while still being clinically supervised. “We had no money, no staff, but we had the children. There are a lot of children who need help,” Mervis said. “Nothing we did could be associated with trying to find the answer. It was more about trying to find a way to improve the quality of life for those families at no cost to them.” Word quickly spread through the medical community about the project and it was only a short time before Martin Klemperer, former chief of pediatric oncology at the University of Rochester, agreed to become the camp’s medical director. He stayed on for the next 27 years, and Mervis credits Klemperer with helping bring the dream of the camp to fruition. Camp Good Days and Special Times was the first cancer camp program for children started by a layperson, and the first in the United States to also establish a program for siblings, for other children of a parent with cancer. It has served nearly 50,000 campers from 22 states and 35 countries — free of charge — and is used as a model by other child cancer treatment centers, according to Mervis. Bridgette Merriman, 19, of Penfield, attended Camp Good Days when she had Hodgkin’s lymphoma at age 11. She loved the camp so much she wrote a speech about it for her high school English class. “I can say with confidence that
Gary Mervis (center) founder of Camp Good Days and Special Times and Bat McGrath (right) a folk singer from Tennessee and his wife, Tricia Cast during the camp’s Doing A World of Good summer program, a program for children from around the world who have cancer. McGrath composed a song for Camp Good Days in 2015. my weeks at Camp Good Days are my favorite times of the year. Gary, the Camp Good Days staff and the volunteers are completely invested in making sure campers have the time of their life, and this loving community helps restore the courage that cancer takes away,” she said. “In a weird way I can say that I am lucky to have had cancer because it brought me to Camp Good Days.” Although he sees many success stories, Mervis said he also never thought in his lifetime he would attend so many funerals with parents bury-
Camp Good Days and Special Times Camp Good Days and Special Times is the first cancer camp program for children started by a layperson, and the first in the United States to also establish a program for siblings, for other children of a parent with cancer. For more information on Camp Good Days and Special Times, call 585-624-5555 or 800-785-2135, or visit www.campgooddays.org. 36
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ing their children, and was struck by the pain of that. In 2010, he launched Cancer Mission 2020 — a grass-roots initiative with a goal to put an end to cancer. “The reality is that 11,000 Americans a week are dying from cancer, the second-leading cause of death in the United States,” said Mervis. “One in four people; that’s not acceptable.” Amy Swanson of Stafford understands first hand what it’s like to make unthinkable decisions and deal with life and death. Her son Anders has a brain tumor. “We are so fortunate to have Camp Good Days and especially Gary as an integral part of our family. Gary fosters that safe place where kids can be kids despite the struggles and scars that cancer has left on them — socially, emotionally and physically,” she said. “I will forever be grateful to
Gary for giving Anders that which I can not.”
Selfless approach In spite of witnessing unimaginable tragedy, Mervis said being involved with Camp Good Days and Special Times has been the most important part of his life. But so was politics, and he keeps his connection to that strong. He still works 70 hours each week on his humanitarian callings, including his PAVE initiative: Partners Against Violence Everywhere, and several other affiliated programs to curb crime and violence in the Rochester area. “For almost 40 years, Gary Mervis has turned personal loss into a labor of love that has made a huge difference in the lives of so many children and their families,” said State Sen. Rich Funke (R-Fairport). “From Camp Good Days, to Cancer Mission 2020, to the Courage Bowl, to Project Exile and more, Gary’s impact has been irreplaceable and will be felt in our community for generations to come.” Mervis also coaches football at St.
“Gary and I share the work ethic and understanding that when you are blessed you should always give back. We try to do that every day by providing important programs supporting those in need, and hope we are making the world a better place.” Wendy Bleier-Mervis, executive director, Camp Good Days and Special Times John Fisher College in Rochester and prides himself on being the longest member of their staff — 27 seasons to be exact. He does find time to relax with his wife Wendy of 22 years, the executive director of Camp Good Days and Special Times, and their three dogs. They also love spending time with Mervis’ two grown children and their families, including five grandchildren. But he’s not ready to retire and appreciates all the people who have
come into his life and shared in his dreams. “There is no limit to what we can accomplish as long as it doesn’t matter who gets the credit,’” said Mervis. “I saw that phrase on the wall of one of the hospitals a long time ago and have tried to base my life on that. We all have gifts and if we pull together we can make a difference.” In 1982, Mervis asked writer and former St. John Fisher College professor Lou Buttino to pen a biography about his daughter Teddi in hopes it would be helpful to others. Dedicated to all children with cancer, the book, “Camp Good Days And Special Times, The Legacy of Teddi Mervis,” is a story that not only shares Teddi’s plight and honors her legacy, but helps bring the attitude toward childhood cancer and death to the forefront. “I was in awe that a father would entrust me, someone he barely knew, with such a personal story,” Buttino said in the book’s introduction. Currently a professor of film studies at the University of North Carolina, Wilmington, he said writing the book was a life-changing experience.
