Should You Consider a Reverse Mortgage Now?
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Issue 66 â€˘ November/December 2020 For Active Adults in the Rochester Area
Wade Norwood Common Ground leader is on a mission to bring quality health care to underserved in Finger Lakes region
n Once in a Lifetime
Newlywed couple drops everything to sail the world
Jim Terwilliger Pumping Money Into Roth IRAs: Now More Important than Ever
n Early Retirement?
Pandemic has pushed millions of older workers into involuntary retirement
Longevity Gap: Wealthy Outlive Poor by 10 Years
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Had a Stroke. Back on Stage.
Musician Todd Hobin KNOW THE SIGNS • CALL 911 IMMEDIATELY
Central New York music legend Todd Hobin knew nothing about stroke — but he does now. That’s why he’s raising awareness about stroke risk factors and its signs and symptoms.
Fact: Stroke is the fifth leading cause of death and a leading cause of disability in the U.S. Important to know: Stroke can happen to both men and women — at any age. Good news: Stroke is preventable by managing medical risk factors and healthy lifestyle choices. What to do: Time lost is brain lost. So it’s vital to know the signs of a stroke — F.A.S.T. Four words to live by: Call 911 and say, “Take me to Crouse.“ When it comes to stroke, every moment matters. As one of just 10 hospitals in New York State tohave earned Comprehensive Stroke Center status, and with the region’s newest ER and hybrid ORs, Crouse offers the most advanced technology for rapid stroke diagnosis and treatment
Read Todd’s story and learn more: crouse.org/toddhobin.
TIME TO CALL 911
Should You Consider a Reverse Mortgage Now?
Nov. / Dec. 2020
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Issue 66 • November/December 2020 For Active Adults in the Rochester Area
55 PLUS ‘
Common Ground leader is on a mission to bring quality health care to underserved in Finger Lakes region
■ Once in a Lifetime
Jim Terwilliger Pumping Money Into Roth IRAs: Now More Important than Ever
Newlywed couple drops everything to sail the world
Find us on facebook
■ Early Retirement?
Pandemic has pushed millions of older workers into involuntary retirement
Longevity Gap: Wealthy Outlive Poor by 10 Years
Rev. Lewis Stewart, 74, president of United Christian Leadership Ministry, discusses Racial problems in the Rochester area 4
55 PLUS - November / December 2020
@ 55 PLUS ROCHESTER
Savvy Senior 6 12 ADVENTURE • Newlywed couple drops everything to Financial Health 8 sail the world Dining Out 10 16 WOODWORK • Victor woodturner breathes music and Addyman’s Corner 47 creativity into wood sculptures
55 PLUS 39
32 BOOKS • A universal tale of appreciating life no matter what
34 SECOND ACT • John Gerhard brings corporate savvy to the Bird House
• Pandemic has pushed millions of older workers into involuntary retirement
• Time to review your insurance policies
• Mario Arena’s basement show-and-tell of his life
• Longevity gap: Wealthy outlive poor by nearly 10 years
24 GIFTS • Stumped for grandkids’ gifts? Consider subscription boxes
26 COVER • Wade Norwood: On a mission to improve health care in the region
44 MUSIC • Jim Richmond lives, loves, breathes music
48 LONG-TERM CARE • The benefits of serving your country
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savvy senior By Jim Miller
Should You Consider a Reverse Mortgage Now?
assive job losses, a volatile stock market and low interest rates caused by the coronavirus pandemic have caused many cash-strapped retirees to consider a reverse mortgage. But there’s a lot to consider to be sure it’s a good option for you now. A reverse mortgage is a unique type of loan that allows older homeowners to borrow money against the equity in their house (or condo) that doesn’t have to be repaid until the homeowner dies, sells the house or moves out for at least 12 months. At that point, you or your heirs will have to pay back the loan plus accrued interest and fees, but you will never owe more than the value of your home. It’s also important to understand that with a reverse mortgage, you, not the bank, own the house, so you’re still required to pay your property taxes and homeowners insurance. Not paying them can result in foreclosure. To be eligible, you must be 62 years of age or older, own your own home (or owe only a small balance) and currently be living there. You will also need to undergo a financial assessment to determine whether you can afford to continue paying your property taxes and insurance. Depending on your financial situation, you may be required to put part of your loan into an escrow account to pay future bills. If the financial assessment finds that you cannot pay your insurance and taxes and have enough cash left to live on, you’ll be denied. Loan Details — Around 95% of all reverse mortgages offered are Home Equity Conversion Mortgages (HECM), which are Federal Housing Administration-insured and offered through private mortgage lenders and banks. HECM’s also have home value limits that vary by county but cannot
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exceed $765,600. How much you can actually get through a reverse mortgage depends on your age (the older you are the more you can get), your home’s value and the prevailing interest rates. Generally, most people can borrow somewhere between 50% and 60% of the home’s value. To estimate how much you can borrow, use the reverse mortgage calculator at ReverseMortgage.org. To receive your money, you can opt for a lump sum, a line of credit, regular monthly checks or a combination of these. But be aware the reverse mortgages aren’t cheap. HECM loans require a 2% upfront mortgage insurance payment, plus an additional 0.5% annual charge, on top of origination costs and lenders’ fees. Any amount you borrow, including these fees and insurance, accrues interest, which means your debt grows over time. To learn more, read the National Council on Aging’s online booklet “Use Your Home to Stay at Home” at NCOA.org/home-equity. Also note that because reverse m o r t g a g e s a re c o m p l e x l o a n s , all borrowers are required to get counseling through a HUD-approved independent counseling agency before taking one out. Most agencies charge between $125 and $250. To locate one near you, visit Go.usa.gov/v2H, or call 800-569-4287. Other Options — If you have a shortterm need for cash, there are other options you should look into. For example, many low-income seniors don’t realize they qualify for the earned income tax credit, a refundable tax break that can put cash in your pocket. You also could use BenefitsCheckUp. org to search for financial assistant programs you may be eligible for. Another possibility is a regular home equity loan or line of credit.
Editor and Publisher Wagner Dotto
Associate Editor Lou Sorendo
Writers & Contributing Writers Deborah J. Sergeant Mike Costanza, Melody Burri Todd Etshman, John Addyman
Jim Terwilliger, Susan Suben Jim Miller, John Addyman
Anne Westcott, Linda Covington
Office Assistant Nancy Nitz
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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financial health By Jim Terwilliger
Pumping Money Into Roth IRAs: Now More Important Than Ever
t is no secret that I like Roth IRAs…a lot. The Roth IRA is one of the most-beneficial gifts ever bestowed by Congress upon the American taxpayer. Roth IRAs are funded with aftertax dollars. Most important, Roth IRAs are tax-free accounts. No income tax will ever be paid on the account’s income and appreciation, provided that certain conditions are met. While the beneficial features of a Roth IRA have always made it an attractive retirement savings vehicle, the SECURE Act boosted its importance. As detailed in my recent column, the demise of the “stretch” IRA for most non-spouse beneficiaries makes inheriting a tax-free Roth IRA much more desirable than inheriting a pre-tax traditional IRA. Yes, most non-spouse heirs must now empty traditional and Roth IRAs within 10 years following the year of the IRA owner’s death. But a nonspouse heir of a traditional IRA must pay income tax on all distributions over the 10-year timeframe. The heir of a Roth IRA can maintain the account in full force for 10 years, then empty
55 PLUS - November / December 2020
the account completely tax-free on the final day. A second, more-compelling factor is the high likelihood of increased future income tax rates. This will give each dollar in a Roth IRA even greater spending power than a dollar in a traditional IRA or 401(k). So, what are the best ways to enhance a Roth IRA prior to or during early years of retirement?
Roth 401(k)/403(b) Plans
Several years ago, Congress allowed employers to offer an aftertax Roth version of their retirement plans to employees. Many companies have made that option available. Contributions are not capped by a high salary, and annual contribution limits are high. At retirement, these plans can be rolled over directly to Roth IRAs income-tax free. Other workers may not have had this option or chose not to participate. However, some have had the option to contribute after-tax dollars to their Traditional 401(k) plans, resulting in a mix of pre-tax and after-tax money in these accounts. The IRS now allows
the separation of the pre-tax and aftertax portions at rollover time such that the pre-tax portion can be rolled over into a traditional IRA and the after-tax portion into a Roth IRA.
Roth IRA Conversions
Conversions of funds from a traditional IRA into a Roth IRA are allowed at any age and without any income cap. If the traditional IRA consists entirely of pre-tax money, a conversion is fully taxable. For a mix of pre-tax (from deductible contributions) and after-tax (from non-deductible contributions) portions, only part of a conversion is taxable. Be aware of the pro-rata rule. The tax nature of all of one’s IRAs must be considered when determining the taxable portion of a conversion.
A few considerations:
• Conversions can be partial. For example, an ideal time for many early retirees to carry out a sequential series of partial annual conversions is between the start of retirement and age 70 (if deferring the start of
Social Security benefits) or the age of 72 (when starting required minimum distributions). The strategy here is to limit conversions each year to stay within a lower tax bracket to minimize the tax impact of conversions. • “Backdoor” Roth conversions work well for those who are still working and have no IRAs. The strategy is to open a “shell” IRA, annually make a non-deductible IRA contribution (the limit this year is $7,000 for those age 50 or older), then convert this contribution to a Roth IRA. If no other IRAs exist, each year’s conversion is non-taxable. • This year presents a rare oneyear opportunity for some retirees to carry out a Roth conversion at a lower-than-normal tax rate due to the elimination of 2020 required minimum distributions (RMDs), thanks to the CARES Act. Here the strategy is to convert enough to stay within a lower bracket before entering 2021 when we expect RMDs to resume.
Stripping Pre-Tax Portions from IRAs Prior to Conversion
This is a unique work-around to avoid the pro-rata rule for those who have IRAs with a mix of pretax and after-tax money and are still participating in an employer retirement plan. If the plan allows, it is permissible to roll over the pretax portion of an IRA into the plan, leaving only the after-tax portion. A subsequent Roth conversion will then be tax-free. This is also a way to set the stage for backdoor conversions for those who currently have IRAs containing pre-tax money. The lesson here is that building Roth IRA balances is becoming increasingly important for estate-planning purposes and given the likelihood of higher income tax rates soon. The methods are many, depending on individual circumstances. Work with a trusted financial planner to develop your personal Roth strategy.
James Terwilliger, CFP®, is senior vice president, senior planning adviser at CNB Wealth Management, Canandaigua National Bank & Trust Company. He can be reached at 585-419-0670 ext. 50630 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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DiningOut By Christopher Malone
Flight of six 4-oz. pours ($12.50) at the Ginny Lee Café, the eatery next door to the building with the Wagner’s Wines tasting rooms and gift shop.
Wagner Wines, Dines, Beers — and Cheers
Finger Lakes winery gets a “W” for the win
lthough Wagner Vineyards, a Seneca Lake winery in Lodi, wasn’t my initial intention, sometimes trusting your gut is the way to go. I chose this location because of a photo of a chardonnay grape between a man’s fingers (@vineyardwarrior on Instagram) that stayed in my mind. With a push of the sun’s rays, the grape was glowing brighter than a lantern. It was a subconscious idea. It’s late September. The sun is shining. The foliage is changing daily, showcasing those beautiful colors that literally illustrate a New York state autumn. After such a year everyone has
55 PLUS - November / December 2020
endured, when a desire comes to fruition, even a simple need to just take a ride with the windows down, it’s important to give in and do something that will put a mind, body and soul at ease. As I sat at on the deck of The Ginny Lee Café, the eatery next door to the building with the tasting rooms and gift shop, the view beckoned — take it all in, put down technology, snap mental photographs and indulge in the fresh air. That was the moment when the flight I ordered was placed upon the table. As an indecisive person (like myself) or for someone wanting to try it all, which is also like myself,
flights are great option. The Ginny Lee’s flights consist of six 4-oz. pours ($12.50, but $10 for four 4-oz. pours in the brewery). I opted for Daybreak Pilsner, Dockside Vienna Lager, Hop Tropic Part Deaux (a double IPA), Grace House Honey Wheat, CrossSection India Pale Ale, and the Glacial Grind Coffee Porter. Wagner Valley Brewery’s beer selection proves that you don’t need to go crazy and create elaborate brews to make an impact in the world of beer. The lighter options (the pilsner, Vienna Lager, and wheat) have great flavors and were quite refreshing. The IPAs are also solid with strong hoppy fronts and fruity finishes. The
The crabmeat rangoons ($6.45). coffee porter boasted a great flavor and complimented dessert. Honestly, I think Wagner Valley’s beer has gotten better. The last time I came here, I don’t remember enjoying the selection as much. The crabmeat rangoons ($6.45) and French onion soup ($4.95) kicked off my meal. The rangoons, which came as a serving of five, were very good. The crispy, fried wontons were filled with a creamy blend of crab and cheese, and a side of ginger soy sauce came on the side. The ginger was not overpowering but just enough; however, I didn’t pick up on the crab as much as the cheese and herbs. According to my server, the French onion soup has been the only consistent menu item. The Ginny Lee changes the menu seasonally but this soup has never been removed. After breaking the surface of cheese and bread, slurping down the beef broth stock, and enjoying each caramelized onion, it’s easy to see and taste why this item hasn’t left. Part of me wanted more of that stretchy, melted cheese but its OK. There have been a lot of salty French onion soups in my travels, and thankfully this is not one of them Next, the pizza of the day ($7.75) arrived at the table. All the pizzas at The Ginny Lee are personal-sized. This specialty pizza came with a red sauce, cheese (of course), ham and mushrooms. The flavor met expectations. The size was just enough. The crust, well, wasn’t a favorite.
