The years of 1972—1976 were notable because it was around this time that the Plymouth Harbor Board of Trustees and the administration began to realize financial difficulty ahead. Existing resident contracts had clauses restricting increases in maintenance fees, which made it difficult to keep pace with rising costs. Jack Smith, the administrator at the time, sought advice from business people on the Board and from a group of residents. In turn, those residents enlisted others to organize a campaign to voluntarily increase their monthly fees. A surprising number of residents did so, and by the mid-1980s, Plymouth Harbor was back in solid financial shape.

According to Jack Smith, “The cooperation was amazing. When we were in financial difficulty, in addition to raising their own monthly payments, residents did everything from paying for carpeting in the public areas, to buying vehicles, to purchasing silverware. The residents saw that the need was there, and they responded to the need to save Plymouth Harbor.” In the years to follow, the Board of Trustees and the Residents’ Long-Range Planning Committee saw an opportunity to begin working on a master plan for Plymouth Harbor—one that would include an ambitious design for an expansion and improvement program.


Virginia, Donna’s birthplace and home for much of her life, is reflected in the soft southern mellowness of her speech and her gracious hospitality in inviting a stranger into her only recently occupied and partially furnished apartment, proffering a steaming mug of coffee and a readiness to chat.

Spending much of her early life with a caring uncle and aunt because of her parents’ divorce, Donna also grew very close to her adored grandmother whose loving guidance influenced her early commitment to her church and the deep satisfaction and inspiration she derived from her personal involvement. That sense of wonder, joy, and fulfillment is clearly evident in her book, “The Message of the Cameo,” published in 2000 and still available today.

After an initial false start, typical of young college freshmen, Donna settled into the role of student, majored in psychology, and graduated from Radford College with a B.S. with honors. She subsequently felt she wanted a more hands-on career, returned to Vanderbilt University where she earned a second B.S. in nursing. This more rewarding profession she practiced for many years, in a variety of situations and with an ever-increasing level of responsibility, including teaching nursing at East Tennessee State University, serving as a sought-after nurse recruiter for several hospitals, and as a public relations director for a hospital. She then opened her own marketing and consulting business, and was elected the first female member of the local Rotary Club. She retired in 2000, but remains a life member of the International Association of Business Communicators. Her husband, Bob, a physician specializing in radiology, retired about the same time and they began splitting their time between Tennessee and Longboat Key.

Donna’s only son, a commercial airline pilot, a sturdy, supportive source of joy and closeness, died suddenly of a ruptured blood vessel in 2007 — at the age of 42. Bob’s solidity and love along with her deep, abiding faith, helped her deal with the shock and anguish of their loss. So, life continued, including long-range plans to move to Plymouth Harbor; they had joined the Harbor Club and visited events. Bob developed a serious illness culminating in his death in 2014.

Having sold her home in Tennessee, but continuing with Longboat Key, Donna is now eager to be more involved with Plymouth Harbor activities — physical, social, and artistic.

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.

Picture1When 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.

Over the next few issues of Harbor Light, The Continuum will feature an article that discusses the full Continuum process here at Plymouth Harbor, through the eyes of a resident’s family member. Please note that this article series is fictional, and is designed to provide a closer, more detailed look at our continuing care philosophy.

Picture1Four years after my father passed, my mother, Jane, who was 76 at the time, decided it was time to start thinking about downsizing. It didn’t happen overnight, but after several talks with my brother and me, she became more comfortable with the idea of giving up her three-bedroom home and living in a place with people closer to her age, a place that offered activities, both intellectual and physical, that promoted social gatherings and friendships, and was there to help her, should the need arise.

She and my father moved from New York to Longboat Key almost 20 years ago when they retired. My brother and I quickly followed suit with our families, wanting to be closer to them when raising our children. Having lived here for some

time, we’d heard of Plymouth Harbor, but it wasn’t until after our tour that we knew it was the perfect place for her. My mother, who is strikingly independent, loved that same quality about Plymouth Harbor – she would have her own apartment, could participate in the activities that she wanted, and could come and go as she pleased. After a few months on the wait list, she got a call about an available apartment in the Tower. Three months later, after selling her home and packing up 20 years worth of furniture and memories, she moved in.