Network of Care
Camp Good Days buoyed by compassionate volunteers In 1979, Elizabeth “Teddi” Mervis was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor at the age of 9. Her father, Gary Mervis, traveled across the country to major medical centers seeking the best possible treatment for his daughter, but returned home without the answers he hoped. He then realized it was not the surgery or treatment protocols causing Teddi the most pain, but it was the loneliness of being the only child in her school and neighborhood dealing with cancer. With the help and support of many friends and community members in the Rochester area, Mervis founded Camp Good Days and Special Times, Inc., a nonprofit organization to provide Teddi and other children with cancer the opportunity to enjoy a residential camping experience just for them, outside of a clini-
Wendy Bleier-Mervis, exeuctive director of Camp Good Days and Special Times, wife of Gary Mervis, who founded the camp in 1979, enjoys a ride with campers on Keuka Lake win Branchport, during a 2015 summer program for campers age 8-12 with cancer. July/August - 55 PLUS
cal setting, with peers who could truly understand what it feels like to be a kid with cancer. At Camp Good Days, participants have the opportunity to regain some of what cancer has taken away from them — time to be a child rather than a cancer patient in a fun setting surrounded by caring and compassionate staff and volunteers. “Camp Good Days is a place that nowhere else compares. As you set foot on the grounds there’s a change in you. You feel like your true self again, before the chemo, before the hair loss, before the surgeries, before all the countless doctor appointments,” said Katie Foster, former camper from Rochester. “The staff and volunteers see past the bald head and scars and are there to help you forget for a little while and give you the best week of
your life.” Camp Good Days provides residential camping programs at its recreational facility on the shores of Keuka Lake in Branchport, as well as yearround recreational and support activities and clinical care in the Rochester, Buffalo, Ithaca and Syracuse areas for children with cancer and the entire family. Camp Good Days offers all programs and services free of charge. Camp Good Days is a volunteer-based organization, governed by a volunteer board of directors. It relies on the dedication and service of thousands of volunteers to help provide programs and services, along with a small staff of employees. “I have known Gary for years and I can honestly say he is one of the most genuine and selfless individuals that I know. He took one of life’s
hardest pills to swallow and turned it into something positive,” said Congressman Tom Reed (R-Corning). “His drive to organize Camp Good Days and his efforts to end cancer has helped so many families in our region and across New York. His dedication to this work goes above and beyond anything I have seen. Gary is a great asset to our community and I am proud to call him a friend.” While Camp Good Days will not find a cure for cancer or other life-threatening challenges, everything is done in an effort to provide something special for children with cancer and their families. Camp Good Days is a celebration of life, a place where courage knows no boundaries. For more information, call 585624-5555, 800-785-2135 or visit www. campgooddays.org.
Camp Good Days Programs Junior Good Days: This is a day camp program for children aged 4-7 who would otherwise qualify for Teddi’s Team, Doing a World of Good, Camp B&ST or Childhood USA but are too young to attend overnight programs. Childhood USA I: A residential camping program for children aged 8-17 who have a parent who has been diagnosed with cancer or sickle cell anemia within the past three years, and/or is actively undergoing treatment Childhood USA II: A residential camping program for children aged 8-17 who have a sibling who has been diagnosed with cancer or sickle cell anemia within the past three years and/or is actively undergoing treatment Camp B&ST: A residential camping program for children aged 8-17 who have lost a parent or sibling within the past three years to cancer or sickle cell anemia Teddi’s Team: A residential camping program for children age 8-12 who have or have had cancer or sickle cell anemia Doing A World Of Good: A residential camping program hosting children from around the world for 10 days, along with American campers (who attend seven days) with cancer or sickle cell anemia, aged 13-17 Men’s prostate retreat: The men’s prostate cancer retreat enables those dealing with this debilitating disease, and their significant others, the opportunity to network, fellowship, exchange ideas and attend information sessions together, all in a picturesque setting that provides the opportunity for fun and relaxation. Brain tumor family retreat: A weekend camping retreat for families wherein one member is dealing with a malignant brain tumor Women’s oncology program: The women’s oncology program at Camp Good Days fosters support and provides women who are dealing with cancer the opportunity to share life experiences. We offer a supportive spouse/ significant other/friend program for men and women dealing with cancer and their spouse, significant other, or friend. 38
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refugees Rescuing Refugees 55+
Pittsford resident and Keuka College grad making a difference in the lives of refugees By Todd Etshman
As if being a special education teacher wasn’t stressful enough, Lisa Hoyt wanted to get out of her comfort zone when she got a degree in social work at Keuka College after years as a teacher at the Harley School and Hope Hall. But she could not have imagined the new challenges she would face as director of refugee and immigration services for Catholic Family Center (CFC). She helps refugees from impoverished and war-torn nations escape terrorism, political, religious and economic oppression, and find a new life
of safety and hope in Rochester. Still, she says: “I’m happy I chose this path instead of what I was familiar with.” Refugee resettlement is an important part of American history and Rochester’s too. Italian and Polish neighborhoods were some of the first to be established here and Cuban, Somali and Bhutanese neighborhoods have been established more recently. “As the community’s sponsoring Mark. agency for all refugees resettled in Rochester, we at CFC see first hand how our community is enhanced by the arrival of our newest Americans who come seeking peace and opportunity and through their diversity bring new color to the fabric of our community,” said CFC president Marlene Bessette in a press release in response to President Trump’s January executive order restricting the number of refugees allowed to come to the United States from specified countries. Rochester has been a destination for over 15,000 refugees in the past 35 years and for 1,100 in 2016. As Hoyt explains, it’s a desirable destination for refugees since “we have established ethnic groups and the education, housing and employment capacity to make assimilation here successful.” Hoyt and her staff talk to schools, the Monroe County Health Department, potential housing sources, the Social Security
Lisa Hoyt helps the refugee population that moves to Rochester. She is the director of refugee and immigration services for Catholic Family Center.