Pizzas at The Ginny Lee are personal-sized ($7.75). This crust fell short for a few reasons. It wasn’t crispy enough but that’s something I always forget to request. Its softness came across slightly spongey. Perhaps spongey isn’t the best word but that’s how soft it was. It seemed like a type of crust you could find on the shelf of a bread aisle. However, the flavor wasn’t as bland as a communion wafer. Although I didn’t really need it, dessert completed the meal. I went with the bombe — a chocolate shell that housed tiramisu. Little whipped cream flowers helped decorate the plate and a maraschino sat on top. This incredibly light dessert was definitely worth it. The tiramisu was very good and so soft it almost felt creamy. The balance of cocoa and coffee proved this duo is a perfect match. I scheduled a wine tasting a couple days later because trying everything Wagner offers in one afternoon is irresponsible. Plus, spontaneous tastings are not happening due to COVID-19 restrictions. Wagner is requiring anyone looking to try their wine to go online and reserve a spot. It’s a very easy process that will take up two minutes of your time. Per person, each tasting is $8 to try five wines and enjoy complimentary popcorn. Food must be purchased as well, if you’re going to enjoy beer or wine. There were many things I learned and were reminded of regarding Finger Lakes wine: why New York excels at white wines, how this region
is along the same latitude as Germany (hence the wine similarities), and how this year ’s weather will affect the vintage. The staff members are very knowledgeable, eager to talk wine, and happy to answer questions. The Ginny Lee, Wagner Vineyards, and Wagner Valley Brewing offer so much. There’s also a huge lawn to enjoy, to set up a picnic and relax, and it’s a great space if you’re looking to tire out kids and dogs. It’s also incredibly affordable. For the food and the wine tasting, the total with tips came to around $57. If an outing to the Finger Lakes region is on your agenda, this place should not be missed.
Wagner Vineyards Estate Address 9322 state Route 414, Lodi, NY 14860 Phone Numbers Winery: 866-924-6378 Brewery: 607-582-6450 The Ginny Lee Café: 607-5826574 Websites/Social wagnervineyards.com facebook.com/WagnerVineyards wagnerbrewing.com theginnylee.com facebook.com/TheGinnyLee 2020 November / December - 55 PLUS
55+ adventure Once in a Lifetime Newlywed couple drops everything to sail the world By John Addyman
ou get to this time of your life — the kids are out of the house and on their own, the job has matured, and you’re really, really settled down‚ and you ask, “What’s next?” Simon and Carla Fowler got to that point five years ago — two days after they were married in Barbados with their four grown children as witnesses. “Carla suggested to me that we should sell everything, buy a boat and sail the world,” Simon said. “I thought about it for all of a few seconds and replied, ‘Yes.’ “Just 14 months later we stepped onboard our boat, Ocean Fox, in Croatia for the first time and began to make the dream a reality.” Simon, 61, and Carla, 55, are British. He was the managing director of a Live Events Agency in the UK. “I’ve staged corporate, sport and government events in 44 countries, including the G8 Summit in London,” he said. Carla owned a real estate agency in Portugal, then came to London and worked as a personal assistant. “I always say we met at High Wycombe Railway Station for the first time, which we did,” Simon said, “but we met online while living in London. Initially, the relationship did not progress any further — until the summer of 2015 that is. It was then when I sent Carla a text asking if she would like to meet up again. “At that moment, Carla was on
55 PLUS - November / December 2020
Two days after Carla and Simon Fowler married in Barbados, she suggested they pull up stakes, buy a boat and sail the world. Simon agreed. Their journey has covered more than 20,000 nautical miles (about 23,000 miles) and it’s still going. Photo provided
a layover in New York with her two girls and fortunately set her phone to roaming. She agreed to meet up with me the following weekend after her return to London. “Over a glass of red wine, we agreed to give the relationship a go for a few weeks and see how we would get on. We never missed a weekend and slowly but surely, our relationship blossomed and 18 months later we tied the knot — just after Christmas.” To get their dream of sailing the world’s oceans in motion, they needed funds. Ocean Fox, a six-year-old 40-foot catamaran, cost somewhere between €250,000-350,000 (or about 300,000 and $400,000 U.S. dollars). They sold their home and just about everything they owned. They flipped houses for more than a year. Carla worked five jobs. Simon had been a sailor since the age of 10. “I’ve owned four monohull yachts before and sailed around the south coast of the UK and over to France and the Channel Islands,” he said, “but I’d never sailed anything
as large or as powerful as Ocean Fox. “I had never sailed before, when we decided to make this a way of life,” Carla said. “As a child I grew up first in Angola and then in Brazil. My parents always had motorboats for fishing. When we moved on to Ocean Fox, my sailing experience was one weekend in the Solent and a five-day sailing course in Spain: this was a huge step up, to go from there to crossing the Atlantic.” Could someone who owned a large sailboat on Lake Ontario translate those skills to a craft and a lifestyle like Ocean Fox? Simon had some advice: “The smaller the boat you have, the more you have to hone your sailing skills; on a larger vessel, things tend to happen a little slower. For example, going from a sailing dinghy to a small yacht is quite simple as you have the sailing skills. You may have to expand your knowledge of navigation, pilotage, tides, those kinds of things. “A good idea is to go on a week’s ‘Live-aboard Experience,’ this is different from a charter. The idea is,
The Fowlers sold their home and just about everything they owned to fund their adventure. They bought Ocean Fox, a 6-year-old 40-foot catamaran for more than $300,000. The Ocean Fox was built in 2012 and carries two motors, three sails, and has three cabins. you give people the real experience of living on a boat, the good and the bad; for example: checking in and out of countries, how to make fresh water, how to change and refill the gas, the ongoing toilet issues, provisioning and cooking on a boat. It is a great way to see if this lifestyle is for you.”
46 countries in 29 months Ocean Fox was built by Lagoon of France in 2012. She has three cabins, two heads with showers, two Yanmar 30HP engines, three sails, and can carry 400 liters of fuel and 600 liters of fresh water. She was purchased in Croatia, and the Fowlers weighed anchor and headed south to Montenegro, Greece, Crete, Corfu, Italy, Sicily, Ustica and Sardinia. They went past Gibraltar and Spain, then crossed the Atlantic by way of the Canary Island, Cape Verde to Barbados. They weaved through Caribbean islands, went on to Columbia and Panama and Mexico, then came back across the Atlantic via Bermuda, Barbados and the Azores, back to Carla’s home town of Viana do Castelo in northern Portugal. “We have visited 46 countries in 29 months — 22,000 nautical miles,” Simon said.
Along the way, the Fowlers became YouTube stars, regularly recording their adventures and places they visited. Watching Carla climb the mast and unfurl a sail in episode 129 is noteworthy. They learned a great deal about themselves on the way. “We have discovered that we can do whatever we want with our lives. Before we set off, Carla had not really sailed and I had not for 15 years, nor had I crossed an ocean. We had never run a YouTube channel or edited a video. I knew nothing of social media. But we learned together, and slowly we have realized, probably for the first time in our lives, that anything you want to do is possible. You just have to have a passion, a desire and learn quickly. Now we feel if the will is there, we could take on far greater challenges.” There have been some moments. “Coming back across the Atlantic was a hard passage for the two of us,” Simon said. They had a crew on the way west, but came back to Portugal alone. “The journey from the Bahamas to Europe by the way of Bermuda and the Azores was a long way: the lack of sleep, the constant movement of the boat and the ever-changing weather. It felt a long way and we were both
exhausted for a month afterwards.” On a trip from Portugal to Lanzarote in the Canary Islands, the Fowlers ran into the tail end of a hurricane. “We had 63 knots of wind in the original blow, and over 40 knots for the rest of the passage. The seas were like office blocks and just kept coming one after another,” Simon said. “We stayed hunkered down inside for the total time. Carla was seasick for the whole passage and after the third night, I was delusional and hearing things. But it came to an end as we neared the island. It was soon forgotten after our first meal in four days…and a cold beer.” Alone on the ocean, the best time of day is 1200 hours (noon). “We plot our position and calculate how far we have traveled and how far to go. We can travel anywhere from 140 to 185 nautical miles in a day,” Simon explained. That distance translates into 161 to 212 miles. “The daylight is spent resting, catching a nap, eating or reading. Starting at 7 p.m. in the evening, we split the night into three-hour watches: Carla normally does the 1900-2200 [710 p.m.] and the 0100-0400 [1-4 a.m.] watches and I cover the other two. We tend to listen to Podcasts at night to help the time pass away. We are 2020 November / December - 55 PLUS
monitoring the boat and watching out for ships or boats on the AIS system [Automatic Identification System] or lights out at sea. We limit the sail changes at night, but if we have to make some, we both go on deck with
our life jackets and harness on — we don’t want to go over the side at night.” Carla prepares most of the meals before they leave dockage to cut down on the cooking time during
The Fowlers fish a lot. They kept to a low-carb Mediterranean diet on their voyage and eat lots of fresh fish.
Simon Fowler checks the boat’s position and charts how far they’ve come and how much of the voyage is left.
The Fowlers’ Adventure
the passage. “We follow a low-carb Mediterranean diet and make little changes when we are at sea. We do fish a lot and we both enjoy having fresh fish to eat, including mahi mahi, tuna, barracuda, yellow jack and snapper,” Simon said. Their best day in the boat? “I think the time we spent in Los Roques, a group of islands off the coast of Venezuela,” Simon answered. “There are about 135 islands and all except three are deserted, the waters are blue, beaches are white and totally empty. We were in heaven for a week with island after island to ourselves.” Do they miss anything, being on the water alone for so long? “This life is very fulfilling. I did think we would miss our friends, as we were very sociable back in the UK, but it is so easy to meet like-minded boaters — you just pick a boat, knock on the hull and invite them over for Sundowners. Material things we just don’t miss, but when we were in the Caribbean we did miss good supermarkets, bananas, and the chance to buy clothes from the brands in Europe. “Carla and I feel very close, closer than we would have if we had not entered on this journey. We rely on each other for everything, including our lives at times. It is a small space and a long time with just the two of us. “ I would not recommend this lifestyle if the two of you did not get along well.”
Carla and Simon Fowler started and will continue to sail as long as emails. I asked questions and they their voyage in April, 2018, 15 they can. responded in detail. Then I asked months after getting married. Their To write this story about their a fresh set of questions until I had ship, Ocean Fox, is their home. Carla adventures on the seven seas, I enough for the story. has family in Portugal, so they have contacted them by email while they I now enjoy keeping track of tended to do a lot of sailing there were off the coast of Portugal. For them through their YouTube site, — but they have been to many, the next week or so we exchanged “Sailing Ocean Fox,” their Facebook many countries — 29 page of the same name, and counting. They and their website, may stay in a location sailingoceanfox.com for a week or more, (where you also help or go from port to sponsor them and check port, in a short clip, or out a lot of photos). travel a large expanse Some of the content of ocean — they've is travelogue, some is crossed the Atlantic wisdom and humor, and twice. In essence, some is do-it-yourself they're still traveling Los Roques, a collection of deserted islands off the coast of yacht repair. Venezuela, was a favorite spot for the Fowlers. 14
55 PLUS - November / December 2020
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Bruce Trojan: Musician Turned Master Craftsman Victor woodturner breathes music and creativity into wood sculptures By Melody Burri
any artists create music that fascinates the ear. Only a few create music that fascinates the eye and heart as well. Musician and master woodturner Bruce Trojan is one such artist. The 70-year-old Victor resident and Eastman School of Music alumnus has logged more than 35 years in greater Rochester as a sought-after trumpet player, published composer, arranger, recording artist and music educator in the Greece Central School District. Now retired, Trojan has turned his passion for musical expression and creativity into crafting unique wood, metal and plastic sculptures that all
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but stand up and sing. “Along the way, I learned the delights, challenges and importance of creating,” said Trojan from his sprawling, generously equipped home workshop. Specialty tools, chisels, electric saws, planers, jointers and lathes surround him. “I carry these lessons into my woodworking,” he said. Trojan’s creative spirit was stoked early on as a child. “I was always on the job site with my dad who built three houses by hand,” he said. “In my tweens I made my own skateboard, and when my dad came home and saw it he was so proud of me.” Trojan’s appetite for woodturning
Bruce Trojan in his Victor studio. Photo courtesy of Melody Burri. was solidified in his late 40s when his wife bought him a lathe. And over the past three decades, he’s designed, honed and perfected more than 50 wall-mounted and tabletop sculptures that depict music and creativity, along with utilitarian objets d’art, bowls, ornaments, vessels, tables and cabinets. Each one begs to be touched, studied and enjoyed. Trojan said he spends an average of three to five months on his more complex projects. Sometimes much longer. “I can’t just do it simply,” he said. “I always have to experiment and add things. For this last flower I did, I made one small piece for it five or six times until it was right.” How does Trojan fine tune the designs for his creations? By sketching them on an iPad, because “you can keep changing it around and mess around with color,” he said. “Creating a piece is like a form of improvisation,” he said. “And wood has a mind of its own. It doesn’t always cooperate and you have to change your idea or try a different piece of wood.
