Love like a hurricane: Couple shares windy start to their 67-year marriage

senior couple

Buckner senior living communities are full of couples whose love for one another, and for the Lord, has lasted through the decades. They set examples of love that withstands life’s ups and downs and is better for having done so. We’re blessed to have these couples share their tips for relationship success in this month’s series “Loving Well.”

Sole and Beverly Coleman, residents at Buckner Westminster Place, are one such couple. The southern lovebirds have now been married 67 years, but they almost didn’t make it out of the church. They were married in the middle of a raging hurricane, and after the ceremony in Mobile, Ala., drove through torrential rain and high-powered winds to Biloxi, Miss.

As the couple says today, the eventful start to their marriage prepared them for life’s harder storms ahead. It was a foundation they would need later when Beverly was diagnosed with tuberculosis, and again when their family experienced significant and unexpected loss. Through it all, their love has stayed strong.

Their secret to a long, successful marriage?

“Be kind to one another!” Beverly said.

“Thoughtfulness and consideration of each other,” added Sole.

The Colemans laughed that grace is undeniably another ingredient in their recipe for happiness, as Sole always misses his wife’s April birthday to go turkey hunting.

“We made a deal,” Beverly explained. “He could go hunting on my birthday and I could do just whatever I wanted.”

Today, this happy couple laughs easily and often. They enjoy life alongside friends and neighbors at Westminster Place and cherish their growing family of two children and three granddaughters. The Coleman’s obvious commitment to each other inspires us to love our own families with the same persistent, unconditional love.

Couple celebrates 81 years of marriage this Valentine’s Day

This year, Madeline and Walter Luther, residents at Buckner Westminster Place, are celebrating their 81st Valentine’s Day as a married couple. The Rhode Island natives met as teenagers at a corner store in their hometown, fell in love and never looked back. Today, they say they’re more in love than ever before.

Houston couple celebrating more than six decades of love this Valentine’s Day

seniors looking at old photo of themselves.

For Jim and Rosalyn Huddleston, February 14 isn’t just Valentine’s Day. More than six decades ago, it was also their wedding day. They married on February 14, 1956, and this year will celebrate 62 years of marriage alongside friends and family at Parkway Place in Houston.

The couple’s trip to the altar was anything but ordinary. They grew up together in east Houston—just down the street from each other. They officially met during a group date, then went on a double date and finally went on their own first real date. They immediately knew they were in love.

Rosalyn’s mother, however, didn’t approve. She wanted to send Rosalyn off to an all-girls school about a year into the relationship. The couple decided the only way for them to stay together was to get married. Since Jim was 20 and Rosalyn was 17, they needed her mother’s permission to get married in Houston. They knew that wasn’t going to happen, however, so they drove to Crowley, La., and eloped.

Now, the couple is more in love than ever.

“We wanted to be together and knew we were the ones for each other,” said Jim. “It was the best decision we could have made. Our bond grew, and we learned more about one another.”

Family tensions were still strong when the couple returned and didn’t get better until the birth of their first child five years later. Rosalyn’s mother even called the police! But when she realized the couple was really in love and wasn’t going anywhere, she and the family gave their full support.

“Look at us now, 62 years together and these have been the best years of my life,” Jim added. “We made it through the hardest times in our lives with just each other. There is nothing that can come between us. The good times and bad times have made us into the strong couple we are today.”

The couple spent most of their married life in Alvin, Texas, southeast of Houston, with a short stint in Beaumont, Texas. Jim worked in the oil and gas field while Rosalyn was a nurse. They raised three kids and have three grandchildren and one great grandchild.

After Jim retired in 1993, the couple never actually quit working. They started mission trips and went to work for the National Park Services. Later they served as missionaries in Papua New Guinea for two years where they helped with Bible translation. While volunteering overseas they spent time on a ship and worked in Granada.

“Everything Jim and I accomplished was together and with the Lord’s help, and I couldn’t imagine anyone else by my side,” Rosalyn said. “This is a special anniversary because we are in a new city and new home at Parkway Place. I am thankful for our love. Love isn’t always easy, but when you have the right person in your life it sure does make it fun. Without Jim, my life wouldn’t be complete.”

“Jim and Rosalyn are godly people, and their love story is truly inspiring,” said Susan Phelps, executive director at Parkway Place. “Through all the ups and downs they stuck together as a couple. You don’t see that as much today. It’s a beautiful story, and it’s one people can learn from. We are thankful they call Parkway Place home.”

60 years and counting

60 year wedding anniversary

Lewis Laurent still remembers the first time he saw his wife-to-be, Mary Ida.