Administration, and public welfare offices to help determine how many refugees can be successfully located in the area. Rochester receives around 1 percent of all refugees to the U.S. Hoyt speaks at churches, libraries, community centers and wherever she’s asked throughout the area to raise awareness of the refugees’ plight. “One of the things we have to do is change people’s mindset’, she explains. She said it’s the mindset that thinks refugees are taking American jobs away and living here at taxpayer expense. “I’m not asking people to agree, but just to listen and keep an open mind. These people are taking low-level jobs no one else wants. We’ve had doctors take cleaning jobs because their license to practice medicine isn’t recognized here,” she said.
Executive order hurts Fortunately, Hoyt’s message to the people has worked well enough to attract help of volunteers and donations, offering a hand of welcome most refugees have never had. Anyone wishing to volunteer or donate can contact CFC. Unfortunately, Trump’s executive order had a deleterious effect on her paid staff, which had to be reduced as a result of the decrease in refugees allowed in the country. Hoyt expects only 500 refugees will be allowed to resettle here in 2017. The president’s January and March orders were subsequently struck down by federal circuit court judges and lasted only four months, but as Hoyt explains, the process of refugee resettlement “isn’t a business that can you can stop one day and re-start the next. There are a July/August - 55 PLUS
lot of pieces to this spider web.” CFS is fortunate to have additional state funding sources for refugee resettlement and isn’t wholly dependent on the federal government. Among the countries included in the ban were Syria, Bhutan, Burma, Somalia, Cuba, Iraq, Afghanistan and Ukraine. “The reality is that very few of the refugees have committed or will commit crimes,” Hoyt says. “It [refugee resettlement] is not dangerous to our country.” To obtain refugee status, applicants must flee their country of origin and begin a two-year vetting process while living in a United Nations camp. The refugees have typically been living in unsanitary conditions without running water, been chased and hunted by militia, been hungry and malnourished and faced a host of other physical and mental challenges. For those who successfully beat the odds to run the gauntlet to a new life here, CFS meets refugees upon arrival at the airport then provides a three-month resettlement period that includes school and employment con-
tacts, housing, clothing and furnishings, English language classes and a case manager to help them adapt. Successful assimilation factors include language, age, occupation and how much time spent in a holding camp. Having family ties here already is also beneficial. Some will wait 20 years or more for the chance to come to the U.S. Not every refugee will make it. “We can’t save everybody but we need to provide opportunities for those less fortunate than we are,” Hoyt says. Today, refugee resettlement is still in a state of flux, Hoyt says. “We continue to receive arrivals although very limited,” she noted. She recently received word from partnering agencies that the Department of Justice is giving authorization to begin booking all cases ready for departure and weekly quotas will no longer be enforced. “I take that as good news,” Hoyt says. The 1976 Rush-Henrietta High School grad and longtime Brighton resident lives in Pittsford today with her husband and retired teacher,
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The Kamali family escaped from civil unrest and violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and lived four years as refugees in Ethiopia. They arrived in Rochester in 2014. Rochester has been a destination for more than 15,000 refugees in the past 35 years and for 1,100 in 2016. Numbers are down in 2017.
