macneillOn May 29, the Plymouth Harbor community and friends will celebrate The Reverend Dr. John Whitney MacNeil with a tribute presentation and cocktail reception.  The evening will begin at 4:00 p.m. in Pilgrim Hall with a program that will give a closer look at this special man and his vision.

Our founder, The Reverend Dr. John Whitney MacNeil, born on May 29, 1911, was a visionary, a leader, and deeply rooted in the values of the United Church of Christ.  It was said of him that he would never reach the peak of his ambitions.  However, he always had goals and he always achieved them.

Two of his very large, ambitious goals in Sarasota were to establish a college of quality and a retirement community of distinction.  We now have New College of Florida and Plymouth Harbor, thanks to Dr. MacNeil and his leadership.

His widow, Judith Merrill, is still a resident of Plymouth Harbor and was recently featured in one of our Zest for Life stories.

If you are not a resident or otherwise affiliated with Plymouth Harbor and would like to learn more, contact Becky Pazkowski at 941-361-7398.


TaftThe beautiful cherry blossom trees, the marvelous Supreme Court Building — both are part of the legacy of William and Nellie Taft, whose story is brought to us by William and Sue Wills, recreating these presidential characters on our stage.

Thursday   May 21

7:45 pm   Pilgrim Hall

And for fun, ponder these 15 odd facts about our most, ahem, rotund President.


Between the Lincoln and Taft administrations, all but two commanders-in-chief boasted some sort of face fuzz. But since our 27th president left the White House in 1913, clean-shaven candidates have monopolized the job.


His son, Robert (also known as “Mr. Republican”), became one of the twentieth century’s most influential senators; his grandson—William Howard Taft IV—went on to tackle various executive duties for Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush.


Pauline Wayne was quite the bovine beauty. A gift from Wisconsin Senator Isaac Stephenson, this purebred cow produced roughly eight gallons of daily milk for the first family. Sensing a crowd-pleaser, the 1911 International Dairymen’s Exposition arranged to transport her all the way from D.C. to Milwaukee—but Pauline’s train car wound up getting lost en route. After some frenzied telegraphing, the President’s cow was discovered two days later in a Chicago stockyard, where she just barely avoided getting slaughtered.


Though he’s best remembered for his one-term stint on Pennsylvania Avenue, Taft had been pining for the Judicial Branch since 1889. Upon becoming Chief Justice in 1921, he happily declared “I don’t remember that I was ever president.”


Hall of Famer Walter Johnson managed to snag a low-flying ball Taft gracelessly lobbed from the stands at the start of a 1910 Washington Senators game. One hundred and four years later, this opening day tradition’s still going strong.


It’s hard to demean someone whose spouse is sitting right in front of you. After her husband won the Republican presidential nomination, First Lady Helen Herron “Nellie” Taft made a beeline for the Democratic National Convention in Baltimore. Grabbing a front-row seat, she stared down orator after orator, including the cantankerous William Jennings Bryan of Nebraska, who suddenly decided to soften his anti-Taft rhetoric.


For the record, Nellie called him “Sleeping Beauty” due to Taft’s bad habit of dozing off at parties (more on that later).


As Chief Justice, he administered the oath of office to fellow conservatives Calvin Coolidge and Herbert Hoover.


Taft covered courthouse news for The Cincinnati Commercial while making ends meet as a law student. However, after becoming president, his attitude towards journalists cooled considerably.


“I can truthfully say that I never felt any younger in all my life,” Taft announced, having given up bread, potatoes, pork, and liquor. “Too much flesh is bad for any man.”


Ever been to a “Build-An-Opossum” workshop? Neither have we. Worried that America’s Teddy Bear mania would evaporate after Roosevelt’s last term, toy manufacturers started producing stuffed “Billy Possums”—named in president-elect Taft’s honor—en masse. Needless to say, these things didn’t last long.


“Most of the time,” admitted Indiana Senator James Watson, “[Taft] simply did not and could not function in alert fashion… Often while I was talking to him after a meal, his head would fall over on his breast and he would go sound asleep for 10 or 15 minutes. He would waken and resume the conversation, only to repeat the performance in the course of half an hour or so.” President Taft was also seen snoozing at operas, funerals, and—especially—church services.