“Badda Bubinga” is a decorative guitar inspired by the styles of Pablo Picasso and Jimi Hendrix. Made of ebony, holly, spalted maple and bubinga woods, brass, gold leaf. Photo provided. Sometimes you just look at it and it speaks to you and tells you to go in a different direction than you thought.” Among Trojan’s creations are a series of wall mounted abstract guitar sculptures. The first, titled “If Pablo Met Jimmy,” blends the visual and musical styles of Pablo Picasso and Jimmy Hendrix, respectively. After it was damaged, Trojan designed another iteration in a similar style called “Badda Bubinga.” An intricate and award-winning piece called “Polyrhythm” was the result of an 18-person collaboration and is made of various woods, metals and plastics. Trojan designed it and acted as project manager, investing four or five months of daily work to put together. It depicts various orchestral instruments combining in harmony and includes work from an assortment of local craftsmen in the Finger Lakes Woodturners Association.
In any case, woodturners — and
“American Spirit Rising” depicts a patriotic popper created for a juried exhibit. Made of maple, compressed polystyrene, brass, molding paste, paint. Photo provided.
any master craftsperson — will need to temper their creativity and imagination with perseverance, perfectionism and patience, Trojan said. “I’ve made up my mind to be a productive man who has a positive attitude toward life,” said Trojan. “I want to find peace, joy, happiness and love each day.” To help him achieve those goals, Trojan said he’s moved almost entirely away from watching television. “If you’re a TV watcher, get away from the TV,” he said. “If you can yourself get away, you’ll find there are many, many things you can be interested in and do and get excited about. Make an oath to yourself and do something!”
Two musicians have been very instrumental in leading Trojan toward creativity, he said. One was conductor, arranger and jazz trumpeter Jeff Tyzik. The other was jazz trumpeter, bandleader and composer Miles Davis.
“Jeff and I were at Eastman as students together,” said Trojan. “We played in a rock and roll band in Buffalo and I remember all those trips back and forth, we talked about being creative and original. Now that I’m doing the visual thing I’m understanding how satisfying it can be to my soul and psyche just to be creating.” Miles Davis was an innovator who kept changing the direction of jazz throughout his career like no one else had, said Trojan. “He heard music like nobody else, and he’d create it, he’d play it, he’d write it,” said Trojan. “So I put a picture of him over my lathe because I do spend a lot of time there. And it helps remind me not to take shortcuts, to do it the right way — the way I want to do it. And if it isn’t right, to do it again. That satisfies the soul.”
On a journey
Trojan said it’s essentially a “spiritual experience” to search deep 2020 November / December - 55 PLUS
“To The Moon And Beyond” — “My goal was to take the traditional form and turn it into a much more ‘space age,’ ‘Jetson’s look’. I really feel I hit the bullseye,” says Bruce Trojan. The materials are cherry and maple.
“The Universe of Color” — Each painted circle has a burned “border” around it. Made of maple, acrylic airbrush paint, pyrography. Inspired by a painting by Rochester artist Fritz Trautmann. 18
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into his thoughts “and manifest them as finely crafted works.” “Creating is a spiritual time,” he said. “You’re reaching inside and learning about yourself and learning what you like and don’t like, what frustrates you. It can be difficult — it’s not easy for many people.” But when the finished product finally emerges after months of work, there’s nothing like that long, satisfied exhale, he said. “It gives me a tremendous feeling of accomplishment,” said Trojan. “It feeds my need to be a creative person.” Trojan’s style has evolved over the years. These days he’s combining lathe-turned wood with flat woodwork and metal and plastic materials that are first painted and then formed into shapes. The colors and shapes bring a sense of movement to the composition of each piece, he said. But it’s not the materials, nor is it the techniques that are central to Trojan. It’s the unleashing of creativity. “I am motivated by the process of creating beautiful pieces that bring a sense of feeling complete and totally alive,” he said. “My ultimate goal is to share the joy of this process with others.” Trojan is a member of the Finger Lakes Woodturners Association, a local chapter of the American Association of Woodturners, which boasts more than 350 chapters across the globe. FLWT members fuel one another ’s growth and creativity by swapping skill tips, techniques and ideas. And by collaborating on projects like “Polyrhythm.” Trojan said he’s learned much of what he knows today through the friendship and mentorship of these colleagues. “I’m most grateful for all the opportunities I’ve had in my whole life,” said Trojan. “Grateful I went to a great music school, that I married a lovely and talented woman, that I’ve had the opportunity to be a sideman in Rochester and play for so many stars and actually get to play in Carnegie Hall with Chuck Mangione. I’m grateful for the skills I’ve learned with wood. And grateful to have had loving parents and wonderful close friends. Mostly, grateful that I’m still here to enjoy it all.”
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Michael “Woody” Woodward of Rochester, 60, has been out of work since March 20. “It’s a really hard, difficult situation for those in entertainment,” he says.
Judy Mancini, 56, of Webster, lost her job at the Rochester Riverside Convention Center. “It’s a struggle,” she says.
Suddenly Retired Pandemic has pushed millions of older workers into involuntary retirement By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant
bout 2.9 million older workers in the U.S. — those between the ages 55 and 70 — have been forced into retirement because they have been laid off during the pandemic, according to data released in August by New School’s Retirement Equity Lab, affiliated with the New School in New York City. The study shows that if the trend continues in the next few month, an additional 1.1 million workers will have exited the labor force in the U.S. — for a total of 4 million people potentially pushed into retirement before they are ready. This is expected to increase old-age poverty and
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exacerbate the recession, according to the study. Judy Mancini, 56, is trying to avoid joining this statistic. The Webster resident had worked for the Joseph A. Floreano Rochester Riverside Convention Center as the controller of food and beverages and had overseen state permits for the center for 30 years when the pandemic hit. In March, she had a three-month furlough but by the end of May, her job was gone. “It’s a struggle,” she said. “Today, the job market isn’t what it was. Everyone’s working virtual.” She’s trying to find work outside the events industry in customer service.
With her background in finance, recruiting and management, Mancini appears very qualified; however, she fears age-related bias may hamper her chances since she’s much closer to retirement than candidates in their 20s. She began looking while furloughed — just in case — and has received few calls back. “It is nothing like what I thought,” she said. “My co-workers are still in contact. It isn’t personal but there are days like, ‘Is anyone going to call?’” She has connected with a recruiter at an agency and has a LinkedIn profile. She is willing to work at home if asked, since “that’s the new normal,” Mancini said. She has also received help through word-of-mouth referrals. One thing she’s not going to do is start over at $17 an hour — much lower that her former payrate. She has paid her dues and wants to land a job that is commensurate with her experience. During the summer, she was sending one resume per week. Since the beginning of September, she has sent out about 20 resumes a week.
She receives unemployment and was paid for unused vacation pay, which has helped financially, but Mancini said she has curbed spending so she can hold out for a better job. She and her husband Ron have one son at home. Mancini feels blessed that she can take her time and find just the right job — if she can.
Wife, husband lose their jobs Michael “Woody” Woodward of Rochester, 60, owns On-Key Productions and has produced the entertainment for the Corn Hill Arts Festival. He has also experienced the brunt of the events and entertainment industry fallout. Before COVID, Woodward worked independently as a music producer, promoter, DJ, emcee, actor and musician. He has been out of work since March 20, despite his diversity in the entertainment business. His only event last summer was a concert series at the Corn Hill concert stage. Changes in the guidelines curbed these kinds of efforts. He said it’s hard to put $10,000 toward a two-day event and then worry if it will even take place. He books entertainment for event locations and has lost four venues that have closed because of the pandemic. His wife Peggy was also laid off from her job as the financial director for the local branch of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, because fundraisers weren’t possible. Although the rapid rollout of a vaccine may get the economy going again, Woodward fears for his industry, which he thinks will be the last in line of people going back to work. “It’s a really hard, difficult situation for those in entertainment,” he said. “A lot who don’t know about entertainment, they think we’re all incredibly wealthy and make a ton of money. The market in Rochester was soft enough before all this.” He said that he has never filed for unemployment but he has no other choice, even though he’s not happy about it. The couple cut their spending and has held conversations about keeping their house. “We’re no different than anyone else in this country,” he said. “I understand all this and try not to
complain.” Since he has worked independently 27 years, it’s hard to go to work for someone else, especially at age 60. Instead, he’s trying to focus on when the pandemic ends. “Now I’m working on writing music and developing three new festivals in 2021 in the county,” Woodward said. “I’ve received an enormous amount of positive response.” He added that one of the biggest re a s o n s h e a n d P e g g y a re O K financially is that they had put money away for a “rainy day” fund. They never imagined that a worldwide pandemic would happen. “Once we get to June 2021, if I can’t get back to work, we will have an issue,” Woodward said. “I don’t think she’ll have trouble finding more work. With music and entertainment, it has to do with being there in person.”
Early retirement Christine Palmiere, first vice president and financial adviser with Sage Rutty & Co., Inc. in Rochester, said that someone contemplating early retirement should ensure there’s enough money to do so. “Consult someone who will put together a plan for you based upon your age, level of your assets, ideally when you’d like to retire, and make sure that your money will last,” she said. For those younger than 65, it may be worth continuing to work for health care benefits, as this coverage is very costly. Palmiere said that for some people, working parttime or in a different career may meet the needs. “We can run the numbers to say, ‘If you earn this much Palmiere between 62 and 65, you’re good to go,’” she said. “People who had pensions could retire at 55. Those were the days. If you don’t have a pension to supplement your Social Security, you’d better have a lot of assets.”
A Revamped Resume May Help Resume writer and employment coach Randi Poler of Lyndonville s e r v e s Monroe, Genesee and Orleans counties. She offered a few tips for crafting an effective resume at 55plus: Poler • “Look at your work history and skills and find a creative way to showcase that. Everyone should have a resume that highlights your accomplishments. Even if nominated, put it in there. • “Even if it has only been 30 days, employers don’t want to see a gap in employment at all. Find ways to fill those gaps in employment, like courses you’re taking, is important. • “The layout of your resume for sure is going to set you apart from others. I’ve done some classes just on formatting resumes. You could have 45 years’ experience and drag on two or three pages. Hiring managers look at a resume for 30 seconds, especially if they have 25 resumes to look through. They’ll skim through to find the key things you are looking for. • “I don’t even add the date of graduation. It doesn’t matter what year you graduated high school and for college, I like to have that year because some employers may want a copy of your transcript. If say you graduated 30 years ago, that’s a great spot to highlight any training you’ve done or certification in the workforce that you’ve obtained. By keeping in those things, it’s showing, ‘I did go to college 30 years ago, but these are the things I’ve done in the meantime.’ • “No matter how old you are, if you have that passion and drive for something, don’t let your age hold you back.”
Longevity Gap: Wealthy Outlive Poor by Nearly 10 Years Study: Children born today in Pittsford’s 14534 ZIP code will live up to nine years longer than those living Rochester’s 14608 ZIP code By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant
esearchers with University College London recently published a study that correlates wealth as the greatest factor that indicates when a person’s health will begin declining with age. Wealthy people in the study of more than 25,000 adults over age 50 in England and the U.S. lived nine years longer in good health than poor people. The study indicated that wealthy women were expected to live an average of 33 years without age-related disability compared with those with less money, who live only 23 to 24.6 years in good health. Well-to-do men could anticipate 31 healthy years but poor men could expect 22 to 23 years. One reason behind the gap is where a person lives. A recent report by Finger Lakes Health Systems Agency (FLHSA) predict that children born today in
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Pittsford’s 14534 ZIP code will live up to nine years longer than those living Rochester’s 14608 ZIP code. “Where you live can significantly affect your health, your health behaviors and eventually your health outcomes,” said Albert Blankley, director of research and analytics for FLHSA in a news release. “People may be close geographically, but their health outcomes often are worlds apart.” Neighborhood factors such as high smoking rates, a lack of access to healthy food and exercise opportunities, and unhealthy housing can significantly reduce life expectancies. “This important report highlights many significant health issues and disparities,” said physician Michael Mendoza, Monroe County Commissioner of Public Health in a statement. “Together with our many local partners, we will continue to work to improve the health of all residents of Monroe County.”
Monroe County’s 2016-18 Health Profile states that adult smoking rates in the city of Rochester (21.8%) is much higher than Monroe County (14.5%) and Upstate (17.3%). Finger Lakes Health Systems Agency has tracked county data for decades, but this is the first year the agency has produced individual county profiles. “The profiles are designed to be easy to read and understand, with maps, data graphs and icons that bring the information to life,” said Catie Kunecki, regional planner and analyst for FLHSA. Kunecki noted that FLHSA will maintain updated county health data on its website and intends to publish updated versions of the report in the future.