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New Life for the Founder of Writers & Books Joe Flaherty founded Rochester’s Writers & Books group in 1981, then worked at the organization for more than three decades. He is now gradually adjusting to new life as a retiree By Deborah Blackwell
wo years ago, Joe Flaherty wasn’t sure how retirement would suit him. After all, the esteemed founder and executive director of Writers & Books had spent more than three decades at the helm of Rochester’s distinguished literary venue. But last year his perspective changed, and he decided to embrace retirement without expectation. To the people who know Flaherty, this is no surprise, because living without expectations is exactly how he has lived his entire life. “I have the memories of the organization, but there’s now time for other things,” he said. “To be on the other side after all these years, it’s as if I was setting the table. Now it’s time for me to partake in the meal.” Flaherty’s optimism comes from an unexpected place. After his father died, his mother placed him and his two siblings in an orphanage in Pennsylvania. He was just 3 years old. The boy spent his life growing up without parents — or expectations — but with other young orphaned residents, lots of structure and books. “Reading was vitally important and I did it all the time,” said Flaherty, 70, of Rochester. “The books became my parents and I felt like I was learning so much more than from classes in school or textbooks. It eventually shaped what I did later on in my life.” Running a literary arts organization in Rochester was not Flaherty’s childhood dream — he wanted to be a professional athlete. He was the tallest among his peers until eighth
grade, when his classmates caught up to him in size. It was then when he embraced other possible ventures in his life. “Nothing was fixed in my mind, I decided there’s a big world out there and I’ll eventually get to see it,” said Flaherty. “I just assumed it would be something to do with reading, like maybe becoming an English professor. Then my life unfolded into a wonderful path.” After he graduated from Penn State in 1969, Flaherty made his way on that path. He moved to Rochester and obtained a master’s degree in photography from the Visual Studies Workshop. That’s where he met his future wife, Liz, and in 1975 the two of them took to the road — on a bus. Indulging in his love of books, for four years Flaherty traveled on a regular basis up and down the East coast, driving “The Book Bus,” bringing the work of budding authors and poets into communities, from college campuses to fairs and festivals. Backed by the Hudson Valley nonprofit publisher and photography magazine Aperture, where Flaherty was working at the time, The Book Bus helped support several small literary publishing houses. The endeavor was supplemented by grant monies from the National Endowment for the Arts and the New York State Council on the Arts. “We went as far as Maine and all the New England states and along the Mid-Atlantic. We could introduce people to these small publishers and see a lot of interesting places along
Joe Flaherty of Rochester, founder of Writers & Books, spent most of his entire life dedicated to reading books and supporting literature as an art form. After 35 years at the helm of Rochester’s premiere literary center, he retired in 2016. Although he still helps at Writers & Books if needed, he is catching up on plenty of reading, and is even doing his own writing now that he has the time. July/August - 55 PLUS
the way,” said Flaherty. “It was really eye opening.” The experience helped Flaherty bring the concept of a unified literary organization to Rochester. The city was ideal because it was already supportive of the arts and could benefit from a center focused exclusively on reading and the sometimes discounted art of writing, he said. In 1981, he opened Writers & Books in a one-room building on South Clinton Avenue. Its popularity grew so quickly that Flaherty moved the operation to a three-story, renovated police station on University Avenue just three years later. For the last 35 years Writers & Books has supported writers through reading and writing programs. The center welcomed both new and seasoned authors to speak, teach and facilitate. He initiated Rochester Reads, a city-wide annual reading event and opened the Gell Writer’s Center, a dedicated writer’s retreat in the Finger Lakes. Flaherty also established his own publishing company, Big Pencil Press. Nina Alvarez, an editor, publisher, writer and teaching artist in Rochester, praises Flaherty’s vision at Writers & Books in helping her build her own publishing enterprise, launch dozens of new authors, and even direct her own play. “What you have to understand is Writers & Books can change lives. Not just for writers, but for those of us in the business of writing,” said Alvarez. “When I moved back home to Rochester in 2011, I was a freelance editor struggling to get by. When I found Writers & Books, I found a place to teach subjects I am passionate about, find clients I love, and meet some of the most intelligent and compassionate people in Rochester.” In 1986, Writers & Books was named one of New York state’s “Primary Arts Organizations” by the state Council on the Arts — the only literary center to receive this designation. Today the nonprofit organization has more than 1,100 members. Author Elizabeth Osta has worked with Flaherty on her own writing projects. She is the author of “Jeremiah’s Hunger” and credits Flaherty for helping change people’s lives from his ability to be both sensitive and sensible when it comes to creativity. 42
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Joe Flaherty has plenty of time now to enjoy some of his personal interests including traveling, reading and writing and his favorite pastime, being with with his wife Liz, daughter Alexa Scott-Flaherty of Brighton, and his two grandchildren Orla and Liv. “Joe has a unique ability to listen and take what he has learned and weave it into something that benefits the community,” she said. “His spirit of trust and openness created an environment in which one could experiment and grow. It doesn’t get much better than that.” That sensibility carried him through an unfolding mission to introduce people to literature through community programs. The experience came with plenty of surprises, he said. Flaherty developed an infrastructure introducing new authors to audiences, and enjoyed when that author became, what he calls, a “big name.” He likened it to minor league baseball — introducing potential greats on their way up, like authors Ann Patchett or Terry McMillan. “The early mission was very simple and broad — add literature as an Writers & Books is a literary arts organization in Rochester that supports the community through reading and writing programs; welcomes both new and seasoned authors to speak, teach and facilitate; promotes Rochester Reads, a city-wide annual reading event; and runs the Gell Writer’s Center, a dedicated writer’s retreat in the Finger Lakes. Writers & Books also has its own publishing company, Big Pencil Press.
