Elsie Dreffein and her brother Charles moved into Plymouth Harbor on January 20, 1966. As one of our original residents, they staked their claim on the 22nd floor, where Elsie lived for more than 30 years. In 1996, she passed away at the age of 103 in the Smith Care Center. In 1974, Charles passed at the age of 91 in Wheaton, Illinois, as he apparently only spent his winters in Sarasota.
Elsie was a public school physical education teacher during her working life in Chicago. She never married or had any children, but some of her extended family still live in Sarasota today. Her brother Henry was the only one to have children—five to be exact, some of whom migrated here. Dorothy (Deln) Dreffin (the spelling of the name changed at some point by “the boys”) was also a resident of Plymouth Harbor. She was married to Henry’s son, Bill Dreffin, who died before she moved here. Additionally, two of Elsie’s great nieces live in Sarasota today. One, Dezi, and her father Roger, have fond memories of Aunt Elsie, describing her as a woman with strong opinions and interest in the stock market.
We wanted to probe further and get more information about Elsie, so we called her niece Barbara Schwanke, who used to winter in Sarasota and now lives full time in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. Barbara recalls, “Elsie was very Republican, with strong ideas, and she expected people to perform. She loved music, education, and hard work. She was a very generous person.” Barbara also tells us that Elsie was a pianist and played both German and American tunes for our residents throughout her 30 years here. She and her brother Charles shared a love for the symphony, which led her to become a member of the Florida West Coast Symphony and the Symphony Orchestra.
Elsie’s four older brothers loved the stock market and would gather together every Sunday night in Glen Ellyn to talk about it at length. Since Elsie was young, too young to be included in the conversation, she would sit in the background and listen to her brothers…and she would learn.
When Elsie died in 1996 she had set up the Elsie A. Dreffein Charitable Trust, funded presumably with the benefits of all of that listening she did in her younger years. She named several charities as the beneficiaries of the income from the trust, Plymouth Harbor being a 30 percent recipient. The income is distributed annually, and the trust has grown to over $5,500,000.
Generous is hardly sufficient to describe Elsie Dreffein. Over the last five years, we have received more than $409,000 in unrestricted funds from her trust, which has helped to support Resident Assistance, the Wellness Center, and more. This year alone, we received a check for $81,584. Her forward-thinking and astute investing will continue in perpetuity.
Did Elsie learn from her brothers? You bet she did. Today, she gives over and over and over again to Plymouth Harbor, continually showing her appreciation for all of the hard workers who lived up to her standards. Thank you, Elsie Dreffein, for reminding us every year what a difference one person can make in the lives of others.