Once settled, she jumped into a number of activities. She also took time to travel – sometimes visiting friends up North in the summers, other times exploring new places with my brother and me and our families. The kids loved coming to visit her apartment on the 17th floor, always admiring her view of the bay. Even though I had no real reason to worry about my mother, I took comfort in the fact that she no longer lived in a big home by herself. The decision to move into a retirement community is a big one, but it is one of the greatest gifts my mother gave to our family. Plymouth Harbor inspired new hobbies, fostered new friendships, and gave us peace of mind.

Five years went by, and after Christmas that year, she became extremely ill from a bacterial infection. We took her to the hospital, where she was treated and released after a few days. Because her case had been so severe, her doctor recommended that she be admitted to Plymouth Harbor’s Smith Care Center for a short time, where someone could be there 24/7, administer the medication she needed, and monitor her progress.

We were so thankful that the Smith Care Center was available to her for that time to recover. After two weeks, she was back in her apartment recuperating. Smith Care Center coordinated with Home Care, and for another two weeks, a nurse came up to her apartment daily to make sure she was eating the right foods and taking the right medication at the right times.

It took her some time to bounce back, but after a month, she made it back to her full self. She was again in good health, and eased back into all of the activities she was a part of before.

Stay tuned to hear more of our fictional Jane’s story in September.

If you ask Susan Johnson to describe herself, she’ll tell you that she’s a typical New Yorker who grew up on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. Susan, or “Sue,” as many know her, spent most of her life in New York City, attending grade school, undergraduate, and graduate school in the area. Her New York roots are so deep that she even had her North Garden apartment remodeled to look like her very own New York loft.

“When I was younger, I used to ask my mother, ‘What’s across the water?’ And she would say, ‘Nothing, honey. Don’t pay any attention to it,’” she laughs. “It was only the rest of the United States!” Today, Sue has traveled all over the world — from Europe to Russia to the French Polynesian Islands, and even Africa, her favorite of them all. But before becoming a world traveler, Sue established herself in a career of education — and a pretty notable one at that.

In 1953, Sue graduated with a bachelor’s degree from Brooklyn College and immediately went into teaching. “That’s what you did,” she says. “Men had come back from World War II and it wasn’t easy for women back then.” She spent several years as a teacher, even relocating from New York to Texas for three years with her first husband to serve as an elementary school teacher in San Antonio. To acquire her teaching license there, Sue was required to pass a class on Texas state history.

“Here I was a New Yorker in Texas,” she recalls. “The teacher took one look at me and said, ‘Y’all a Yankee?’” Sue passed the course with flying colors, and still remembers her response to the teacher’s final question: what did you learn? “I said ‘we lost!’” she jokes, referring to the Civil War.

After moving back to New York, Sue quickly climbed the professional ladder. She moved from teaching to serving as a guidance counselor at a junior high school from 1957 to 1959. Around that time, she increasingly began to notice a lack of women in educational leadership positions, which motivated her to go back to school and earn her master’s degree from Brooklyn College.

Degree in hand, Sue became an instructor in Teacher Education at Hofstra University on Long Island, and later moved on to serve in several high-ranking positions for the Great Neck Public School District. Her motivation didn’t end there. She went on to attend night school at Columbia University’s Teachers College, earning her Master of Education in 1976 and her Doctor of Education in 1978. And it wasn’t easy — at that time, Sue was divorced from her first husband and was raising her two children while working and attending school. “I would finish at 4 a.m.,” she remembers. “I’d write my dissertation at night, sleep for two hours, then get up with the kids and do it all over again.”

While at Teachers College, Sue interned as an assistant at the Superintendents Work Conference and worked alongside Dr. Carroll Johnson, 20 years her senior and a professor in educational administration at the time. “I took one look at him and knew we would be together as life partners,” Sue says of her now-late husband. They were “from two very different worlds” she recalls – she from Manhattan and he from a small farming town in Georgia. Years later, in 1990, they married and moved into an apartment near Columbia University — just three short blocks from the famous Tom’s Restaurant seen in Seinfeld. Together, with their blended family (her daughter and grandson, and his two children and three grandchildren), they became an unstoppable team. (Tragically, at the age of 21, Sue’s son was killed after being hit by a car while he was crossing 8th Avenue in New York.)