art form to the cultural landscape of the community,” said Flaherty. “And then things happened you can’t imagine.” He certainly did not imagine meditating at the Rochester Zen Center on Buddha’s birthday with iconic American poet Allen Ginsberg, who came to Writers & Books three times over Flaherty’s tenure — a memory he will always cherish. But Flaherty has had many profoundly rewarding life experiences that could not imagine, like raising two daughters after growing up in an allboys school as an orphan. Since he had never witnessed parenting nor was raised in a nuclear family, he wasn’t sure how well he would do at that job, but he succeeded. Both his daughters, now grown, are involved in the arts. Caedra Scott-Flaherty is a fiction writer residing in Brooklyn, who also teaches online workshops for Writers & Books. Alexa Scott-Flaherty of Brighton works for Writers & Books and teaches acting at the University of Rochester. “It’s very rewarding to see my children becoming involved in the enterprise I started and wanting to be involved,” he said. Flaherty’s wife Liz has also come a long way from her time on The Book Bus. She recently retired from teaching English as a second language in the Rochester City School District. Flaherty said she is helping him adjust to retirement and describes it like learning to drive an automatic transmission after having a manual one for so many years. “It took me a good six months to relax into being retired, your body and your mind are used to doing something for 35 or 40 years it’s hard to shift into something else, you keep reaching for the gears, he said. But Flaherty is also doing the things he put off because of his work. He and his wife are traveling, organizing old files and writing. Staying away from social media and new technology, he reads the old-fashioned way, with book in hand. His current passion is detective fiction and is reading books by an Irish writer named Tana French. “This next step in my life after retiring is as interesting and exciting as all the parts that came before,” he said. “I could not have imagined anything like this as a child.”
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By John Addyman
Forget Me Not Memory lapse? Hit that brain food! I’m having a problem with forgetting things. My wife would tell you I’ve had this problem since the day before we got married, but that’s another tale. I was in the office one Sunday, left in the late afternoon, and drove a mile before I did a U-turn and went back to the office. I thought I’d forgotten to lock the door. My problem, I think, is that I have a lot on my mind and I get deep in thought, and the next thing that happens is I’m standing in a room, wondering what I’m doing there, how I got there, and why am I carrying two wrenches and a banana. Last week, I forgot my home phone number for about four hours. I was tired, it was hot, I’d been working all afternoon and had worked really late the night before. So I forgave myself. But my phone number? Being the proactive sort, I decided I would take action and bulk up my brain. I started with food. I made sure my salad dressing had olive oil in it. Wild salmon was on my plate. I had eggs for breakfast, and no blueberry was safe around me. And out in the yard, the dandelion greens were quaking because they knew I’d be coming for them sooner or later. I even went to the health food store to make sure I had the right salad dressing for dandelion greens. Pretty soon, all that wholesome brain food was bulking up my brain so much that my head was getting tight from the inside. I was afraid one big sneeze would leave dura mater on the sidewalk someplace. So now I had to get my brain buffed up. I looked up some websites that get your brain finely tuned, the equivalent of having perfect abs. I was on the way to a perfectly ripped cerebrum. I landed on a website that guar44
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anteed to make you smarter, quicker, happier and able to remember things most of your old friends wish you’d forgotten long ago. First, you had to answer a whole bunch of questions to establish a “baseline.” This was good. I hear all these teachers and administrators talking about data-driven instruction, and here I was, about to assemble my own data with a software program made in Sri Lanka. After 15 minutes of very careful answers, I pushed the “submit” button and waited. It didn’t take long.
No baseline “You have no baseline,” the program told me. I figured I must have done something wrong, so I started all over again, and this time took 20 minutes answering all the questions carefully
and giving my opinion on things. And I pushed “submit.” “You have no baseline,” the program told me again. “What do you mean, I have no baseline?” I typed in. “First, you have a problem paying attention,” the program told me. “Didn’t we tell you that you have no baseline?” I was stunned and disappointed. Then I noticed the program was typing again. “Do we have to draw this on the sidewalk in chalk, Bozo?” I backed away from the computer. After a few minutes, I figured it was safe to go back to the keyboard. “Why don’t I have a baseline?” I asked. The program immediately started spitting out a line of type. “We don’t remember,” it said. “Go away.”