The government’s Judicial Branch didn’t always convene in the majestic building we know today. Before 1935, the Supreme Court issued its rulings from various rooms inside the Capitol. Chief Justice Taft changed all that, successfully lobbying Congress to give the Court its own separate building at a cost of $10 million.


Since 2006, wonky caricatures of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and Teddy Roosevelt have been sprinting across the Nats’ home field and into the hearts of D.C. sports fans. These Rushmore racers were given some awfully big competition when Taft was added to their roster in 2013. “He might even give Teddy a run for his money,” said Nationals COO Andy Feffer.


Today, most people remember Taft as “the president who got stuck in a bathtub while in office.” The actual evidence behind this particular washroom anecdote is rather murky, but at least one of Taft’s bathing sessions ended in catastrophe. While entering a hotel tub in 1915, the ex-president apparently failed to take fluid displacement into account. A wave of Taft’s dirty bathwater instantly poured out, seeped through the floor, and started dripping all over people’s heads on the level beneath him. Though briefly humiliated, Taft made light of the situation. While looking out at the Atlantic Ocean shortly thereafter, he quipped, “I’ll get a piece of that fenced in some day, and then I venture to say there won’t be any overflow.”


By Addie Hurst

ElliottsReally, no introductions are needed!  Many Plymouth Harbor residents know the Elliotts, perhaps not Sue and Tom, but Tom’s parents and grandparents.  Sue and Tom Elliott are our first third-generation family!

You may have read about them in the June 2014 issue of Harbor Light but in case you missed it, or don’t remember, let me introduce you.  Tom and Sue were high school sweethearts in Toledo, OH.  They both attended the University of Toledo where Sue got a degree as a registered medical technologist and worked at the Blood Bank in Ann Arbor, MI.

Meanwhile, Tom graduated from Alma College with a degree in biology.  They were married in 1958, and in 1959 Tom served in the Army in Schweinfurt, West Germany, where Sue was able to join him.  They traveled all around Europe in a Volkswagen, which they filled with gasoline at 13 cents a gallon.  Their friend, who was a tour guide for American Express, gave them instructions on where to go, where to stay, and where to eat. They reported living in an apartment where the Polish landlady spoke no English and they spoke neither German nor Polish.  A neighbor helped by being an intermediary.

Tom’s work when he returned to the States and finished his M.S. at Michigan State University (go green) was at ASA (Applied Science Associates), which became a multi-faceted organization involving behavioral science, ergonomics, personnel management, software development, printing, and training for government and industrial users.  When he started, there were only two men and a secretary; when he retired as president, there were over 150 employees.  After retirement, he taught management at the community college and led the expansion and modernization of the county library system.

They lived in Butler, PA.  Sue was home raising their children, Daniel and Elizabeth, and was involved in lots of volunteer work.  She was on the boards of the library, the mental health clinic, and the symphony.  Sue’s hobby is quilting; one of her quilts was selected to be displayed at Dollywood!

One of the Elliotts’ hobbies was sailing, and they won the Governor’s Cup in 1975.  Tom particularly enjoys woodworking and has already become a member of the Health & Wellness Committee.  Sue will become more active when she completes her physical therapy course.  The Elliotts have many friends in Sarasota as they spent many winters at Sarasota Harbor, but look forward to meeting new ones here.

Every April at the Annual Meeting of the Residents Association at Plymouth Harbor, a new slate of officers is elected to lead the charge for the upcoming year.  On April 6, 2015, the following Slate of Officers was presented for 2015-16:

Terry Aldrich,  President

Walt Mattson,  Vice President

Fran Rehl,  Secretary

Barry Starr,  Treasurer

Mary Allyn,  Past President

Addie Hurst,  Executive Associate, Link to Committees

Norma Schatz,  Executive Associate, Link to Residents

Seated, left to right—Barry Starr, Terry Aldrich, Walt Mattson and Fran Rehl. Standing, left to right—Mary Allyn, Norma Schatz, and Addie Hurst.  

