Baptist Retirement Community dedicates Elsie Gayer Chapel

Members of the Baptist Retirement Community came together with Buckner Retirement Services staff to dedicate the Elsie Gayer Chapel. On hand were members of the Gayer family, as well as members of the Baptist Memorial Ministries Board and Buckner International Board of Trustees.

The renaming of the chapel after Elsie Gayer is part of an $8.4 million renovation project to Baptist Retirement Community, announced in Oct. 2018. The planned updates include renovations to the high-rise independent living apartment building and the Sagecrest nursing building while also providing for road repairs and added curb appeal to the community, which has served seniors in San Angelo since 1951.

Elsie Gayer, RN, founded the Baptist Memorials Geriatric Hospital in 1951 and served as its administrator until 1968. The hospital later pivoted into senior living and was renamed Baptist Retirement Community.

A plaque honoring Gayer was unveiled at the ceremony, noting how her “efforts and passion persist today as an enduring symbol of senior living that is Inspiring Happiness™ in San Angelo and throughout Texas.”

“Every professional studying the history of senior care should know the name Elsie Gayer,” said Aaron Hargett, BRC’s executive director. “She was a remarkable woman who touched the lives of so many senior adults by ensuring they were loved and lived with dignity as members of a community.”

The updates and new construction to BRC are part of a long-term campus renovation and repositioning plan, which already has seen the construction of The Crest, a new assisted living memory care building, which opened in 2016 on the 100-acre campus. Buckner affiliated with Baptist Retirement Community in 2010. It is one of six Texas senior living communities owned and managed by BRS.

The digital 2018 Buckner Advent Devotional Guide is here! Get yours today!

Advent Devotional Guide

Faith is the tie that binds us. Regardless of our backgrounds, life stories or differences, it’s our faith in Jesus Christ as Savior that binds us together as brothers and sisters. And what better time to come together as a family of faith than during the Advent season?

Advent Devotional GuideThis year, Buckner would like to offer you a special way to celebrate the birth of Christ with our FREE digital 2018 Buckner Advent Devotional Guide. Inside, you will find weekly devotions on the Advent themes of hope, peace, love and joy as well as thoughtful reflection questions to help you and your family meditate on the themes of the Advent season throughout the week.

Through these devotions, we hope you and your family can have meaningful conversations and grow closer together this Advent season. Sign up today to receive your FREE digital 2018 Buckner Advent Devotional Guide as well as weekly devotional emails in your inbox during the Advent season.

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Jennie at the airport

Two Buckner Villas residents attend All Women Honor Flight

welcoming a veteran at the airport

What comes to mind when you think of Veterans Day? For some, it may be the image of a father or grandfather courageously fighting for freedom. Maybe it’s media portrayals of battle scenes from war movies and television shows. Perhaps you reminisce on your own memories of service— from basic training, to combat, to writing loved ones back home.

 

Or, do you envision a nurse working tirelessly to aid wounded soldiers in the operating room? How about a young woman from Toledo, Ohio, facilitating background investigations for security clearances? For Donna Whitworth and Jennie Rose of Buckner Villas in Austin, Texas, these were their realities. Humble servicewomen though they were, their impact and contribution to our nation is immeasurable.

 Donna Whitworth

Donna Whitworth spent most of her growing up in the Houston area and graduated from Baylor University’s nursing school. Coming from a military background, Whitworth always knew she wanted to serve her country, and after working two years as a nurse, she decided to enlist in the military. 

 

“My daddy had served in the Navy and I had grown up with movies like Strategic Air Command, so I decided to go with the Air Force. I entered as a First Lieutenant,” she said.

Whitworth was stationed at Vandenburg Air Force Base in California where she served as an operating room nurse during the Vietnam era. Because the United States had begun to withdraw overseas at the time, Whitworth served stateside for the duration of her service.

“I worked on active military personnel and their families and I had a great bunch of doctors to work with. I really enjoyed my time there and felt like I was making a contribution to my country,” she said.

Although Whitworth had a positive experience in the military, she admits that times have certainly changed for women in active service.

“Nurses were always appreciated and acknowledged by the doctors, but I think now women have so many more choices of what to do. So many jobs have opened up that were not available when I was there,” she said.

Just a few years earlier, a young Jennie Rose from Toledo, Ohio, had a similar fervor to serve her country that landed her in the United States Navy.

Jennie Rose

“I’d always envied people who could serve. Everyone in my family had served in the military somehow. As soon as I was old enough, I enlisted,” Rose said.

Rose was stationed at Great Lakes Communication Facility in Illinois where she ran background investigations for military personnel during the Korean War.

“I didn’t have what some might call an ‘exciting’ career,” she claimed. “But I enjoyed it and I met a lot of wonderful women who were doing the same thing.”  