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I told my wife. “Have some eggs,” she suggest-
They say that folks of a certain age improve their memory by challenging themselves with puzzles and technically challenging processes. We don’t use our VCR anymore, so I couldn’t spend the afternoon programming that, but we do have Netflix. For some reason, when my wife and I decided to watch “House of Cards,” the policeman in Netflixland decided we were no longer trustworthy, and we had to sign into our Netflix account all over again, which is a pain in the TV remote. One by one, I typed in the keys for my email address, and the password we’ve used forever. The password didn’t work. After trying to key in the same password — which I knew was the right one — three more times, we gave up and asked for a new password. The Netflix nanny on duty that night was supposed to send us a process to create a new password, but first it wanted to make sure I was who I said I was. That meant Netflix was going to send me a code through my cell phone, which was in the car. Out to the car I went, grabbed the cell phone, and sure enough, the code was flashing at me. I got back in the house, keyed the code in, chose a new password, and went back to the TV to see if any of this was working. It was. We watched two episodes of “House of Cards” and called it a night. As we got into bed, my wife asked me, “I want to watch one of the previous episodes again. What happens if Netflix won’t let me in?” “Just use the password,” I told her. “OK,” she said. “What is it?” I looked at her for a long minute, first annoyed that she’d ask for the password because we’d set it up together, then laughing at how silly this all was, then thinking the unthinkable. The look on my face told it all. “You forgot it already, didn’t you?” she asked. I had a blank look on my face. “Better go out in the yard and pick some dandelion greens,” she said.
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July/August - 55 PLUS
55+ visits Learn About New York’s Native Americans 10 sites in New York will give visitors a good understanding of the impact of Native Americans in the state By Sandra Scott
he Iroquois, also known as the Haudenosaunee, were originally called the Five Nations — the Mohawks, Oneidas, Onondagas, Cayugas and Senecas — but were later joined by a sixth nation, the Tuscarora. The original homeland of the Iroquois was in New York between the Adirondack Mountains and Niagara Falls. Through conquest and migration, they gained control of most of the northeastern United States and eastern Canada. They formed a remarkable political and diplomatic organization called the League of the Iroquois, which united the Five Nations. So impressive was the league that drafters of the United States Constitution, including Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson, included ideas from the league — such as balance of power — in the US Constitution. There are several places in New York state to learn about the Iroquois; many have special events and several are seasonal.
National Museum of the American Indians, New York City: The museum located in lower Manhattan is part of the Smithsonian Institution. It is housed in the Beaux Arts Alexander Hamilton Customs House, which is of interest in its own right. The collection has thousands of artifacts, some dating back 12,000 years, detailing the life and culture Native American groups from the Incas to the Iroquois. Take note of the unique Incan Talking Strings used to recorded information. There is no 46
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Shako-Wi Cultural Center was built in 1993 near the Turning Stone Museum. It is designed to give visitors — Oneidas and non-Native Americans — pride and understanding of the Oneida’s roots and heritage. admission charge.
N e w Yo r k S t a t e M u s e u m , Albany: The South Hall is devoted to the first New Yorkers. There is evidence that the New York region has been inhabited for at least 13,000 years. Dioramas, displays of artifacts and art, and other exhibits span from the inhabitants from the Ice Age to the present. The museum has artifacts gathered by the Seneca anthropologist, Arthur C. Clark, who wrote, “Parker on the Iroquois,” considered the definitive book about Native Americans in New York state.
Iroquois Indian Museum, Howes’ Caverns: Located in Howe’s Caverns, the museum, housed in a building reminiscent of an Iroquois longhouse, is devoted to the art and
history of the six Iroquois, including featuring present-day artists. The outdoor is used for storytelling, talks and various performing arts. There is a special children’s area and a 45-acre nature park.
National Kateri Shrine, Fonda: The shrine pays homage to Kateri Tekakwitha, a young Mohawk woman born in 1656, who converted to Christianity and even though her beliefs caused many hardships in her life she dedicated her life to helping others and spreading Christianity. Kateri, referred to as “The Lily of the Mohawk,” was the first Native American woman to be honored with sainthood. There is a hillside Stations of the Cross leading to a statue of the Blessed Virgin, Blessed Kateri and other saints. A self-guided tour
booklet is available in the gift shop. Fenimore Art Museum: The Cooperstown museum has dedicated one wing to the Eugene and Clare Thaw’s collection of American Indian Art. The collection represents a broad range of North American Indian cultures, including paintings of Joseph Brant, a Mohawk military and political leader who played an instrumental part during the American Revolution. The museum also has outdoor displays of Iroquois housing and hosts special Native American events.
Shako-Wi Cultural Center, Oneida: Built in 1993, the center is located near the Turning Stone Museum. It is designed to give visitors — Oneidas and non-Native Americans — pride and understanding of the Oneida’s roots and heritage. At one time, basket-making was a source of survival. They have one of the best-documented basket collections, including nearly 90 baskets dating from the 1800s and early 1900s. Learn about the traditional crafts: basket making, shaping a stone arrowhead, carving a wooden bowl, making moccasins and ceramic pottery.
Visitors to the National Kateri Shrine in Fonda will see a statue of Kateri Tekakwitha, a young Mohawk woman born in 1656 who is the first Native American woman to be honored with sainthood.