‘Poverty drives health inequity’ Registered nurse Christy Richards has a master’s degree in public health
and serves as the health educator for Ontario County Public Health. She said that before the pandemic, the county’s No. 1 health concern was poverty. “Poverty drives health inequity,” Richards said. “With poverty, you don’t have equal access to things like adequate housing, healthy foods and health insurance. It drives to inequities that cut lives short more than any other factor.” She said that in the Finger Lakes region, these inequities cost $1 billion annually, including lost income and preventable medical expenses. “Health inequity has to do with years of potential life lost,” Richards said. “That means when we’re talking about it biostatistically, it’s people who have died but shouldn’t have died. “It’s important to understand that poverty isn’t a race or an ethnicity; it’s a socioeconomic status,” she added. In the Finger Lakes, chronic health conditions are more common in people of lower socioeconomic status — those making less than $20,000 per year —
than in those making $70,000 per year. Lower income makes people 154% more likely to have diabetes, 105% more likely to have teeth removed prematurely, 224% more likely to have a depressive disorder. “It makes sense when we think about chronic stress,” R i c h a r d s said. “They’re wondering, ‘Where will my next meal come from? How will Richards I pay rent?’” Richards said that the living environment is a minor factor compared with health behaviors such as “tobacco and vaping use, exercise, alcohol abuse, inappropriate sexual activity, and sexually transmitted diseases. These are all modifiable.” Access to healthcare also makes a big difference for preventing pre-term birth, chronic health problems and
emergency room visits. Protective factors include family and social support, community safety and education. Not everyone who has a low income is uneducated. For example, an artist or childcare provider may have a good education but don’t make a lot of money. However, their education helps them make better lifestyle choices about health. “Knowledge can help them mitigate their stressors,” Richards said. “We’re all in this together so we need to work on this together.” The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that adults who are 25 and lack a high school diploma can expect to die nine years earlier than college graduates. Approximately 65% of Monroe County residents attended some college, higher than the statewide rate of 59%. Visit www.commongroundhealth. org/insights/library to view county profiles on all nine counties: Chemung, Livingston, Monroe, Ontario, Schuyler, Seneca, Steuben, Wayne and Yates.
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2020 November / December - 55 PLUS
Stumped for Grandkids’ Gifts? Consider Subscription Boxes By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant
t can be difficult to know what grandchildren want to receive, especially if they live far away and you are not able to spend a lot of time with them. Subscription boxes may provide a fun and easy way to treat them to a gift that gives them something all year long. Most include free shipping and will send the boxes directly to your grandchildren. It works like a magazine subscription, only instead of receiving a periodical, the subscription box offers unique goods that aren’t available in most stores. For one price, the recipient receives a box each month containing a set number of items or the supplies they would need to do or make something. Some sell one- or three-month options. All you need to do is know a
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basic interest of your grandchild and place the order. Steve Edelstein, director of strategy and business solutions for Complemar, a Rochester-based company that packages and ships boxes for subscription box companies, said that subscription boxes have become popular because of the wide variety of items in boxes — items most people have never experienced before. “Subscription box companies have a better understanding of what kids want and what kids need,” he said. “This is especially important as kids are at home, doing virtual learning. They bring what they need to have and what they want to have.” Here are a few examples:
Girly Girls • TheraBox ($30.99/month). Spaloving girls can pamper
themselves with this indulgent box that includes skincare items, aromatherapy products and other feel-good delights. Compiled by therapists, the box promotes wellbeing and good vibes. • HopeBox ($29.99/month). Give the gift of coziness with HopeBox, which delivers books, candles, healthful snacks and bath and body items, all vegan and not tested on animals. • mintMONGOOSE ($12.99/month). Choose gold, silver or rose gold finishes for the three pieces of fashionable jewelry that arrive each month. • Nail Shack ($8.75/month). Your granddaughter can glam up her nail routine with Nail Shack’s four sets of nail polish trips, nail file and cuticle pusher. The company offers a children’s option for younger girls. • LD Accessories Box ($30/every three months). Jewelry, scarves, sunglasses, makeup, and more arrive every three months to keep your granddaughter at the top of fashion. The items can be customized to her preference, too. • Glamour Jewelry ($14.95/month). Older girls and teens will appreciate the grown-up appeal of the three pieces of jewelry provided in each Glamour Jewelry box.
Arts and Crafts • The Adults & Crafts Crate ($30/ month). If your teen granddaughter is “over” the kiddie foam crafts, the Adults & Crafts Crate takes her skills to a higher level with projects like engraving, wood working and handnailed yarn. Each project results in an aesthetic or functional item (no googly eyes or pipe cleaners included!). • Paletteful Packs ($22.33/month). In addition to the four to five full-size, high quality art products included, recipients also get an artistic goal each month to help teen artists improve techniques or learn new skills. • We Craft Box ($25/month). Each kid-oriented box offers three or more craft projects each month with crafting tools and instructions included. • Green Kid Crafts ($19.98/month). Using sustainable materials and STEMoriented project, this box mashes together science and crafts to equal fun for middle school children. Each box includes supplies and directions for making six art/science projects.
• Stickii Club ($10/month). Select sticker styles of cute, retro, pop or assortment and your grandchild will receive stickers and stationery items. And maybe you’ll start receiving thank-you notes.
Educational • Lovevery ($36, every two months). Tots through age 2 will engage with these toys meant to promote brain development. A parental guide is included. • Matter ($29.99/month). Science whiz kids will receive between five to six items each month, including scientific specimens, vials of periodic elements, and crystals. • Kiwico.com ($19.95/month). Select from a variety of educational interests at each age level to find boxes that offer educational crafts, projects and games. • Little Passports Box ($13/month). Children three through nine can learn about geography and worldwide culture with this global-oriented box’s stickers, booklets, cards and maps.
Green Thumbs • House Plant Box ($11.25/month +shipping). Receive a new plant to nurture each month, including herbs, air plants and more conventional houseplants. The company provides answers to plant questions, too. • The Plant Club ($23.33/month). This box provides the plants, tools, soil and directions for growing a healthy plant each month. • Succulents Box ($4.75/month). Growing a succulent garden inside is easy with this subscription. Succulents are easy to grow and perfect for younger children who may forget to water plants. • My Garden Box ($35.50/month). Everything’s included to grow a bevy of beautiful plants with My Garden Box.
Food • SnackSack ($21.50/month). If your grandchildren enjoy trying new snacks, SnackSack brings healthful nibbles to their door. The company offers many different choices, such as vegan, gluten-free, organic, non-GMO, and fair trade.
• Universal Yums ($14/month). Let them travel the world with their tastebuds with snacks from around the globe. Each box includes sweet and savory items from a different nation, plus a booklet with information on that country and recipes. • Jerky Snob ($15/month). Any jerky aficionado will enjoy this box of specialty assortment of jerky treats from a variety of sources. The recipient can try unique jerky types not available in stores. • KidStir Cooking Kit ($20/month). They can cook up a good time with this culinary kit for kids, which includes children-scale tools, shopping list and simple recipes for ages 5 through 10. • Marshmallow of the Month Club ($9.75/month). Natural ingredients and accompaniments like graham crackers, chocolate and beverages make this one sweet box for lovers of s’mores. The cute presentation is also very appealing. • Elevate ($29.99/month). Athletic and health-conscious kids and teens will appreciate the thoughtful choices in the Elevate box as they enjoy postgame refueling on protein bars, nuts, sport beverages and more. • Fresh Baked Cookie Crate ($20/ month). If you’re not available to bake for your grandchildren, this crate has you covered. The box includes all you need to bake a batch of cookies from ingredients—not a mix. Maybe order the kit for yourself so you can virtually bake together.
Bookworms • GeekGear (£14.99 GBP/month, ships worldwide). Harry Potter fans can indulge their wizarding aspirations with this box that includes both unique and licensed products, from t-shirts to teas. • My First Reading Club ($16.99/ month). Children will receive agerated books to help them learn the joy of reading with three books to read each month, plus an activity book. Choose from board books, picture books or chapter books. Want more ideas? Visit www. cratejoy.com or www.amazon.com (type subscription box in the search menu) for other subscription boxes that may interest your grandchildren and others on your gift list.
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Wade Norwood Community leader finds Common Ground to bring quality health care to underserved in Finger Lakes region By Mike Costanza
“The idea of service is deeply rooted in my family history,” says Wade Norwood, the CEO of Common Ground Health. “We have an obligation to something greater than ourselves.” Norwood has met that obligation in a variety of ways. Since he took the helm of Common Ground, he’s overseen efforts to determine the causes of poor health in the ninecounty Finger Lakes region, and to find ways to combat the problem. The nonprofit has 38 people on its payroll, and a budget of about $5.7 million. “We are the region’s health planning entity. We bring focus to regional health issues through our research, data and analytics, our community engagement and the collaborative partnerships in which we participate,” he says. In addition to giving his time and energy to that worthy cause, Norwood once served on the Rochester City Council, has tried for the Democratic nod to run for mayor of Rochester, and is a member of the New York State 26
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Board of Regents. While these facts illustrate a colorful life, the 55-year-old has also had to cope with the deaths of two of his four children. Born in Rochester’s 19th ward, Norwood is the third of four children born to the late Booker Norwood, who preferred to be called “John,” and his wife Mary Lou. Faith played a strong role in the family. Norwood’s mother is an ordained minister, as were his father and at least three of his grandparents. “Church on Sunday was a daylong experience,” Norwood says. As a child, Norwood attended school in Rochester and spent much of his free time playing with his siblings, cousins and neighborhood kids. “ We w e r e f r e e - r a n g e k i d s roaming outdoors, engaging in street play and under the watchful eyes of a neighborhood of people who collectively parented us,” he says. All that changed in 1974 when John, who worked for a local pharmaceuticals firm, had what Norwood calls his “George Jefferson”
moment. “He and his ‘Weezie,’ my mom Mary Lou, they moved us out to Henrietta,” Norwood explains. George and Louise “Weezie” Jefferson were the principal characters in “The Jeffersons,” a sitcom about an AfricanAmerican family that moved from New York City to the suburbs. While Norwood was attending school in Henrietta, the avid reader discovered the works of J.R.R. Tolkien, who penned award-winning fantasies. “‘The Lord of the Rings’ trilogy, ‘The Hobbit’ and ‘Silmarillion’ were life-shaping works,” Norwood says. “They provided me with a construct for what is central to my faith. It is the happy turn which ‘pierces you with a joy that brings tears.’ Tears of joy are the highest function of worship, praise or prayer.” Norwood graduated from Rush Henrietta Senior High School before enrolling at the University of Rochester. He initially majored in chemical engineering and then switched to
political science. A work-study job at Rush Rhees Library connected him with another student employee — the young woman who eventually became Lisa Norwood. “I absolutely fell in love with her as we both worked at the circulation desk,” Norwood says.
Jumps into political arena In 1985, flush with a bachelor’s degree, he joined the staff of the late New York State Assemblyman David Gantt. “I met David when I was young, and knew that I did not want to be a theoretical political scientist or researcher, but rather a practitioner of practical politics,” Norwood says. Gantt represented the 137th District, which includes parts of northeastern and southwestern Rochester and Gates, for nearly 40 years. Though the veteran politician authored a number of important bills, he was particularly known for serving his constituents. Norwood’s position on the legislator’s staff was a good fit. “To move into the practical application of helping constituents get their problems solved, of learning and conducting the legislative process, to understand the three-men-in-aroom approach in Albany and how a bill actually becomes a law was an education that I cannot too highly value,” Norwood says. Back in those days, Anne Marie Cook led the staff of the Monroe County Legislature’s Democratic majority. She came to be friends with Norwood, and to depend upon him for information on the state budget. “I used to say he was like a New York state budget savant,” Cook says. “You’d ask him a question [and] he’d know the answer.” Cook is the president and CEO of Lifespan of Greater Rochester, a nonprofit that serves older adults and their caregivers. She’s remained friends with Norwood, and still taps him on the shoulder when she has questions about the state budget. While working for Gantt, Norwood took on other challenges. He served four successive terms on the Rochester City Council, where he helped pass or authored important bills. The complete list includes the groundbreaking legislation that established Rochester’s lead poisoning prevention program.
Wade Norwood in front of Rush Rhees Library at the University of Rochester on Sept. 28. Photo by Chuck Wainwright. 2020 November / December - 55 PLUS
Wade Norwood with his wife Lisa, left, and Walisa Griffin (center), his younger sister, who works alongside him as the church’s secretary and youth minister. “That was the final piece of legislation that I authored, and it was passed on the final night of my service as a council member,” Norwood says. Since that bill passed, childhood lead poisoning has fallen in Rochester
by more than 80%. Norwood eventually became Gantt’s chief of staff, but left that position in 2004. In 2005, he set his sights on a new goal: securing the Democratic Party’s nomination to run
for mayor of Rochester. In a city where Democratic voters are in the majority, the party’s nod would have given him a straight line to the winner’s circle. The race against three other Democrats left Norwood frustrated.
More Than a Boss The late Assemblyman David Gantt was more than just Wade Norwood’s employer. “In many, many ways he was my second dad,” Norwood says. When Norwood was hunting for a house for his family in the 19th Ward, his boss helped him navigate the process of buying a home. Then, Gantt and his brother Freddie replaced the house’s furnace. Norwood only had to cover the cost of the appliance. “Every time I step into the door of this home, I am reminded of the incredible regard and patience that he showed to help us find a home in which we could raise our children,” 28
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Norwood says. He remained close to Gantt after leaving his employ. “Even after I left working for David, he was an incredible resource, guide and friend that helped me build my career in health and health planning,” Norwood says. The assemblyman died on July 1 at the age of 78. Norwood’s years before Common Ground were not without their travails. Lisa, his wife, had to be hospitalized for part of her second pregnancy when she was bearing twins. One of the girls, Crystal Grace, died in the uterus. The second child, Tiffany Grace, was born with cerebral palsy, and died at the age
of 8. Both events affected the family. “The fact that we are a family marked by grief and a family marked by special needs parenting is a huge part of defining who we are as individuals, and as a family,” Norwood says. He thinks of those days when problems arise. “The things that challenge me when I awaken every morning really pale in comparison to burying children and fearing the need to bury my wife,” he says. “It makes me an optimistic soul.” Norwood and his wife are also the parents of two grown children, Stephen Christopher and Julia.