Due to certain policies at the time and a denied request to be transferred to her husband’s base, Rose eventually stepped down from her position in the Navy; however, as the wife of a sailor, her military journey was far from over.

“My job in the Navy prepared me for a lot of things. By the time I married and started moving around with my husband, I already knew what it was like to travel from place to place” she said.

Because her husband was attached the National Security Agency, she and her family also had to be prepared for evacuation at any given time, particularly when they lived in Japan and Germany. Though stressful at times, Rose feels her experiences gave her a unique perspective.

“Having the opportunity to live in different places and experience different cultures, we lived a lifestyle of patriotism,” she said.

Years later, Whitworth and Rose both found themselves residents of Buckner Villas in Austin, Texas. It was there that they were presented with the opportunity to receive recognition for their service through Honor Flight Network, an organization that transports veterans from across the country to visit war memorials in Washington D.C.

Whitworth heard about the organization through Anna Gatti, fellow Buckner Villas resident and World War II veteran, who had previously attended an Honor Flight and insisted that Whitworth needed to go.

Rose was recommended by her daughter, a resident of Austin, Texas, who volunteers with Honor Flight Austin through an organization called Overseas Brats. As soon as the opportunity arose to travel on the All Women Honor Flight #54 last month, Whitworth and Rose knew they couldn’t turn it down.

From boarding the plane to landing in D.C., to returning home, the women veterans received a once-in-a-lifetime experience and the utmost appreciation from the community. Each veteran was even assigned a guardian, comprised of volunteers committed to assisting the women for the duration of the trip.

Austin resident, Ronna Robbins, attended the trip as a guardian and was paired with Rose. As someone who is not a veteran, she explained that traveling on the All Women Honor Flight was a humbling experience. 

“It was such an honor to give back and thank these women. They faced a lot of challenges when they served—low pay, no benefits, and sometimes poor housing. It’s an emotional experience to get to be a part of their bond, even for a little while,” she said.

Whitworth and Rose, like so many other women veterans—past and present—are a shining example of courage and patriotism. Thanks to organizations like Honor Flight Austin, their contributions don’t go unrecognized. When asked if they would recommend the Honor Flight to other veterans, the answer was a resounding, “yes!”

“It’s an experience you’ll never forget,” Whitworth said.

A Miracle in Disguise

In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Jerry Jefferson, member of Baptist Retirement Community in San Angelo, TX, shared a little bit of her story with us. 

The day that Jerry Jefferson went in for her regular mammogram 25 years ago looked like any other day. Little did she know, a miracle was in the works.

“Miracle” isn’t a word typically associated with a breast cancer diagnosis, but when her physician requested a follow-up mammogram revealing a lump in one of Jefferson’s breasts, a miracle is exactly what took place.

The decision was made to remove the small lump, which turned out benign; however, upon examining the tissue, Jefferson’s doctor found an additional spot which had evaded the mammogram. This time it was cancerous.

“I just praise God for the fact that I had the mammogram because it pointed to one thing and through that, something else was found,” said Jefferson, a member of Baptist Retirement Community in San Angelo. “I didn’t have to have treatment; instead I opted to have it removed through a mastectomy. I just wanted it gone.”

From the first mammogram until the mastectomy, the entire process spanned only a few weeks, but that didn’t make the experience any less unsettling for Jefferson. After all, no one is ever fully prepared to hear this kind of news.

“I was startled when my doctor called me, saying ‘we have a problem’,” she said. “Treatment has gotten so much better, but back then, reports were not always good.”

A 59-year-old at the time with two daughters, Jefferson credits her friends, faith and family to being strong sense of support throughout the surgery and recovery process.

“My husband was so supportive. His first words were, ‘honey that was no big thing anyway,’ and we laughed over that,” she said.

Anyone who has experienced or walked through Breast Cancer with a loved one can attest to the fact that there is no “easy” way. While everyone’s journey is different— each with its highs and lows— the thing that remains constant is the bravery of each woman who has fought the battle. That’s why we recognize women like Jerry Jefferson, who can now share her encouraging story of hope and restoration with others.

“I’m just very thankful,” she said. “I’ve had a close walk with the Lord the whole time- before and after. I think sometimes that makes things easier than if you don’t,” she said.

Her advice to women everywhere: “Be sure to have your mammograms.”

Baptist Retirement Community Launching $8.4 Million Renovation Project

two seniors laughing

Leaders at Buckner Retirement Services announced today a series of major campus renovations at Baptist Retirement Community. The planned updates represent $8.4 million in changes to key features of the senior living community and are scheduled to begin immediately, according to Buckner officials.