Akwesasne Museum, Hogansburg: Located on the lower level of the Hogansburg library, the museum focuses on the Mohawks now and in the past. Interesting is their high steel work in NYC building the skyscrapers and their skill in basket-making. Basketmaking has remained an unbroken tradition over time continuing their strong tie to the land. The materials are harvested from forests and fields in the area. The Akwesasne have the greatest number of basket-makers in any one community among the Six Nations Iroquois Confederacy.
The Great Law of Peace Center, Liverpool. Once the site of Sainte Marie among the Iroquois, the center has been completely renovated and is now the Skä•noñh-Great Law of Peace Center, a Haudenosaunee cultural center. All of the exhibits are brand new but the recreated mission remains. The heritage center tells the story of the Iroquois from the perspective of the Onondaga Nation. The Onondagas, or People of the Hills, are the keepers of the Central Fire and
A 17th-century Seneca bark longhouse located at Ganondagan state historical site in Victor. The Seneca’s matriarchal society helped inspire the 1848 Declaration of Sentiments that led to voting rights for women. are the spiritual and political center of the Haudenosaunee. Learn about how the world came to be according to the Haudenosaunee and the importance of Hiawatha in the making of the Great Peace.
Ganondagan State Historical Site, Victor: It’s located near Rochester on a site of what was a flourishing Seneca community. The Seneca’s matriarchal society helped inspire the 1848 Declaration of Sentiments that led to voting rights for women. There is a new state-of-the-art museum plus a 17th-century Seneca bark longhouse. Walk miles of self-guided trails, climb the mesa where a huge palisaded granary stored hundreds of thousands of bushels of corn, and learn about the
destruction of Ganondagan, Town of Peace, in 1687. Seneca-Iroquois National Museum, Salamanca: The museum has more than a million objects in its collection, including ethnographic and archaeological materials along with photos and information about the Seneca, “The Keepers of the Western Door,” and a cut-away version of a longhouse and a log cabin. Another exhibit shows life in a log house from the once-thriving community of Horse Shoe. Outside the museum is a mortar stone where corn and other items were ground. The Seneca were the largest group within the Confederacy.
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long-term care By Susan Suben
LTC Planning: Good Things Are Sometimes Hard To Do
have clients calling me all the time saying they are thinking about long-term care planning but they don’t know what to do and maybe they’re too young to do anything. I’ll address the last quandary first. No one is ever too young to plan for LTC because we don’t know what the future holds. The average age of someone contemplating and planning for this risk is about 59 yet I am working with clients in their 30s. The reason for the downward age shift is that many younger people are seeing their parents or grandparents deal with a LTC illness and they are concerned about being able to take care of themselves. Also, the older you are, the fewer strategies to choose from and they will be more expensive. There is no arguing that LTC planning is complicated, intimidating and overwhelming. There are so many options to learn about: LTC insurance, life insurance policies with LTC or chronic illness riders, wealth replacement strategies, and irrevocable trusts. Planning for LTC is one piece of an overall retirement plan and a team 48
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effort. You should seek advice from an estates and trust or elder law attorney along with recommendations from your financial adviser and accountant. Whatever you do, don’t listen to anyone who tells you that you don’t need a plan. Will they come up with $144,000 a year for your nursing home care, make sure that the standard of living of your spouse/partner is not diminished if assets are spent for LTC or leave a legacy for your family? Planning is essential. Your health insurance will not pay for LTC — and Medicare reimbursements are limited and Medicaid requires that you spend your assets down to be eligible. Do the math. If you were in a
‘Whatever you do, don’t listen to anyone who tells you that you don’t need a plan.’
nursing home paying $12,000 per month for three years, your total expense would be $432,000. For five years, it would be $720,000. In an assisted living facility, it would cost approximately $180,000 for three years based on $5,000 a month or $300,000 for five years. Home care costs about $25 an hour. If you had eight hours of care per day for three years, your out-of-pocket expenses would be $218,400. So what can you do? Let’s look at a few of the strategies named above. A Medicaid Irrevocable Trust allows you to shelter your assets from a Medicaid spend-down. Medicaid requires that your assets be in a trust for five years before you can apply for Medicaid in order to avoid a penalty period. This type of strategy should be considered if you have a substantial amount of unqualified money (stocks, bonds, etc.) or real estate (your home, vacation home or rental property). Qualified funds such as pensions and IRAs cannot be placed in a trust. The simplest approach to planning for LTC is still a LTC insurance policy. These policies offer the most
robust benefits and ease of design. You can select a NYS Partnership plan if you would like to ensure total or partial asset protection or a traditional policy that has more riders, enhancements and couples’ benefits. LTC insurance will help you stay out of a nursing home. You can gear the benefits toward home care and assisted living. If your estate is mostly comprised of qualified money, once it is in payment status, it is not susceptible to a Medicaid spend-down should you enter a nursing home. Most individuals are staying at home for as long as possible. Consider placing your house in an irrevocable trust and purchase a LTC insurance policy geared toward home care. The premium will be much more reasonable. Reposition your assets by purchasing a life insurance policy with a LTC component known as a hybrid. You can leverage the death benefit with a rider to pay for your LTC expenses. If you never need LTC, your family will inherit the death benefit tax free. It’s a win-win strategy. A fourth option would be wealth replacement in the event assets are spent on LTC. For example, Mary is 65 years old and in good health. She transfers $75,000 into a single premium life insurance policy that buys her a death benefit of $221,782 and then transfers her policy out of her name. She leveraged her $75,000 preserving a legacy for her family and replacing the funds she might spend on LTC. This strategy does require satisfying the five year lookback period for transferring ownership of the policy. The best way to get on the right LTC planning path is to mark off the strategies that don’t interest you or are not in your best interest. Work with a professional team. Good things are sometimes hard to accomplish. LTC planning is a good thing even though it initially may be hard to do.