“Most of the debate in the mayoral campaign was not about the issues or the facts, but about the [party’s] factions,” he says. Norwood lost the primary to former Rochester Chief of Police Robert Duffy.
Strengthening the organization In 2006, Norwood took a job as the director of safety net initiatives for the Finger Lakes Health Systems Agency. It changed its name to Common Ground Health in 2017. At that time, the regional health planning nonprofit produced thoroughly researched reports that pretty much sat on shelves. Norwood set out to change that. “When I arrived, there was no community-facing part of the organization,” he says. “I got the chance to build it.” After coming on board, Norwood reconstituted two important allvolunteer groups that were part of Finger Lakes Health: the African American Health Coalition and the Latino Health Coalition. Each group consisted of those who were leading residents of the community it represented. Both met only when needed. “Whenever the agency wanted to have their input, they would pull them together. Then they would disband them,” Norwood explains. Norwood decided to make the coalitions permanent, and have them meet regularly. “ We w o u l d h a v e a r e a d y partnership with the community leaders within the communities of color, so as to better bring focus to the health issues that challenge us, and to achieve health equity by race, by socioeconomic status,” he says. As a result, the coalitions became much more capable of researching the health care issues affecting their communities and of determining ways to improve the health of those living in them. “They help us create qualitative and quantitative tools to go out and deepen our understanding,” Norwood says. “They provide us with a forum by which we can share insights drawn from the data.” Down through the years, Norwood has continued to attack the sources of
Wade Norwood: 5 Things You May Not Know 1 . Wa d e N o r w o o d , C E O of Common Ground Health in Rochester, is a longtime Buffalo Bills fan. 2. He and his father used to sing gospel at churches around the area. 3. Norwood, his wife Lisa, their two grown children and Wade’s sister Walisa Griffin are all University of Rochester alumni. 4. Norwood’s brother Wayne hosts “The World of Gospel” radio show on Sunday mornings on station WRUR. — Though he can run a large nonprofit, Norwood still can’t do a little girl’s hair. poor health in the Finger Lakes region. At the same time, he has advanced to more responsible positions at his agency. In the summer of 2018, he became Common Ground’s CEO. Cook has worked with Norwood on various projects, and praises his skills. “Wade epitomizes leadership,” she says. “You can see it in meetings where he just inspires everybody to do better, and do it with honesty and integrity.” Among his many accomplishments at Common Ground, Norwood is particularly proud of having overseen the organization’s most recent research effort. The 2018 My Health Story survey was created to determine the impact that poverty has upon the health of those living in the Finger Lakes. Its results, as shown in the 2019 report “Overloaded: The Heavy Toll of Poverty on our Region’s Health,” were striking. By nearly every measure, the region’s poor suffer worse health outcomes than those who are financially better off. As valuable as the data in “Overloaded” should be for attacking poor health in this area, the research effort was also a milestone for Common Ground. “This is the first evidence of our moving into doing primary research,” Norwood explains. “Instead of reporting to the community data
that we get from the insurers, from the hospitals, from the primary care offices, this is data that we get directly from the people themselves.”
Allegiance to The Regents Norwood’s dedication to service has drawn him to issues that reach beyond this region. T. Andrew Brown, the managing partner of the law firm Brown Hutchinson LLP, has known him for more than 30 years. “Wade is somebody who’s deeply committed not only to this community, but to the larger community around New York state,” Brown says. The longtime friends serve on the New York State Board of Regents, where Brown is vice chancellor and Norwood is co-chairman of the common core learning standards work group and the standing committee on the professions. The Regents generally supervise all of the educational activities in New York state. Brown and Norwood have joined with others on the board to address the educational needs of boys and young men of color. “Often, that has been a category of student that has struggled for one reason or another,” Brown says. “We have sought (state) funding so as to try to address some of those concerns.” Through those efforts, the Regents have helped convince New York state to increase the funds it annually devotes to addressing those issues by more than $20 million per year. “Those monies have led to improvements in the lives and opportunities of boys and young men of color,” Brown says. “Many will undoubtedly live much more productive lives as a result of the programming that flows from those monies.” In addition to seeking to improve the health of the Finger Lakes region’s residents, Norwood also serves the community through his faith. Since 2009, he’s been the president and senior pastor of Rochester ’s Holy Jerusalem Spiritual Church. Walisa Griffin, his younger sister, works alongside him as the church’s secretary and youth minister. “I hit the trifecta with him as my brother,” she says. “I have him as my brother, I have him as a mentor and I have him as a pastor.” That’s not to say that Norwood can 2020 November / December - 55 PLUS
do everything he tries to do. When he other social factors affect the health babysat for her, he demonstrated that of the Finger Lakes region’s residents. “I would like to continue to bring he could never have a career as a hair in more data that gets to these upstream stylist. “My brother is really great at doing factors that are the social determinants a lot of things. Doing little girls’ hair of health,” he says. On his off time, Norwood loves is not one,” she says, laughing. “Often, the two ponytails that were supposed cracking open a good book. In addition to be evenly on each side of my head to fantasies, his tastes include works aboutHenrietta American history. One book ended up anything but.” 4885 East River Road, West he’s working way through is “The In the Contact coming 585-454-5710 years, Norwood for an applicationhis today! plans to continue helping Common Second Founding.” In it, historian Eric Ground determine how poverty and Foner details the long-term effects of
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the Reconstruction period upon the advance of civil rights in the United States. “If we did a better job of teaching the Reconstruction and how it ended, we might be in a better position to tackle the demons of our own history,” Norwood says. Lisa recently got him to put down his book and walk a stretch of the Erie Canal’s trails with her. They made the jaunt to gather information for Common Ground’s assessment of the health benefits that those trails can confer. Both of them enjoyed the experience. “I was incredibly struck by how knowledgeable my wife is about the canal trail west of the Genesee River,” he says. “My wife sent an email to my staff asking ‘Can you give us more locations to do?’” Common Ground will present its data to the New York State Department of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, which will use it for planning purposes.
Mortgage Now? Should You Consider a Reverse
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ber 2020 Issue 66 • November/Decem For Active Adults in the Rochester Area
Wade Nor wood
a Common Ground leader is on care to mission to bring quality health region underserved in Finger Lakes
Jim Terwilliger Pumping Money Into Roth IRAs: Now More Important than Ever
■ Once in a Lifetime
Newlywed couple drops everything to sail the world ■ Early Retirement?
Pandemic has pushed millions of older workers into involuntary retirement
Outlive Poor by 10 Years Longevity Gap: Wealthy
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55+ books The Great Unexpected A universal tale of appreciating life no matter what By Todd Etshman
t the tender age of 36, Irish author Dan Mooney is decades away from having senior years afflictions and living in a senior home. But the young author captured the feelings and pains his grandparents experienced in the fictional characters of his bestselling book, “The Great Unexpected.” Joel is the book’s main character and after living a robust life, things started to change. He’s in a senior home now and steadily losing his zest for life. Joel lost his wife along with his sense of purpose and freedom to eat or sleep or anything else he wants to do whenever he wants to do it. He deeply resents being told what medications to take and when. There’s more, such as not being that close to his only daughter and his grandchildren. He was working
too hard earlier in life to get close emotionally. Sadly, Joel considers suicide to be his only way out of the life he can’t stand anymore. Things will have to change for his love of life to return and they do as his perspective changes. “Joel views people and staff in the home as his enemy but they never have been. You see tremendous warmth there,” Mooney explains from his home in Limerick City, Ireland. “It seems and looks like a prison but only if one treats it as such,” A big catalyst for change arrives as Joel’s new roommate, Frank, a gay former soap opera actor, who along with others helps Joel get back on track. Frank has a better attitude and an ability to make the best of any situation. But he has regrets too, and in a symbiotic relationship, Joel helps
Frank, too. Making Frank gay was important to the story because homosexuality has been a repressed experience in Ireland, Mooney explains. It was illegal
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until 1993. It makes Joel have to reevaluate his own views and change the prejudiced way he views homosexuals. The men are very different — Joel, the former garage shop owner, and Frank, a gay actor — but they come together. With Frank’s help, sarcasm and wit, the prospect of suicide no longer appeals to Joel. Joel’s relationship with his daughter is another important aspect of the story. He was away and working while she was growing up. She was closer to her mother and Joel has to figure that out, too, having neglected to form a better relationship with her earlier in life. Although Mooney lives in Ireland, he says the exact location of the senior home and surrounding town in the book could be anywhere, including Upstate New York. “That was a deliberate decision,” says the author. “One of the things I’ve learned is place in a story gives character. By removing place from the story readers can place it wherever they want.” The surrounding town and places are significant to the characters for their special memories and experiences but not noticeable to the reader. The pair leaves the home behind several times to regain some of the adventure they used to have and revisit places they used to go. The grandkids even meet them at a night club as Joel rebuilds his relationship with them. Ironically, an English reviewer assumed it was set in England and said
the book was good English humor. “I get a lot of ribbing from guys about that,” Mooney says. You don’t have to be a history buff to know the Irish don’t want to be called English. As Mooney says, seniors in a similar situation should not let circumstances get them down. The message is, get a renewed zest for life no matter how old you are. “I like the idea of exposing men’s issues that have led to isolation in older men,” Mooney says, despite being in a different age group. More motivation for the book came from the fact that people are often shunted into senior homes. Their independence is suddenly taken from them and they’re expected to deal with it, he says. “The Great Unexpected” is Mooney’s second book. Despite the universal acceptance of his book, he’s holding onto his air traffic controller job for now although he knows he won’t be able to sit on the fence forever. The book has been published in
Spain, China, Germany, the Czech Republic and the US, of course. The US launch was held at his brother’s tavern in Manhattan. His wife, Christine, is from Maine so the east coast is a frequent destination for the couple. Mooney says it felt like he was hanging out with Joel and Frank as he wrote their story and missed them when it was finished. “To find people engaging with the story is so gratifying,” he says. Mooney dedicated the book to “Granddads everywhere.” Critics tell him he got it right but more importantly he feels his grandfathers would have liked it, too. The COVID-19 era with its reduced air traffic and work hours has provided time for him to get started on a third novel. His new novel is about “a generation of differences between people with climate change as a backdrop” 20 years in the future. Success means he can publish it whenever he’s ready.
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55+ second act
John Gerhard Brings Corporate Savvy to the Bird House By John Addyman
hat happens if you take all you’ve learned in corporate management and put that into an enterprise of your own on a local scale, say, opening a nature-themed store that sells supplies to birders? “It was a hit right at the beginning, far exceeding my expectations,” said John Gerhard, 79, of Mendon. “We were quite successful early on. I thought, ‘This is pretty good.’” He debuted the Bird House, on Monroe Avenue in Pittsford, in 1994,
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following ascendant corporate careers at Mobile Chemical Plastics and later at the Nixon Peabody Law Firm. “We started from scratch,” he said. “We wanted to get into nature art and went to a show in Detroit where I ran into a guy I went to high school with, Ernie Kramar, who was selling birdhouses and feeders. I got intrigued. He helped us get started – I paid him a fee to teach me the business. “In the beginning, we had a little bit of nature art – but not for long. We had bird houses and feeders and seed
and hardware, and various accessories like bird baths.” Why birds? “It’s a good hobby,” Gerhard explained. “I didn’t know anything about birds – never had a bird feeder in my life.” But right then, he drew the line between a rookie in the bird house business and someone who has led corporate enterprise. He said many people who open a store like his are hobbyists, “with no real idea how to run a business.” He came at it from the opposite direction. Fresh with a degree from the University of Detroit, where he’s from, Gerhard worked for Chevrolet, then took a job as a financial analyst at Mobil Chemical. A succession of controller positions around the country followed with more and more territory and responsibility under his leadership. When Mobil offered him a next position overseas or on the west coast, Gerhard hesitated. He enjoyed the Rochester area and had settled in. “Just when I decided I would take care of my future I got recruited and I wasn’t even looking for a new job.” He was drawn to the Nixon Hargrave Law Firm as the executive director. “I never had a law degree,” he said. Nixon Hargrave was about to expand from 130 attorneys to 720 and become Nixon Peabody. “They needed to have somebody make 720 lawyers into a business,” Gerhard explained. “That was my job.” In doing his job, Nixon Peabody was named one of the best 100 companies to work for in America in Gerhard’s last three years there. He retired in 2007. The investment in The Bird House in 1994 was also an exercise in what he’d learned at Nixon Peabody. “You talk about the best companies to work for in America: the same principals I established at Nixon are the principals we use to run the Bird House: treat the staff as partners in the business, have regular meetings and training sessions, keeping them advised on how the business is doing. They become partners. We also treat suppliers that way: as partners. It’s all customer-focused. “The principal in running this business, like any good business, is surrounding yourself with good
people, give them a little bit of direction and get out of their way. They all have the authority to do whatever it takes to satisfy the customer. “We have very low turnover – many employees have been here 10-15 years. Another aspect of the success of the business is that they really know our products and can help people do birding right and not spend too much money.” He provided an example. “One of the things we have as a semiannual event is feeder cleaning. We have customers bring in their feeders – in the fall we get about 350400 feeders, in the spring, about 500. Customers bring them in, and we clean them for nothing – it’s free. And they come in and pick them up. It’s a loyalty program that has worked very well for us. Nobody else in this business does this.” Gerbard has mailing and email lists and keeps customer-purchase records. For instance, people will take advantage of the store’s “buy four get one free” offer on large bags of seed. But most customers will only take two bags at first. The store has a register which keeps a tally for the next visit by the customer to pick up their other bags of seed. The store, which started on the opposite side of Monroe Avenue in 1994, has recently expanded to 5,900 square feet, and is fabulously colorful – it’s always spring and summer inside. There are racks and shelves and displays of bird baths, statuary, fairy gardens, bird houses, birding books, birding adventure hats, clothing, binoculars, artwork, maps, feeders and hardware, slippers, cards, jewelry – every 10 feet. Everything is quality and chosen carefully…and it’s the second-largest bird store in the country, according to the owner. Gerhard promotes from within. Wife Sue was a manager, and after her, Liz Magnanti took over in the shop. “Liz has a great background,” Gerhard said. “She was a clerk and I told her I was going to make her my administrative assistant. That lasted about three weeks. She showed she was capable of running the store: that was obvious right away.” Magnanti has been the manager for 13 years.