Areas slated for renovation include the high-rise independent living apartment building and the Sagecrest nursing building while also providing for road repairs and added curb appeal to the community, which has served seniors in San Angelo since 1951.

The plan also calls for the demolition of the Elsie Gayer nursing building while maintaining the existing chapel, maintenance and laundry buildings. The chapel at BRC will be named for Elsie Gayer at a special ceremony in December.

Charlie Wilson, senior vice president for Buckner Retirement Services, said the planned changes to the community represent “a major repositioning of Baptist Retirement Community, which will allow us to offer a greater experience for our resident members and is a real investment in San Angelo and the entire Concho Valley region.”

Aaron Hargett, BRC’s executive director, said he’s excited about the new campus plan. “Baptist Retirement Community has always had a great reputation in the Concho Valley for quality services. We’ve led the Concho Valley in the number of services we offer as the only Continuing Care Retirement Community in the Concho Valley. Now, we will offer these services in an updated, beautiful campus setting.”

The updates and new construction are part of a long-term campus renovation and repositioning plan, which already has seen the construction of The Crest, a new assisted living memory care building, which opened in 2016 on the 100-acre campus. Buckner affiliated with Baptist Retirement Community in 2010. It is one of six Texas senior living communities owned and managed by BRS.

Chaplain Spotlight: Kevin McSpadden

In honor of National Minister Appreciation Day on October 14th, we spotlighted Kevin McSpadden, chaplain of Baptist Retirement Community in San Angelo, Texas.

“Growing old isn’t for sissies.”

That’s what Kevin McSpadden has learned from the many senior adults he works with day-in and day-out. After 15 years in church pastoral positions, McSpadden joined the Buckner team as chaplain of Baptist Retirement Community in San Angelo, where he enjoys a slightly different role.

“I get to do the things I like, such as preaching and teaching and leading worship services, so chaplaincy is a great fit. It’s pastoral care, so it’s what I love to do,” he said.

McSpadden, who just celebrated his 14th anniversary at Baptist Retirement, says he enjoys working with senior adults because of their courage and faithfulness, even amidst some of life’s challenges.

“A lot of the members have to go through big transitions, whether downsizing from their homes, losing a spouse, or moving from one care area to another—it can be tough. To be an encourager to them through that is my favorite part of the job,” he said.

McSpadden also makes a special point to encourage members in their faith, reminding them every day of God’s love and provision over their lives. His favorite Bible verse, 1 Thessalonians 2:8, beautifully illustrates his heart for the ministry he does at Baptist Retirement Community:

“We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God, but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us.”

Parkway Place in Houston members bond through fitness

Donna Stadler moved to Parkway Place with her husband in 2010 and would see Jean Hartzell in the dining room and at Sunday vespers. Donna, 88, said they became better friends after her husband passed away and she moved to a smaller apartment two doors down from Jean, 93.

As the two women learned they both enjoyed staying fit, their friendship grew.

“She was an instructor for an exercise class, and I was a physical therapist,” Donna said. “So we had a lot of common interests in fitness and in the wellness center.”

Read more about Donna and Jean’s friendship in the Houston Chronicle.

Buckner Westminster Place member and author reads to children on National Read a Book Day

seniors reading to children

Thursday, Sept. 6 was National Read a Book Day – the perfect day for children’s book author and Buckner Westminster Place member Ida Luttrell to share some of her books with children at the Buckner Family Hope Center in Longview.

Ida, 84, read from her book Three Good Blankets to the group of 10 children, ages 2 to 4 years old. After she finished, one of the Family Hope Center staff read another of Ida’s books, this time translating it into Spanish for the bilingual children.

National Read a Book Day is an annual awareness day inviting all people to pick up a book and spend the day reading. The day also promotes reading to others, whether it be aloud to children or seniors.

According to the site NationalDayCalendar.com, “reading improves memory and concentration as well as reduces stress. Older adults who spend time reading show a slower cognitive decline and tend to participate in more mentally stimulating activities over their lifetime.”

Ida was joined by her friend and fellow Buckner Westminster Place independent living member Mary Ellen Andrews. Their time at the Family Hope Center merged two of Buckner International’s pillar areas of service: vulnerable children and seniors.

For more about Ida Luttrell, read our resident feature article on her.

Three World War II veterans embark on Honor Flight Austin

Three World War II veterans who call Buckner Villas home will take a trip of a lifetime today. David Moore, 92; George Walker, 91; and Herb Witzel, 93, will travel from Austin, Texas, to Washington D.C. thanks to Honor Flight Austin, a nonprofit organization focused on funding trips for veterans to visit national monuments and memorials. The members of Buckner Villas are three of nearly 40 veterans who will take part in the free Thundercloud Appreciation Flight.