“I was in the second grade,” he said. “Her mother pulled up to the school in their car one morning and out stepped this beautiful girl.”

While their courtship didn’t begin quite that early, it wasn’t too long before they were in love and planning a wedding.

They married on Dec. 28, 1957 and just celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary, a few months after moving to Calder Woods in July 2017.

Lewis, 83, and Mary Ida, 79, grew up in Norco, La., a small town between Baton Rouge and New Orleans. They attended the same Catholic school, went to church at the same parish, and their families even became next-door neighbors when they were teenagers.

When Lewis enlisted in the Army in 1956, Mary Ida started dating another man and soon was engaged to marry him.

“When I heard about that I decided right then and there that I needed to go after that girl or the other guy was going to get her,” Lewis remembers. “I called her on the phone and asked her to marry me.”

Mary Ida called off her engagement. A year later, they were married at St. Catholic Church, surrounded by their loving families.

After Lewis discharged from the Army in 1960, he went to work for Shell Oil where both their fathers worked, like many men in the town.

Two years later, he lost his job in a layoff. He soon got another job offer from Goodyear in Beaumont, and they left Louisianan for Texas.

They raised their four children—sons Scott and Dean and daughters Celeste and Jan—in Beaumont. Mary Ida worked as a secretary at Kelly High School and in the credit department at Sears for a few years. Lewis worked 32 years at Goodyear before his retirement in 1994.

Their lives took a dramatic turn in 1983 when their oldest son, Scott, was paralyzed after a tragic car accident. A few years later, Mary Ida was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. Despite her health challenges, they cared for their disabled son for 21 years until he passed away in 2004.

“A lot of people ask me how we did it,” Mary Ida said. “There was never any question in our minds. We always just did what we had to do.”

The couple loved to travel and even took Scott with them to Disneyland twice. They made other memorable trips together to Hawaii, Alaska and the Panama Canal. Lewis loved woodworking and Mary Ida enjoyed sewing. One year, they made 1,200 wooden puzzles to give away to local charities serving needy children at Christmastime.

“Despite life’s ups and downs, our faith and our love for God and family have kept us strong,” Lewis said. “You just keep on moving no matter where life takes you.”

How to love your parents as they age

seniors enjoying life

Aging parents. It’s a life stage we always know will come, but never really know what it will look like or how to prepare.

The Bible calls us to honor our parents, but the command isn’t just for children under 18. God intends us to honor, love and serve our parents throughout our lives and theirs. Though the demands of life change as our parents age, the command to love them does not.

As a senior living provider, Buckner staff spend significant time around aging parents and their children. Here are seven ways we’ve seen to best love aging parents.

  1. Make time.

As adults in corporate America, we lead busy, fast-paced lives. So fast, in fact, that it can sometimes be easy to forget about our parents. But there will come a time when you’ll wish you had spent as much time with them as you could. It doesn’t have to be fancy, just a few minutes to show you care. Take the Sunday afternoon to go visit. Deliver flowers on Valentine’s Day. Make the phone call just because. You’ll be glad you did.

  1. Listen.

Intentionally ask your parents about the things they’ve seen and done in their lives. Enjoy the stories…even if you’ve heard them 51 times. Showing interest will make them feel seen and valued. Take every opportunity to learn things about them—and from them—while you can.

  1. Ask the hard questions.

Aging parents will often be reluctant to admit loneliness, changing health and fears about aging. Ignoring these issues, though, would be unloving. Ask your parents how they’re really doing. Having these regular check-in conversations now lays the foundation for harder conversations in the future.

  1. Be willing to serve, but also willing to be served.

It may sound obvious, but your parents will always be your parents. They’re going to want to cook you dinner, babysit your kids and take you soup when you’re sick. Let them do this. They’re not fragile, and you’re not invincible. Honor their independence while it lasts, and love them by letting them love you the best ways they know how.

  1. Get involved with their lives.

Much like it’s important to know about your parents’ history, it’s equally important to know about their daily lives. Get involved with their day-to-day. Go to doctor appointments with them. They’ll want someone else there. Does your parent have a bucket list? Help them check some items off the list. You’ll have just as much fun as they will!

  1. Give them the respect they’ve earned.

Let’s face it, your parents have earned serious respect through the years. They’ve invested time, resources and emotional energy to help build the life you have today. Honor the things they’ve done. Show them respect by still asking for their advice and regularly thanking them for what they’ve given you.