Susan Suben, MS, CSA, is president of Long Term Care Associates, Inc. and Elder Care Planning. She is a consultant for Canandaigua National Bank & Trust Company. Contact her at 800-422-2655 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Ideas for this article came from Sheila Cevera’s presentation, Alternative Solutions for Long Term Care.
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a Rochester-are runners — likeott Deborah DeM e — take on hug challenges despite age
and of breaking 537 incidents just Rochester in entering in Find out how five months. e hom r you ect you can prot
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July/August - 55 PLUS
last page John Burke, 92
By Ernst Lamothe Jr.
Pittsford resident has run for 50 years — still participates in 5K competitions in Rochester area Q: What got you into running?
A: I have been running for over 50 years. I was active in the Rochester Track Club a while back. We had races almost every week in various parts of the area. That enjoyment of running continued as I started to run marathons in my 30s. I was even able to run three Boston marathons and one in Canada. Boston was so incredible and I was in my 60s when I ran there for the final time. It was such a thrill to compete. Today, I mostly run 5K races in the area. Those short races are good for me.
Q: What keeps you going?
A: It is something that is just so relaxing to me. I enjoy going out to run because it really does clear my mind. I truly believe running keeps you alive. When I wake up, my routine is just to go to the canal around four days a week. I live just a mile away and it is just beautiful. When I run, I feel so free and relaxed. You really don’t have a care in the world and I can just let everything go. And it is even better when I can run for a good cause like the many fundraisers that we have here in Rochester
Q: Does the cold weather keep you from running?
A: Absolutely not. The way I think about it is that the canal is open all year around. There are very few days that I allow the cold weather to keep me from enjoying the great outdoors. I may run a little slower those days, but I am out there. It just keeps me young. People are surprised by my answer because we lived in Hawaii before and people probably didn’t think I could handle the Rochester winters at my age. But I love Rochester and it is an ideal place for me.
55 PLUS - July/August 2017
Q: How long does it take you to run a 5K now? A: Well I will focus on what I run
now and I recently ran a 5K in about 57 minutes. I still try to push myself. Maybe not as much as I did when I ran the marathons, but I do try to keep a good pace. When I was younger it was a little more about getting the fastest times possible. But now the joy of running is good enough for me.
Q: How is your overall health with all this running? A: I’m doing pretty good. Of
course the knees aren’t as great as when I was running in my 30s and 40s, but nothing prevents me from going out on that trail and enjoying a good jog. You just have to know your body as you get older and make sure you can handle everything. I don’t run everyday so I give my body some time to rest.
Q: What do you do for fun other than running?
A: I’m lucky to be in a great community in Cloverwood, an independent living facility that I really enjoy everyday. I get to interact with people and I take care of my wife. There is always something going on and it is a great environment. We help each other out and we are always having a good time. I am always trying to get people to consider running. I also enjoy myself by taking walks with my wife and I have children and grandchildren that keep me happy and active.
Q: What advice do you have for other senior citizens?
A: You have to enjoy life and move around a little bit. I am always
telling people that exercise is the key to staying young. Even if all you are doing is walking. There is something about breathing in fresh air and enjoying the peace of nature that keeps you young and excited to wake up every morning.
Q: Can you talk about your military service?
A: In 1941 when the war broke out, many of my classmates left to join the military. However, my father said, “you’re not leaving until you get your high school degree.” That was one of the best things my dad ever said to me. I really am grateful for that. After high school, I joined the Navy in 1943 and was sent to service school in fire control. I was trained to operate electro-hydraulic gun systems of cannons on the ships. There were 26 ships in my squadron and they took 200 marines and their tanks from Honolulu to the Battle at Iwo Jima, which lasted roughly about a month. They dropped off the marines; however many of them were killed because the Japanese were prepared for their arrival. The next island the squadron moved on to was Okinawa. The navy was a great experience.
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