“Several people told me to go on the Honor Flight, and I am thrilled to finally go,” David said. “I know I will always remember the experience. I know this trip is a privilege, and it will be emotional for me. I am grateful to everyone for helping me go on this journey.”

David was born in Alabama and joined the Army in 1944. He served in Germany and Belgium during World War II in the 750th tank battalion as a crewman on a medium tank. He then served in the Army of Occupation with the constabulary patrolling the border between east and west Berlin. After World War II he went to college on the GI Bill at the University of Alabama and graduated in 1951. He then rejoined the Army as a second lieutenant. David retired from the Army in 1975 after 31 years.

For George, the trip will give him the chance to honor relatives who died while serving.

“I have never seen the National World War II Memorial,” he said. “I had two cousins killed during the war, and I will look for their names to pay tribute. Honor Flight Austin is truly amazing, and I am thankful for the opportunity to share my experiences with other veterans.”

George grew up in West Texas and graduated high school in May of 1944. He went to Texas A&M University until December of 1944 when he turned 18. He then volunteered to join the Navy and began six weeks of flight radio training in Tennessee before transferring to the V-5 pilot training program. After leaving the Navy in 1946, George attended and graduated from the University of Texas. He held several jobs including a teacher, as well as a sanitarian with the health department before starting the Kwik Wash Coin Laundry business in Austin.

The trip David, George and Herb will go on includes a special ceremony at the World War II Memorial as well as visits to the other service memorials. Veterans will also get the opportunity to lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Solider.

“I find it fascinating that this organization helps so many veterans witness the war memorials and Arlington National Cemetery firsthand,” Herb said. “I have to say, I am really looking forward to seeing the World War II Memorial.”

Herb is from the Northeast and joined the Army right out of high school in June of 1943. The World War II veteran was a technician fifth grade (T-5) and was stationed in California and Hawaii. He worked on radar for anti-aircraft weapons, specifically for 120 mm M1 guns. While stationed on the island of Oahu, Herb oversaw coastal control for Pearl Harbor. In 1946, he left the Army to pursue a career in education. He retired after nearly 40 years.

“We welcome speakers who come to the community to describe Honor Flight Austin and explain how veteran members can participate,” said Janet Burnett, life enrichment coordinator at Buckner Villas. “I am thrilled to see three members who are all World War II veterans going on this upcoming trip. “You don’t see as many World War II veterans today, so for them to be able to fly to D.C. and see the World War II Memorial is truly amazing.”

Hurricane Harvey survivor declares ‘I am blessed’ after Parkway Place rallies around his family

In late August 2017, Hurricane Harvey made landfall across southeast Texas, leaving a trail of damage, loss and destruction in its wake. For several days following the storm, flooding overtook much of the area, forcing many to abandon their homes and possessions.

Daniel Madison, a utility worker at Buckner Parkway Place, was one victim of Harvey’s wrath. With only the clothes on his back, his wife and a small bag, Madison found refuge somewhere most would never think to look: his place of employment.

“My wife and I stayed at Parkway Place for two months until we got back on our feet,” he said. “Everyone did what they could to make things easier for us and make us comfortable. I was blessed.”

The senior living community’s hospitality toward Madison was simply an added benefit. His motivation to be there, however, was not to seek his own comfort. It was to serve others.

“We were short-staffed. I was just trying to get over there to help and do what I could,” Daniel said. “I knew we were needed.”

Touched by the selflessness of staff members like Daniel, the Parkway Place community decided to act. They wanted to find a way to give back to the people who had given so generously of themselves during such difficult circumstances. Aaron Mendoza, a member of Parkway Place since 2009, worked with a few others to organize a fundraising effort.

“These employees go all-out to serve us, so we felt that it was our time to help them,” Aaron said.

The task was large and proved to be more challenging than expected.

“We had to have a lot of discussions about when to give the money, how much to ask for and where to deposit it. I was a believer that we needed to do it as quickly as we could. These people needed help now, not later,” Aaron said.

With determination and a little bit of problem-solving, everything came together. The members of Parkway Place raised over $20,000 to aid staff members who had lost everything to the storm.

“I’ve always felt, all my life, that it’s better to give than to receive. I try to help people wherever I can,” Aaron said.

A year later, Daniel and his wife, recipients of the fund, have a new apartment close to Parkway Place and are doing better than ever. Though the trials of Harvey will not be soon forgotten, the love and servant-heartedness shown among members and employees at Parkway Place is more powerful than any hurricane.

“Parkway Place members are like God’s helpers. Without them, I wouldn’t be sitting here right now. They took me in and they never looked back,” Daniel said.

Written by Caitlin Heffley, content editor for Buckner Retirement Services.

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