Bird houses available at the Bird House.
Expanding during COVID-19 The coronavirus has affected
All sorts of bird feeders can be found at the Bird House. 2020 November / December - 55 PLUS
everyone, but for the Bird House, it’s been a blessing. “We’ve been very fortunate during this pandemic, which has been a tragedy because there are a whole lot of people hurting as a result of the shutdown of the economy. It’s a terrible situation for a lot of people, but we happen to be at the right place at the right time.” He explained. “A lot of people are at home now who used to go to their office or downtown to work. They see the birds and have become enamored of the whole birding environment and our business has just gone from good to outstanding. Since we were able to open the store fully in June, we’re averaging 100 customers per day – a very busy store. “Since I started 26 years ago, I’ve developed contacts all around the country. The birding business has increased nationwide 20% since the start of the pandemic. Our sales have increased a lot more than that.
I describe it as having the wind at your back, after I tell people all about the good management, the fact of the matter is we were at the right place at the right time.” Gerhard learned lessons through the pandemic. First, selling online is a good thing. When the store could not open for customers, the front patio – “porch” – became a takeout area. Customers would call in or order online, and the employees who were working would place packages outside. “We never closed in the pandemic,” Gerhard said. “I didn’t lay anybody off. I told everyone they would continue to get paid through the PPE plan – whether they work or not. A number of people decided they were too afraid to work. I had enough other people that we were able to do the business we had. Everyone got paid whether they worked or not. “I told people they didn’t have to give me any details. When that program ended, when the governor
declared you could allow people in your store and operate it like a regular business – I told them they had to make a decision to work here or not. I lost two people who, for health-related reasons, decided not to continue.” A second learning: many people who shop don’t want to touch anything, so Gerhard has put in a new touchless credit-card system. He starts every day at home by reading for three hours and spending about three hours in the store five or six days in the week (the Bird House is open every day) negotiating prices and doing marketing and accounting. “I have a growing, vibrant business,” he said. “Most of our customers are older, have discretionary income and have learned that birding is an inexpensive hobby that supplies a lot of enjoyment, especially for retired people. “When I get old, I’m going to retire,” he said. “I have a full life. I don’t lack for things to do.”
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55+ insurance Time to Review Your Insurance Policies By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant
erhaps you have worked with the same auto and homeowner ’s insurance for most of your adult life. Maybe those policies are tucked away in your desk and you only look at them when it is time to renew — or not at all. Regardless, it’s important to periodically review your home and auto policies to ensure accuracy and optimal savings. “We reach out to our clients to remind them to look over their polices a few times a year,” said Jill Kramer, personal lines specialist with Alliance Group in Fairport. “We get in touch quite often with them because it’s so important to look at their policies to see if there are any changes in their life that would affect the policy.” Rhett VanScoter, owner and insurance agent at VanScoter Insurance Agency in Rochester, recommends looking over the policies at least every five years. “You can make sure you’re getting the best value for your dollar,” he said. He added that many older adults develop loyalty to their insurance company; however, much may have changed in five or so years, including the cost of rebuilding. Many people become under insured because their policy has not kept pace with inflation and with any improvements they have made, such as finishing a basement, an addition or kitchen remodeling. “Many would have a lot to pay out of pocket if they were to have a fire,” VanScoter said. Don’t forget about upgrades to help you age in place, like the new firstfloor laundry room. Have you added a new roof since you last looked at your policy? Long-term structural changes add value to your home. Outdoor fixtures are also covered, such as a deck, fence, pergola and pool. If you
break on premiums once you’re 55 and retired,” VanScoter said. “You’re home more and would catch things, like a leak under the sink so small claims don’t turn into large claims.” Hitting 55 also garners discounts for auto insurance. Though it’s usually automatic, make sure that you get it. Some companies offer a lower rate for retirees if you ask for a pleasure rate instead of a commuter rate owing to the fewer miles you plan to drive. (If you plan to do a road trip across the US once you retire, you will not qualify.) Now that the kids are grown and gone, perhaps you can better afford to pay the policy in full rather than month-to-month. Also, make sure you remove any children who no longer need to be on your policy. “Just this week I had someone quoted who had their daughter, son, and ex son-in-law on it as well. None of them had been in the house for years and years. Their old policy applied a charge on that,” VanScoter said. When you first applied for insurance, you may have been in an have improved your backyard lately, entirely different financial situation than you are now. That is why Charlie make sure your policy reflects that. VanScoter said that many people Bartishevich, co-owner of Finger Lakes aren’t aware of newer policy types Partners, LLC in Geneva, recommends that can spare them a costly bill, such reviewing the deductibles. “By raising the deductible to as underground service line coverage. It pays for damage from the house $1,000, you could save $100 a year on to where the utility company or auto insurance,” he said. If you have a different company municipality responsibility begins at for auto and homeowner’s insurance, the street. “ T h e y ’ r e he encourages bundling them together, n o t t y p i c a l l y which “can often save you a lot of c o v e r e d b y money,” he added. “It is good to talk older policies,” with an agent who knows what he’s V a n S c o t e r talking about instead of an 800 number said. “If there’s and getting the cheapest policy.” To lower the auto insurance rate, damage to a drainpipe and Allan Czaplicki, owner of EmpireOne it needs to be Insurance Consultants in Fairport, excavated, these recommends taking a driver’s safety new policies will course. Available online, the course VanScoter cover it. That costs only $40 and its completion can be costly and the policies cover qualifies drivers to receive a10% discount for three years. up to $10,000.” “We always recommend for older If it has really been a long time since you peeked at your policy, you drivers to take this course,” Czaplicki may have age-related discounts you said. “There’s a bell curve when you get your license. The rates are high have been missing. “Many companies will give you a when you’re young. Once you are a 2020 November / December - 55 PLUS
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55 PLUS - November / December 2020
young adult, the premiums lower. As you get older, anyone past 70 or above, the rates go up, even though they’re driving less. Statistically, their accidents are pretty bad when they do have them.” Czaplicki said many people do not know about equipment breakdown endorsements. This coverage replaces things like air conditioning units, freezers, electric panels and electronics in case of an electrical or mechanical failure, even after the warranty on each item has expired. Costing only $25 to $50 annually for $50,000 of coverage, equipment breakdown endorsements usually have a $250 to $500 deductible. If you lost numerous items at once through a power surge, for example, that would count as once incident. Do not feel you must stick with the same policy, company or agent you have used for years. “Shop around,” VanScoter said. “It never hurts to have a third party look at your policy. It will reaffirm that you have good coverage or you might find there’s something better out there If you take that back to your current carrier who might find they have new options for you.”
Super Mario Mario Arena’s basement show-andtell of his life
Mario Arena of Webster, 85, has taken collecting items to a new level.
By John Addyman
hey say one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. For Mario Arena, everything is treasure. Some people leave the planet and there’s nothing remaining of them but the clothes in their closet and food in the fridge. Not Arena. If it’s something he touched or thought about because it triggered a memory, he’s got it fixed onto a door, packed in a drawer or captured in a bottle. He has taken collecting things to a new level. Spending time with Arena, 85, is like being guided through a grove of his own making, where he celebrates his family, his friends, his jobs — and you. Make an impression on him, and sooner or later, something on one of his walls will look uniquely familiar to you. He and his wife Nancy reside on a street of condominium houses in Webster, where every home looks pretty much just like every other. Inside, where the individuality happens, Arena holds a Ph.D. in organizing his eclectic, interesting, oddball and hilarious collection of stuff. Stuff he’s made. Stuff he’s scavenged. Stuff he’s renovated houses with. Stuff his three daughters painted. Stuff other people have given him. Stuff that sparkles; stuff that makes noises; stuff that shows his deep Italian heritage and love of family; stuff that marks his successful, varied careers; stuff that makes you ask yourself, “Is this guy ever going to stop with this stuff?” “I am a scavenger,” he says. “I turn crap into something useful.” 2020 November / December - 55 PLUS
And also, he confesses, “I can’t throw anything away.” Before you think TV episodes about people who hoard, those places are trash heaps. Arena’s basement, full of “doors” and “walls,” is pristine. You could eat off the floor because he is obsessively neat and organized. “You need some extension cords?” he asks, pulling open a drawer. “Take some.” “How about some screw drivers?” he asks. Another drawer opens. “Take some. Please. I have lots,” he says. And hammers. And switches. And punches and drill bits. And flashlights. Two years ago, the Arenas moved into the condo and after living in bigger houses, Arena was faced with a familiar problem for many emptynesters: too much stuff. He has a photo on a sideboard from 2018, looking dismayed and surrounded by boxes and plastic containers. “I didn’t want everything in boxes,” he said. Many of us know the feeling. He had downsized out of a big cobblestone home in the hamlet of Merrifield in Scipio Center to a home in Penfield, and then another. In that last home, he got an idea.
A story behind every artifact. Mario Arena shows his “John Hancock” wall, where he’s placed items from his successful 30-year career as an insurance man and agency manager. Point to an item, and you’ll hear the whole story about it.
Creativity at work Arena took items out of some of those boxes and tubs and attached them to a door — a big door. He glued on wooden signs he made. A hammer his brother gave him. A door pull. A bunch of wooden tape measures wired together. A mitre saw. An insulated work glove. An Ansco camera. A “Man Cave” sign. Three walking sticks. Tools his father used, pill bottles. And a small sign, made with babybracelet white beads with a paintbrush attached to it, saying, “The object of art gives life shape,” from William Shakespeare, and that is about a tenth of what’s on that door. When he and Nancy moved into the Webster house, Arena started decorating the basement with walls full of family photos. He covered the other side of the first door with a full mixture of tools, and he had just started going through boxes. A 1953 graduate of Rochester’s East High, Arena went to the Rochester Business Institute for a year. When his dad died, he left school to go to work to 40
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Five stages of life. Mario Arena creates walls that include whimsy and wackiness. help with the family finances. Within a year, he found a calling as an insurance man for John Hancock Mutual and a 30-year career unfolded. When he was an agency manager with a whole wall full of licenses and awards, he said, “We started noticing changes in upper management. They sold the company right out from under us.” “I had 30 years with Hancock before they closed the doors,” he said. “Then I suffered from depression for
four or five years: I couldn’t get out of bed; I couldn’t leave the house. I was devastated.” Living in the Auburn area, Arena slowly started to find things to do. He was a skilled craftsman (one of his basement doors has an architectural rendering of a house he drew) and started to work on houses. Then he started to flip them — at one time owning 20 of them in Auburn. “I started feeling better again,”
One door after another. In his basement, Mario Arena has put up 20some doors and walls just like these. he said. He had married Nancy — his second wife — in 1970. His first wife, Josie, had given him three daughters — Donna, Jodie and Marlo. Everyone is still close. Arena sold all his houses, bought each of his daughters a house, bought the condo in Webster, and tried to settle in after all that activity, although after a little while, he wanted to get into all the flipping again. Nancy said, “No. You’re too old.” So those energies went into the doors, and one after another, they started going up. His basement contains about 20 doors. Each is meticulous in its presentation and construction. He has cantilevered them to create a bit of a maze. Knowing Arena, you can see him starting the tour with friends by pouring each one a glass of wine and leading them on, finishing the bottle by the time everything has been seen. He has an explosive sense of humor and loves to spar with people.
Every object tells a story Point to an object, any object, and he’ll tell you the story. “I got all the putty knives I ever used in the houses I renovated all together and asked, ‘What am I going to do with all these putty knives?’ Then I said to myself, ‘Screw it – I’ll put them up on a board and hang them on a wall.’” Then he asked, “Do you need some putty knives?” Arena has a mind that needs to be active and a personality that has to be expressed and generous. He is a showman in every sense of the word, so you should expect to be entranced as well as entertained on the tour of his basement, where he does an elaborate show-and-tell on his life. He has been a member of the Rochester Community Theater and the Rochester Playhouse — perfect venues for him. “Two professors from Cornell wrote a play about Rochester called, ‘Wish I had a Nickel.’ I sang. I danced.