Seated, left to right—Barry Starr, Terry Aldrich, Walt Mattson and Fran Rehl.
Standing, left to right—Mary Allyn, Norma Schatz, and Addie Hurst.

“The Residents Association will continue to promote the well-established tradition of open communication between the Board of Trustees, Senior Staff, and the residents of Plymouth Harbor,” commented Terry Aldrich.


Residents celebrated Wellness Week, April 20-24, by participating in exhilarating wellness activities. Participants enjoyed a drum circle, kayaking adventure, MOTE boat tour, dinner dance, QuickWitz brain presentation, and an outdoor game party.  We’re already looking forward to Wellness Week 2016!   

Just take a look at the fun we had!


FreedmanTheirs is another one of those rare stories of young love at first sight.  Marcia Freedman recalls “I was only thirteen, but he thought I was older. I graduated from high school when I was fifteen and went straight to Endicott College where I earned my degree in art.”

Arnold Freedman replies, “We waited until she’d graduated from college to get married. I bounced around and ended up at Rider College (now University) in New Jersey.”

Both Marcia and Arnie grew up in Albany, New York, and that’s where Arnie landed his first job at the Times-Union Newspaper. When he learned the salary was $25 a week higher in radio, he stepped into broadcast news and got to provide national radio news coverage of the Eisenhower 1952 campaign and inauguration.  But in 1953, television arrived and what young up-and-comer could resist the allure and promises of this medium?  Certainly not Arnie!

The radio station where he’d been an office boy in high school got the first license for TV in Albany and he was able to jump right on board from the beginning. “Nobody knew what we were doing. It was all experimental,” he says.

His career at the Albany station, which became a media conglomerate called Capital Cities Communications, lasted 46 years. “I did everything in  sales and promotion, news, and management,” Arnie adds. Five minutes before his first on-air appearance hosting a quiz show, the advertising guy rushed in to inform him that his on-air name would be Marc Edwards.  Arnie Freedman was just not going to fly.

“What’s my mother going to say?” was the first thing he said, but the name was set and they went live. For many years Marc Edwards reported the weather, news, and provided coverage at major news events. He was part of the team that won a prestigious Peabody Award for their coverage of the 1961 Adolf Eichmann trial in Israel, a noted highlight of Arnie’s career.

During these years Marcia was a working freelance artist, starting with commercial art for department stores, and then on to many other projects. She thrived on the diversity.  She was also the mother of a growing family as she and Arnie welcomed two talented boys to the world. “My art work was my life, as well as my family,” shares Marcia.

Interestingly, both boys ended up in the television industry. Why?  Arnie recounts the pivotal conversation when his boys observed, “Dad always makes enough to buy hockey tickets, so the money in TV must be good.”

It can be for those as motivated as Arnie. The Albany station manager was also Arnie’s mentor who helped him grow into station management. “In 1981, I uprooted Marcia and became station manager of Capital Cities’ station in Fresno. She gave up a great deal for me,” says Arnie gazing lovingly her way.

Smiling, she replied matter-of-factly, “I didn’t give up a lot. I added to my repertoire.”

That she did, expanding her art by working with ASID interior designers who commissioned her to create murals, art for specific spaces, and the list goes on. During those 16 years in Fresno, Marcia also produced a series of Fresno scenes that adorn the offices of the Central Florida Blood Center and were also used in an award-winning calendar for 1995.

About this time, Marcia had a sobering encounter with a stage four diagnosis of ovarian cancer.  Marcia’s oncologist stated his intention, “We are going to make it go away.”  And that’s what happened after two years of chemotherapy.  When Arnie retired in 1997, they took their cancer-free diagnosis and moved to Longboat Key, Florida to briefly be near one of their sons while he was at a station in Orlando.

The cancer returned with a metastasized tumor behind the chest wall in 2000. This time they turned to the doctors at Moffit Cancer Center in Tampa and there’s been no recurrence since.