  1. Show patience.

There will be things, like technology, that you’ll understand better than your parents. Be patient with their questions, frequent phone calls and frustration. Remember you were there once too, when they taught you addition and subtraction, how to tie your shoes and recite the ABCs. They might not ever understand what you’re trying to teach them, but at least they’ll know you care.

Bottom line, having aging parents is going to take courage. It’s going to take sacrifice and patience and a willingness to understand. But aren’t these the same things they needed when raising you?

Game show winner finds home at Calder Woods

game show winner

“Come on down!” is a phrase most recognize from the long-running television gameshow “The Price is Right.”

For 93-year-old Paul Arceneaux, though, those three words bring a smile and countless memories from a lifetime of chasing adventure.

The Calder Woods resident was a contestant on the popular show in 1985 and ended up winning $16,000 worth of prizes—equivalent to nearly $38,000 today.

“It sounded interesting, so we went to get tickets to the show,” remembers Arceneaux. “It turned out to be quite a deal!”

The winnings, including a handcrafted television cabinet, a washer and dryer and a lounge chair, were all delivered to his home in Lumberton, Texas. But for Arceneaux, the best prize was gaining one more experience to add to his list of accomplishments.

A native of Church Point, La., Arceneaux retired from the U.S. Postal Service at age 55 after 35 years of service. Shortly after, he and his wife lived out of their travel trailer for 20 years, visiting 49 states and multiple Canadian provinces. Along the way, he made it a point to experience as many adventures as possible. Even while in Los Angeles for the now famous “Price is Right” appearance, he and his wife attended the Rose Parade and nearly 20 live show tapings, including “The Tonight Show” with Johnny Carson and “The Merv Griffin Show.” Travel, Arceneaux said, is a natural part of his life.

“I always wanted to travel,” Arceneaux said. “I traveled the whole Pacific Ocean while serving in WWII, and even though I was just a kid then, it boosted me to want to see everything I could.”

Today, Arceneaux has 12 grandchildren and 22 great-grandchildren. They frequently visit the travel trailer together for family gatherings. And while he doesn’t travel much anymore, he’s enjoying his home at the new Calder Woods garden apartment homes where he still watches “The Price is Right” nearly every day.

Why you should be mentored by a senior adult

senior citizen doing crafts

In honor of National Mentoring Month, Mary Green of Parkway Place is sharing how mentoring benefits senior adults. Mary serves as the life enrichment coordinator at the Houston senior living community.

We’ve all heard the adage “you can’t judge a book by its cover.” I’ve never found this to be truer than in working with senior adults. Some may look frail, but they are full of the richest wisdom, sharpist wit and deepest relationships I’ve ever seen.

It’s no surprise, then, that senior adults should be at the top of the list for anyone looking for a mentor. Be it a specific skill, career direction or general life advice, senior adults have so much to offer. When it comes to seniors, though, the benefits of mentorship go both ways.

What you’ll get:

  • An understanding of why age is just a number. Developing a relationship with a senior adult teaches young people that you don’t lose your intellect or sense of humor when you age.
  • Improved communication skills. Talking to a senior adult is a learned skill. Conversation must be loud enough in case of hearing issues, but soft enough to not be patronizing or insulting.
  • A bigger picture. Senior adults, obviously, have a lifetime of experiences from which to draw. Unlike any other mentor-mentee relationship, they have a greater understanding of life’s bigger picture.

What you’ll give:

  • A sense of purpose. After retirement, older adults often feel like they have nothing to contribute to society. Giving them a sense of purpose can literally add years to their life.
  • Intellectual stimulation. An intentional relationship like mentoring gives older adults something to think about and plan for, much like they would for a job.
  • A renewal of faith in the future. Older generations can fall into the habit of thinking that all “kids” are lazy. To meet a young person who is motivated to learn something, however, can correct those stereotypes and give hope.
  • An identity outside of family and friends. To be in a mentor relationship where you are no longer “so-and-so’s grandmother” or “Mr. So-and-so’s widow” but are known simply as yourself helps with self-esteem.

Above all, the greatest benefit of mentorship for both sides is the breaking down of stereotypes. It may be human nature to put people in cubby holes and assume that a 90-year-old behaves one way while a 15-year-old behaves another. However, we have more in common with one another than we think. The best way to find out just how much is by building relationships.

To get connected with a senior adult at your local Buckner senior living community, contact 800-381-4551 or email us here.

How to choose the right senior living community

seniors enjoying life

After nearly 30 years in the senior living industry, I’ve seen hundreds of people looking to find the right community. Adult children hoping to move their parents closer. Widows seeking friendship in the midst of grief. Couples building a new life after retirement.