I performed in that show day after day, night after night. We raised money for the Rochester Fire Department.” He also appeared in “Carousel.” “About five years ago I did the movie ‘Spiderman’ here in Rochester. I was an extra, getting paid $300 a day for 11 days. I met a lot of nice people, including my friend Aidan Baker, who is now a professional who has written stuff for ‘Saturday Night Live’ and has a movie coming out this fall.” The Arenas have a condo in Florida where they spend part of the winter. They got introduced to a lot of nice people through daughter Donna’s inlaws, and Arena found another calling. “Every Monday night they have bingo,” he said. “Every Tuesday night. Every Thursday night. So, I started going to bingo. Then I noticed these people are all 55 and up, so I started getting dressed up and passing out candy during bingo. I’m known as the Candy Man. His special holiday Candy Man costumes are already legendary. He has also done commercials for St. Ann’s Home, CapTel’s hearing phones and others. Back in the “hood” in Webster, Arena has earned the reputation as someone who can provide tools and assistance for home projects. He gets calls, he sets out desired items, and when the neighbor is done, they come back to him. “I take care of my neighbors if they need help,” he said. “I have neighbors who are woodworkers: they have basements, but not like mine.” Seriously, who does? His inquisitive, problem-solving mind is on display in that basement. “I don’t buy anything for my basement,” he said. “I find stuff that I already have to make stuff. I have a supplies area. I have a craft area with all my craft items — I’ve always been a craftsman.” “When I made my first door, I thought I was done,” he said, looking around at the doors he’s erected. “I’ve offered my collectibles to all my kids: They don’t want them. I offered my whole basement to any of my kids who want it. No one wants it. That would be the happiest day of my life if someone would take it,” he said. But his work goes on. “When you’re retired, you can work 24-7,” he said with a purposeful smile. “I’m having fun.” 2020 November / December - 55 PLUS
55+ long-term Long-Term Care Planning: Essential to Retirement Plan By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant
ou have likely worked with a financial adviser for reserving and investing money for retirement; however, if you have not considered your long-term care options, your plan still misses a very important piece. “Unfortunately, not enough people think about this,” said Miles P. Zatkowsky, partner and founder of Dutcher & Zatkowsky, a law firm in Rochester. “When considering retirement, you have to ask yourself, ‘What if I get sick?’ You figure out a budget that is fine if you maintain the status quo, but what if you get sick?” A Zatkowsky debilitating accident, stroke or other reason for long-term care can wipe out the assets of someone who has worked hard all his life in a matter of months. The cost of skilled nursing in an institutional setting is $500 per day or more in the Rochester area, and the average stay length is 835 days, according to the National Care Planning Council, amounting to nearly $400,000. What will the cost be by the time you need it? About half of adults living now will need long-term care. Zatkowsky said that some people consider long-term care insurance policies; however, unless they have purchased them early enough, their current health problems could prohibit them. There’s also the cost. Zatkowsky said that long-term care insurance
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premiums for those who already have one have increased as much as 8,090% in 10 years. They used to cost $3,000 or so per year; now, they’re no longer so affordable. Those not grandfathered in could pay as much as $10,000 annually. “They’re supposed to be a fixed premium but insurance companies can apply for increases,” he said. “I’ve had three increases over the past decade.” He added that many companies no longer sell long-term care insurance because the costs of care rose faster than anticipated, although companies honor the policies they have already sold. Medicare typically covers the first 20 days for live-in rehabilitation. From day 21 to 100, it covers 80% of the cost. “Otherwise, Medicare does not cover skilled nursing,” Zatkowsky said. “That’s where you start talking about Medicaid.” The income threshold is $875 for singles, $1,284 for married couples (both applying) and $875 for only one spouse applying. The asset threshold is $15,750 for singles or one spouse applying and $128,640 for the nonapplicant spouse. Simply giving away the excess money doesn’t work unless it’s five years prior to the need for Medicaid, with a few exceptions. One way to qualify for Medicaid is to join a community pooled supplemental needs trust if you reside in the community and not in a nursing home. “If you do that, you can give all that excess each month and have that trust pay some of your expenses as long as that is going toward keeping you in the community at home,” Zatkowsky said. He added that the pooled trust
might pay things like taxes, rent or mortgage, and utility bills — bills necessary to keep you living independently. If the person lives in a nursing home, all the available income goes towards the monthly cost of care, except for $50 per month. The principal of an investment retirement accounts are also exempt; however, the payout is considered income and will go towards nursing home care costs. “A couple could have a $1 million IRA in withdrawal status and $50,000 to $60,000 is coming out a year and the nursing home cost is $150,000 a y e a r. T h e income from the withdrawal is money that would need to go to the nursing home and any cost above that would be paid by Medicaid,” Feldman said Jeff Feldman, certified financial planner with Rochester Financial Services in Pittsford. If one spouse of a qualifying couple goes into a nursing home and the other remains in their residence, the latter can keep a share of their income while part of their income and Medicaid pays the remainder. Feldman said that for people with a net worth of $600,000 or less, they likely cannot afford long-term care insurance. But for those with $2 million or more, they can probably self-insure. “It’s a very rough rule of thumb,” he added. “It depends upon your health and what your life expectancy might be. The worse health you’re in, the more expensive long-term care insurance will be.” Christine Palmiere, first vice president and financial adviser with Sage Rutty & Co., Inc. in Rochester, is leery of spending down to qualify for Medicaid. “What if you need those assets?” she said. “You give them away and even if you last the five years, you won’t have money. How will you
adapt your lifestyle to poverty because you’re afraid of having a care need? If you live a long life, you might need those assets. Even if you have kids who will pay for your lifestyle because it was y o u r m o n e y, what happens if that son or daughter has a Palmiere lawsuit or car accident and they lose their money? Or if they have a horrible divorce. That’s not a great idea.” She suggested speaking with an attorney to set up an irrevocable trust to protect assets, although the trust is also subject to the five-year look back. The money in the trust can still be withdrawn for expenses; however, only as outlined in the rules of the trust, which cannot be changed. It’s important to pay attention to the rules of the trust before committing to it. “The best line of defense is to consult professionals,” Palmiere said.
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The pandemic curtailed music performances but tenor saxophonist Jim Richmond of Farmington used that time to get deeper into his music writing and set up a studio in his home. His sax is an antique, used by a member of the original Duke Ellington band, who had his name etched on the instrument.
Jim Richmond Lives, Loves, Breathes Music A pillar of the Rochester music community, Farmington resident has been performing since he was 10 By John Addyman
rom a 10-year-old front-porch superstar performer to a career as a peripatetic musician, Jim Richmond has led an interesting, fruitful life. He is a man who lives, loves and breathes music. And he’s had a lot of company. Raised in a home listening to his father’s gospel quartet practice in the
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living room, he suddenly burst with enthusiasm for Elvis Presley’s music, entertaining his buddies on the front porch of the family’s Geneva home by belting out rock ‘n roll songs. Through a succession of local bands, a couple of years of college, and one opportunity after another, Richmond, 68, can look back on a 58-year career as a saxophone player,
vocalist, songwriter, lyricist, record producer, booking agent, touring organizer, bandleader and pillar of the Rochester music community (he’s the music director for the Rochester Music Hall of Fame). And it all started in his living room in Geneva. “My dad was in a gospel quartet. They practiced once a week in our living room. I sat there and listened, and that got me interested in music,” Richmond said, speaking softly on his Farmington condo back porch, with rain falling on the table’s umbrella. “We lived in the projects at the time. In the back yard, our nextdoor neighbor had his radio on one afternoon. He was playing Elvis Presley. I asked, ‘Who is that?’ “Elvis.” “Wow!” Then I started following Elvis, saw him on TV and I wanted to be like him. After school, I’d go home and start my Elvis Presley thing on the front porch. Kids in the neighborhood started coming down, which was just about every day. I was 10 years old. I think it was a good laugh for them, but I was really into it — I was into the music and I liked to entertain.” In school, his teacher handed out a paper that asked, “Do you want to play an instrument?” He took the paper home to mom. “She suggested I play the saxophone because her exboyfriend was a baritone sax player in school. That’s how I started.” Richmond’s tenor sax became an anchor for a lot of bands in the 60s and 70s, and he found four friends who wanted to start a group — the Echomen: Steve Cocola, Dan Damick, Gary Ventura and Jim Harrison joined Richmond on stage and the guys became a local hit. “We still do a reunion show at Club 86 in Geneva every summer. This would have been our 50th year playing and we’d pack the place with 350-400 kids…er, fans,” Richmond said. But not this year: the coronavirus. He went off to SUNY Fredonia to study music education after high school and was brought aboard by another band, Mother Freedom. “Stupid me,” he says. “We got this record deal in my second year at Fredonia State and I quit school. I thought I was on my way with Sugar Hill Records… “The record did nothing [but now it’s a local collector’s item]. Later, I
found out we were basically a tax write-off. It was the late 1970s, when Wild Cherry had a hit with ‘Play that Funky Music.’ Sugar Hill was looking for a white-based band playing R&B music.” Mother Freedom broke up, but some of the members — Ralph Ortiz, Greg Medoro and Ron DeAugustine from Newark; Oliver Wiggins, Willie Johnson and Charlie Shew of Ithaca; and Mike Loman, Dick Yanotti and Dave Deyulio — would show up again in Richmond’s career. “For about two weeks, that was the only time in my life I was without a band,” Richmond said. “I was living at home.” He got a call from the King Juke band and joined up. “They were good, but nobody knew us,” he said. Next was the band Saratoga. “I had Oliver Wiggins with me from Mother Freedom, the Ralph Ortiz, and Joe Chiappone. Nancy Kelly, a jazz vocalist, sang with Saratoga and will be inducted into the Rochester Music Hall of Fame next year.” Along the way, Richmond’s wifeto-be, Judy, entered his life. “It was a mutual attraction,” he said. “I met her while Mother Freedom was playing in Penn Yan. She had come home from college with her best friend, who was a fan of ours, and that’s how we met. “We became good friends first and it grew into a serious relationship. She found out the difficulty of being involved with a musician as time grew on. We had a long-distance relationship early on because she going to Geneseo College and I lived in Geneva and then
Prime Time Funk members are, from left, Derrick Lipp (trumpet), Ron D’Angelo (trumpet), Mike Edwards (baritone sax), Vince Ercolamento (tenor sax), Ronnie Leigh (vocalist), Jim Richmond (tenor sax), Ron France (bass). Out of frame are Andy Calabrese (keyboards) and David Cohen (drums). (Courtesy Aaron Winters) she got a job teaching in Salamanca, New York.” The two dated for 11 years and finally Richmond popped the question. Their daughter, Jamie, is a pre-natal/ post-natal trainer in New York. “She married Russ Jones, who was hired by Clive Davis right out of high school. Russ started out as a deejay all through high school. He would go to Clive Davis’s record labels, get all the newly released songs and play them at clubs and report back to Clive. Russ is now the vice president of Streaming for
RCA Records/Sony.” When Saratoga broke up, “I formed my own band called ‘Kicks.’ That went on for awhile with Ralph Ortiz and Joe Chiappone, my brother Randy on drums, and Randy Calabrese. This was the foundation of starting Prime Time Funk.” Prime Time Funk, which can sound like Earth, Wind & Fire on one tune and Chuck Mangione on the next, developed into a vibrant powerhouse fan favorite locally…and in France. “It was born in Ortiz’s apartment,”
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2020 November / December - 55 PLUS
Richmond explained. “Mark Manetta, the late guitarist who played with Chuck Mangione was there, too. It was 1996. “Mark said, ‘We ought to start a big band. We should really plan this out so it’s a band that people want to come out to see, a band that has people waiting in line — a band that’s an attraction.’ Ortiz agreed… “But I was hesitant. ‘Look at the way things are now,’ I told them. ‘All the bands are four-piece, five-piece: I’m not sure we’ll find the support.’ But they talked me into it. We started talking about who we wanted in it — Ron France, a bass player from Syracuse, and vocalists Todd East, then Ron Leigh. Joe Chiappone. “We kicked off in a club in Rochester,” Richmond says, sitting back in his seat, putting his hands together in a prayerful pose. The image is fresh in mind. “It was outstanding. We were sold out! The response was just unbelievable. We knew we were onto something.” And the band also promised itself something: “We wouldn’t play every gig that came along,” Richmond said. “We wanted it to be special, so every time we play we get a great crowd.“ P r i m e Ti m e F u n k d o e s d o weddings and special events for organizations, and it’s the house band for the Rochester Music Hall of Fame, which Richmond is the music for, and, of course, some clubs. Richmond was central to the development of Prime Time Funk, and the band’s success opened up his creative portfolio. He wrote or arranged songs on the band’s first CD, “ready and willing” in 2001, produced by Rochester’s Jeff Tyzik, who was not only the conductor for the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra, but also led his own big band and produced records for Chuck Mangione, Doc Severinsen and the Woody Herman Orchestra. That first CD features “When You’re Hot, You’re Hot,” which also led off the B side on the Mother Freedom record, and is one of the videos on the primetimefunk.com website. Watch that video — or any of the others — and you a group of guys really focused and enjoying what they do together: they’re having way too much fun. Richmond, David Cohen and Andy Calabrese produced the second CD, “Hear and Now.” Guitarist Oritz,
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who had been a fixture with Richmond for years, died in 2009 but had recorded tracks on the CD, which is dedicated to him as someone who “lived, loved and breathed music.” The band went one more step, establishing a $1,500 music scholarship at Newark High School in Ortiz’s name. And Richmond found other bands to contribute to — he played with Majestica, a reggae band, and with Lou Graham. His band Kicks opened for Tower of Power; another of his bands, Chet Catallo and the Cats, opened for George Benson; Prime Time Funk opened for the Brothers Johnson, John Schofield, and Earth, Wind & Fire — mostly in festivals. Richmond toured with the Four Tops and met Levi Stubbs. “We talked for awhile. When their time came to sing, his sister and I helped him onto the stage and were holding him while he sang ‘Reach Out.’ I was in tears. To be that close and hear that voice with all its history – it was an emotional moment for me.” And there was more. He toured with the Temptations show for two years. “I was asked to form a horn section for them in each city and on a tip from a trumpet player in Prime Time Funk, I contacted military bands where they were going. He did some Buick commercials and is the voice of “Munch” in Chuck E. Cheese restaurants. “It’s amazing to go into one of those and hear myself,” he said. Richmond had a side business with Jeff Cosco — Heart Song — where they would quickly custom-write a love song. “We started out on the Brother Weez show on radio. We’d go into the studio, take a phone call, and after 20 minutes or so, write the song and play it for them over the air. People were crying…” Cosco and Richmond took that act on the road for broadcasters in San Antonio, Dallas and Miami. Then there was Paris. Blue guitarist Sherman Robertson was in Rochester to perform at the Lilac Festival and he came early telling the producer he was looking for a band to accompany him to Paris for a three-week gig. The producer, a friend of Richmond’s, recommended Prime Time Funk. “He heard us and hired us to go to Paris . We would open the show
and play a 40-minute set, then we’d back Sherman. He also hired three girl singers from Syracuse. It was unbelievable. The response to us in Paris was really overwhelming. They loved Sherman, too, but the response to us was pretty strong.” Richmond looks at the 24 successful years of Prime Time Funk as a function of having a goal from the outset. “When we started the band, that was part of our mantra — we started a band, a 10-piece band, and I want to look across the stage five years from now and smile and be as happy as I am the first time we play. Twenty-four years later, we’re still smiling. “I love the guys in the band, we all love each other. It’s like a family, it really, is. I’ve watched their kids grow up. The music that we make, we all know how blessed we are to all have this kind of talent in one band, and the whole feeling around the band and the music and the families. We’re all really lucky and we’re blessed and we all know that, and we hear it all the time.” The band has been silent this year because of the pandemic. But for Richmond, less activity in performing has been a blessing. “I miss the performances, but I’ve been writing more. I finally bit the bullet to get my own studio so I can do what I want to do here, when the moment hits, instead of trying to get it down and going to somebody else. I’m a little more self-sufficient. In that way, it’s been great.” He said he’s had time to listen to more music, and more varied music. “I find myself taking in more internally than I did. It’s hard to explain. Before the pandemic, I was always out running to play, running to do this, rehearsals and stuff; sometimes you don’t have time for that internal things, for going back to your roots almost. “This period has taken me back to the roots. It’s so hard to explain, I’ve always loved music. I have a deep love for music, but it seems that now, there’s a more intense love, and maybe it’s because I feel I’ve lost a year and I can’t get it back. I can’t waste time just doing trivial music stuff now…now everything means something. “I am at a point now where I’m really excited about music. It’s been a blessing in a way even though I’ve lost a year.”