“They worked miracles,” says Marcia, acknowledging that recovery from recurring ovarian cancer is indeed rare.  Throughout all of these difficult days, Marcia continued to paint exuberantly colorful scenes from her window looking out on the Gulf of Mexico.

After a heart health scare in 2005, both Marcia and Arnie began to consider what might be best for their long-term care and peace of mind for their sons.  Finally conducting research on all the comparable continuing care retirement options in Sarasota, they decided that Plymouth Harbor was the ideal choice.

Not that they didn’t have some reservations. Marcia shared she was heartened to learn that Plymouth Harbor had a diversity of faiths among the residents. And although they now have a lovely two-bedroom home on the 10th floor, downsizing all of their furniture and belongings was a nearly overwhelming chore.  Luckily, the staff at Plymouth Harbor was there to help.

“We could not have made our move without the care and attention of Liz Sparr from the Marketing office,” says Marcia.

“You hope you are never going to need help, but when you do, we know it will be here,” added Arnie. Knowing that they will not over-burden either of their sons or daughters-in-law means a lot to them.

Arnie concluded our conversation with a phrase we often hear from residents, “This is the biggest gift we can give our children.”

Don and Peggy Wallace were featured in April’s Insights.  Don Wallace wrote the script for several soap operas during his career, including The Edge of Night and One Life to Live.  Peggy was his right hand person, inspiring and typing the script every day.  The Wallaces shared how they met and entered into a fruitful career.  For them, life certainly was a Soap Opera!

You can view the full presentation here:

Insights is a new monthly connection where residents share their stories and insights about their lives, careers, and hobbies with employees.  A feature of Plymouth Harbor’s developing Employee Wellness Program, Insights is offered the fourth Friday of each month at noon.  Open to all employees, lunch is provided, supported by gifts to the Plymouth Harbor Foundation employee assistance fund.

Thanks to Phil Starr, each Insights presentation is videotaped for viewing by employees unable to attend the live event.  It will also enable us to develop an archive for future employees to view.

Upcoming Insights Presentations:

May 22                     Beverly Vernon:  “Let’s Cook”

June 26                    Jane Smiley:  “Style—It is My Life”

July 24                      Senator Marlow Cook:  “Politics are Politics”

August 28               Ted and Fran Rehl:  “Inspired by Music”

September 25       Walt Mattson:  “Community College & the Newspaper Business”

October 23                 Susan Mauntel:  “Taking Risks and Winning”

Experts from three of Sarasota’s performing arts venues were guests at our April 30 Foundation Forum entitled The Performance Landscape.  President and CEO Harry Hobson moderated the Forum, and led the others in a discussion that included the trends and lessons learned in design and renovation of performing arts halls.  Forum participants included Mary Bensel (Executive Director of the Van Wezel), Richard Russell (Executive Director of The Opera House), and Steve Turrisi (Development Associate of the Florida Studio Theatre).

April2015Forum2As Plymouth Harbor approaches its 50-year anniversary, we hope to be in a position of upgrading Pilgrim Hall in a way that meets the expectations of the audiences regardless of the use.  This Foundation Forum was the first step in our due diligence as we heard from the leadership of the Van Wezel, The Opera House, and Florida Studio Theatre.  They shared with us the range of entertainment they offer and what they have learned during their respective upgrading projects.

A little background…Plymouth Harbor’s Pilgrim Hall was opened in the 1960s.  Outside of some occasional sound system upgrades, enhanced video capabilities, and the addition of lighting and new seating (dating back at least 25 years), there has not been a focus on changes.

During these nearly 50 years, we have experienced a full gamut of group activities in Pilgrim Hall, resulting in its use as “multi-purpose.”  We all realize that there are challenges when using the same venue for a musical performance, lecture, or video presentation.

Of the many comments made during the Forum, one notable was that Sarasota residents are blessed with the quality and quantity of arts venues in the city.  Panel experts commented that Sarasota’s venues attract performances and productions of major-city proportions, such as Philadelphia, Chicago, and Kansas City, while still being considered a small city.  We are very lucky.