Whatever brings you to look at a senior living community, there are a few things you need to think about during the process. You need to know what you’re looking for, and, just as importantly, what you’re not looking for.

Factors to consider:

1.    Location

Before looking at a community itself, look at the surrounding areas. This will be your new home, so you want your existing life to fit. Is there easy access to your local bank, church and grocery store? Can you maintain your normal routines? If you’re moving closer to family or just looking for a change of scenery, make a list of these kinds of places you’ll need and make sure they’re within close proximity.

2.    Continuum of care

A Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC) offers more than one area of living and care, such as independent living, assisted living, memory care and nursing. Some people choose stand-alone communities that may offer only one of these living or care areas, but having all of them available provides incredible peace of mind. Plan now to make your life easier should additional care needs arise.

3.    Staff dynamics 

What is the staff like? Are they friendly? How much interaction do they have with residents? Some staffs see the community as an employer, others see it as a family. Decide which best fits your personality and desired lifestyle.

4.    Faith-based

Whether you’re a person of faith or not, decide if you want your community to be faith-based. While faith-based communities don’t push their beliefs on residents, they do offer more religious programming, such as prayer gatherings and chapel services.

5.    Verbiage 

How do the website, marketing materials and staff members refer to the community? Do they call it an available “unit” or available “home”?  A dining “hall” or dining “room”? These little nuances speak volumes about the community’s overall atmosphere and approach to life.

Questions to ask:

1.    Can you join a resident for lunch, or attend an event at the community, before making a decision? You’ll want to get as much of a “day in the life” feel as possible.

2.    What is the typical fee increase, and how often does it increase?

3.    Is there a full-time life-enrichment director on staff? What kinds of activities are available?

4.    What is the average age of residents in independent living?

5.    Are visitors welcome any time?

Be sure you visit the community more than once. Talk to the residents each time. They won’t be shy about sharing their opinions, and you can learn a lot about a community by talking to those who live there.

If you use this guide to find the right community for you and your lifestyle, I guarantee you’ll be changed for the better. You’ll find a renewed sense of purpose, a more positive outlook and more fun than you ever imagined. And, if you’re like most, you’ll wish you’d done it sooner.

Dida Horton serves as the Senior Director of Marketing and Sales for Buckner Retirement Services. She’s been with Buckner since 2002.

Friday photo: Leaders bring Disney hospitality to Buckner

senior living workers at convention

Staff from Buckner Retirement Services traveled to “the happiest place on Earth” this week to learn from leaders in the hospitality industry at the Disney Institute. The initiative stems from plans to refine the hospitality services offered at Buckner senior living communities and create inspiring experiences for each Buckner resident.

Lifelong fisherman finds fishing paradise at Westminster Place

senior man fishing

January is National Hobby Month, so each week we’re featuring different hobbies and talents of residents at Buckner senior living communities. This week, meet Jerry Blissette, the famous fisherman at Buckner Westminster Place in Longview. 

Some people choose a senior living community for its friendly atmosphere, five-star dining or luxury amenities.

For Jerry Blissette, however, it was the fishing pond at Buckner Westminster Place that sealed the deal.

“The pond is right outside my window,” said Blissette, “and I can fish as often as I want!”

At 81, the East Texas native has been fishing since he was five years old. He remembers his dad taking him to a small creek near their house, fishing for a few hours, and then bringing the catch home to his mother. She’d fry up the winnings to feed her growing family of two girls and three boys.

“I couldn’t get enough of fishing,” Blissette said. “It didn’t matter how big the fish were, I just loved to be out there. And I haven’t stopped since.”

Blissette has fished all over North America, from Mexico to Canada and even Alaska where he caught salmon. Many of the fish he’s caught through these expeditions are mounted in his independent living apartment.

Now, Blissette fishes every day at Westminster Place, anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour. He’s only missed a few days since moving to the community with his sister in October, and even then just for weather. Every day, he catches three or four fish before throwing them back.

The dining staff enjoy Blissette’s fishing hour almost as much as he does. They often join him outside after their lunch shifts, sitting under a pavillion while he sits in his fishing chair. Each time he catches a fish, they cheer.

“It’s like I have my own cheering section,” Blissette laughed. “Everyone here at Buckner is like family. My sister and I wanted to decide where to move while we could still make the decision for ourselves, and I’m so glad we picked Buckner.”

And after 76 years of fishing, Blissette doesn’t plan on stopping any time soon.

“It’s a quiet time. It’s just me and the fish, and I love it.”

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