addyman’s corner By John Addyman Email:firstname.lastname@example.org
‘Negative’ Never Sounded So Positive
Even oft-broken nose doesn’t deter COVID-19 test
“Do you have a deviated septum?” she asked. The lab tech in the testing station was getting ready to give me a COVID-19 test, and she was checking things off on her list. “I don’t know,” I told her. “I do have a pretty smashed-up nose.” “What do you mean?” she asked. And she leaned over, gently pushed my head back, and looked straight up my nose. “Oh, my,” she said. She didn’t explain what she saw up there, and that sent a bit of a shiver of discomfort through me. You see, when I was 16, I got my nose broken for the first time, and it’s been broken at least another six times since. Back then, I was a coach for a Little League farm team, trying to multitask, simultaneously teaching my pitcher to throw, my catcher to set up properly behind the plate and the batter to swing at the ball. I stood behind the catcher. “Throw the ball,” I instructed the pitcher when everyone was set. “Aren’t you going to put a catcher’s mask on?” he asked from the mound. Smart kid. “I’ll be OK,” I said. The pitcher threw the ball and the batter swung and ticked off a foul ball, which hit me smack in the kisser. I picked up the ball and threw it back to the pitcher. But something wasn’t right. The batter was crying. “What’s wrong?” I asked him. “Your nose, coach!” “What’s wrong with my nose?” I put my hand up where I left my nose that morning and it was no longer there. I felt around, and found my nose plastered up against my right cheek.
I put it back where it belonged and asked, “Where’s that catcher’s mask?” As I turned to look for the mask, my eyes were launching projectile tears. My nose really hurt. That was the first break. Several others ensued but my favorite break occurred in the back seat of a 1958 Renault Dauphine with a maiden named Carol. But that’s another story … Anyway, back at the testing lab, the tech was pulling out her swab and she kept looking up my nose. Oh, I’ve seen the videos of people sitting in their cars with the nurse poking a little piece of wood the size of a yardstick up somebody’s nose. And I remembered President Trump holding up a swab that looked like a long Q-tip with a huge glob of cotton at the end bigger than a golf ball. I didn’t know if a thing like that would make it all the way up my nose and Lord knows what she’d pull out with it when she was done.
Blazing new trails I’ve never looked up my nose. I have no idea what’s up in there, and that got me to thinking about this swab that was about to go searching
for coronavirus beasties. Was it possible that I still had raisins from kindergarten stuck in my nose, or wads of white glue from first grade, or maybe a June bug from a motorcycle ride? All that was running through my mind when the technician poked me to get my attention. “Ready?” she asked brightly. I gripped the side of the chair and nodded. She had reconnoitered the best path for the swab through my crooked nose and put the swab in all the way and pulled it out. It took less than three seconds. “Done,” she said. “Is that it?” I asked. After all the horror stories I’d heard about the procedure, this was nothing. In baseball parlance, it was a can of corn. I took my first look at the swab she used and it was the width of a pencil point. This was simple. I didn’t ask her what she saw up my nose — I didn’t want to know. I was already getting out of the chair. She packed everything in the lab bag and told me I’d have the results in a day or two. When I walked out of the lab, there were people standing in a proper social-distance line in the hallway and out the door, waiting to share my experience. They all had the same look on their faces I must have had on mine before I went in. I stopped in the middle of the hall and said to everyone, “It’s a piece of cake,” I told them, smiling. “Honest.” By the looks on their faces, nobody believed me. And two days later, I got the results of the test: negative. Whew! 2020 November / December - 55 PLUS
long-term care By Susan Suben
The Benefits of Serving Your Country
n 1967, my friend’s soon-to-be husband tried to enlist in the army during the Vietnam War. He was rejected due to the fact that he wore “coke-rim” eyeglasses and was considered legally blind. If he lost his glasses in battle, he would most likely be killed. Two weeks after going to his local selective service center, right after President Johnson issued an edict for more troops, he received a letter informing him he was being drafted. He was in Vietnam for one year and luckily made it back home. Over the years, he was a successful businessman, raised three children and led a happy life. When his wife suddenly died, behaviors that were previously ignored became more prominent and disruptive in his daily life — obsessive compulsive behavior, small fits of anger and nightmares. He scheduled an appointment at the VA where he received all of his medical care. After a thorough evaluation, it was determined he had been suffering from PTSD for years and the tragic death of his wife exacerbated the symptoms. He applied for and was able to receive disability income from the federal government in addition to his Social Security. He found out that he was also eligible for long-term care benefits. Many veterans who fought in Vietnam, Desert Storm and other US conflicts do not give enough credence to the consequences that these wars can have on their emotional, physical and social well-being. If you are a veteran, there are many benefits that can compensate and assist you with your medical needs. These benefits can fill a gap in your retirement planning. Here is how the process works in regard to disability compensation. The Office of Veteran Affairs will review your medical requirements. Based upon this review, you will be placed in an enrollment priority group ranging
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from 1 to 8. This placement is based upon such factors as your disability, discharge status, active or non-active duty, etc. Each group allows you to be eligible for certain health benefits with priority group 1 being the most comprehensive. Care can include preventive care, hospital services, mental health, home health care, geriatrics and extended care, medical equipment, dental care, hearing aids, eyeglasses and hospice. I would also like to focus on another benefit that pertains to longterm care. T h e VA a d m i n i s t e r s a n underutilized often unknown benefit called “Aid and Attendance.” The Aid and Attendance Pension is a benefit that is available to “veterans, their spouses and widows to help cover living expenses and ensure quality of life when facing a long- term care illness. It is a tax-free pension.: This year, the pension pays a maximum of $2,266/month or $27,192/year to married veterans; $1,911/month or $22,932/year to single veterans; and $1,228/month or $14,736/year to a surviving spouse. 2020 Aid and Attendance qualifications require 90 days of continuous active military service of which one day is during a war but combat is not required. Dates of war include WWI, WWII, Korean War, Vietnam War and Persian Gulf War. Discharge from the US Armed Forces cannot be dishonorable. You must be disabled and require assistance with your activities of daily living, such as eating, bathing, dressing, etc. You would have to be living in an assisted living facility or nursing home or receiving home care in your home or getting assistance from a family member or friend in your home. To qualify financially, you would have to satisfy asset limits that pertain to your stocks, bonds, annuities, etc. and VA income limits, but your home,
car and personal property would be excluded. Applying can be a bit daunting but well worth the effort. You can seek assistance from a VA social worker often found through the local agency on aging or a specialized attorney. Each state has its own pension management center that processes Aid and Attendance applications. The key forms are VA Form 21-527EZ for veterans and VBA-21P-534EZ –ARE for survivors. The documents you will need include: recent tax return; health insurance provider numbers; Social Security numbers; discharge or separation papers (DDForm 214); marriage certificate; social Security award letter; bank and financial statements pertaining to stocks bonds, annuities, etc; diagnosis, prognosis and care plan from primary doctor; medications, medical bills, etc.; and letter from a facility if you reside in one. The application process can take up to 12 months. To get additional information about your eligibility or to apply, you can visit va.gov or call 800-827-1000. All of the available VA benefits can be of enormous value for your health and long-term care needs especially if you haven’t done any long-term care planning. Aid and Attendance can make a big difference in your family’s financial picture as well as the wellbeing of your caregiver. Don’t hesitate to find out what you may qualify for. You served your country, now let your country serve you. 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. She can be reached at 800-422-2655 or by email at email@example.com.
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2020 November / December - 55 PLUS 49 9/18/20 10:46 AM
By Todd Etshman
Rev. Lewis Stewart, 74 United Christian Leadership Ministry’s president discusses the death of Daniel Prude, racial problems in the Rochester area Q. How was the United Christian Leadership Ministry founded? A. The UCLM was founded in 2013 by a group of African American clergy who felt there was not a collective voice for social justice speaking on behalf of the Black community. We have really grown this year. Our members are diverse: Black, white, Latino and anyone with a love of social justice. Q. What do you and UCLM want to say about the alleged murder of Daniel Prude? A. We are living in some critical times. We’ve got to get this straightened out. Our community needs to heal. If we don’t deal with this festering cancer then it’s going to persist until it results in more death. People are talking about defunding the police or abolishing the police. We’re not for either one. What we are for is a third alternative called re-allocation. We want the re-allocation of police officers so they can go back into training. We have to make them more sensitive, more humane to the public they serve, especially when they’re dealing with Black and brown people. Q. Has any progress been made in police-community relations? A. No, we have not made progress. The only progress we have made is that now we have body worn cameras that shed technological light on Daniel Prude’s death. If it wasn’t for UCLM and its allies demanding that the city outfit officers with body worn cameras we would not have known the inhumane way that Daniel Prude was treated. It would have been a complete cover up.
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Q. What other measures are UCLM proposing? A. We want a three-person citizen’s panel to interview police candidates before they are hired so the community is involved in the hiring process. We need to find out if they are a good fit for the culture and ethnicity of the community they’d be hired to serve. We also want 60 hours of mandated racial injustice education and training for police agencies across New York state. Officers should have mandated mental health exams on a yearly basis. Officers see a lot of things in the community on a regular basis. They become traumatized by it. They keep it in but it comes out in a high rate of divorce, a high rate of suicide and a high rate of alcohol and drug addiction. We must have this. We don’t want cops to intervene in something they’re not trained for. They are not trained for mental health evaluation. We’ve had two people killed because of it. We need mental health counselors to do this. They [police] should be with them but the primary person to intervene [with cases of mental illness] should be the mental health therapist. We also need to push qualified
immunity. A cop can’t be sued for what he does, just the municipality. Cops would be on much better behavior and act more responsibly if they could be sued. Q. What role do you see yourself playing in race relation issues? A. For me, social justice is a biblical mandate. Micah tells us to carry out justice and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. That’s what I’ve been trying to do since I was 17 years old. Being Black means you’re impacted by white society. We have been marginalized by racism. You don’t make changes by hate but by being true to yourself and your calling. Some changes take a lifetime to make. I have a global ideology interconnected with my biblical theology. I see my role as a bridge builder not as a bomb thrower, not as a nihilist, not to bring chaos but to build the beloved community that Dr. King talked about. I’m a liberationist and a liberationist seeks the liberation of all people. I’m going to stick with it as long as I can because we’re in deep trouble, my friend. Q. Are Rochester ’s racial problems unique? A. Our issues here are a microcosm of what’s going on across the country but I feel Rochester is in a unique situation. Between the work of Fredrick Douglas and Susan B. Anthony and the Black Church Studies in the civil rights era, we have done a lot of innovative things here in Rochester. We can be a hopeful paradigm here for other communities to follow.
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