Two years before marrying Carroll, Sue had moved up from the Assistant Superintendent of Schools in Middle Island, New York, to the Superintendent of Schools in Florham Park, New Jersey — one of only five women superintendents in the country at the time.  Prior to accepting that position, Sue was named one of North America’s 100 Top School Executives by the National School Boards Association, no small feat at the time. Later, she was recognized in the 1995–1996 edition of Who’s Who in American Women in Education. When asked how she achieved these amazing accomplishments, Sue simply replies, “You have to believe in yourself and have mentors who help you along the way — it takes resilience, belief, and commitment!”

While Sue is modest about her achievements, if you’ve ever met her, you know that her vibrant personality and go-getter attitude surely played a part. This is evident in a story she tells from her time as Assistant Superintendent, when she was asked to give a speech at a conference in front of 300 of her peers. While Sue was discussing the lack of women in leadership positions in the industry, one man stood up and started yelling that it was a sin to have women in these high-ranking positions. Sue stopped her speech, looked him straight in the eyes, and said, “If you don’t have a question, sit down.” After a major round of applause, Sue and her notorious speech were featured across the country in the conference’s national newsletter.

After serving four years as Superintendent, Sue transitioned full-time into an Educational Superintendent Search Consultant, a job she had previously been carrying out in her spare time. In this position, Sue traveled to, and conducted searches for, numerous districts, including Bernardsville, Montclair, and Millburn, New Jersey; Natrona County, Wyoming; and St. Louis, Missouri. She conducted searches assisting her husband, who had become the prime consultant for the National School Boards Association. Carroll was a nationally recognized scholar, and one of the first superintendents to voluntarily integrate schools during the 1960s in White Plains, a city school district in Westchester County, New York. He also created the superintendent search methodology that has been adopted all over the country.

Near the end of her post as Superintendent and the beginning of her time as a Search Consultant, Sue and Carroll visited a friend who had recently relocated from Martha’s Vineyard to Sarasota — and it was on that first visit that they fell in love with Sarasota. On a whim, they found a colorful townhouse on Longboat Key and put in a bid that was accepted that very same weekend. Sue and her husband owned that home for almost 20 years before visiting their dear friends, the Cooks, for brunch at Plymouth Harbor. After that, Carroll was sold, and following a short stint on the wait list, they moved into their North Garden apartment in 2010. A few years later, Carroll passed away at the age of 99.

Today, Sue is involved in an abundance of activities, and refers to herself as a “life-long learner.” Back in 1996, she developed an interest in mediation due to her work with teachers unions, so she became certified in family mediation in Sarasota’s 12th Judicial Circuit Court. A short time before that, she became a docent at the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, where she still serves today.

To further satisfy her never-ending thirst for knowledge, Sue chairs the Plymouth Harbor Art Committee, is a member of the Library Committee and the Program Committee, and has given several book reports and art history presentations to fellow Plymouth Harbor residents. Sue previously served as a mentor to local principals, and now enrolls herself in at least three educational courses per year. Presently, she’s taking a course on Russian Literature at USF Sarasota’s Lifelong Learning Academy.

On any given day, after a friendly tennis match on Longboat Key or a brisk walk across the John Ringling Bridge, you can find Sue reading her iPad or plugged into her iPhone listening to a book. And it doesn’t stop there — Sue is currently learning bridge, and has plans to visit Oxford in the fall for a two-week course on British literature.

With a refreshing enthusiasm for life and a unique commitment to learning, Sue ends our conversation with a smile. “Living here at Plymouth Harbor has been an opportunity for me to meet the most interesting people with such varied backgrounds and experiences that enhance my quality of life and add to my joy of living,” she adds. “Life gives you great stories.” Indeed it does.

JayPrice-192x220SARASOTA, July 27, 2015Plymouth Harbor on Sarasota Bay, a not-for-profit continuing care community of distinction for older adults, welcomes the newest member of The Plymouth Harbor Foundation Board, Jay Price, as Member at Large Trustee. Jay is a First Vice President – Investments and Financial Advisor with the Juron Price Wealth Management Group of Wells Fargo Advisors, LLC.

The Plymouth Harbor Foundation, an LLC of Plymouth Harbor, Inc., was established in 2012. Governed by a separate Board of Trustees, The Foundation was established to further ensure the appropriate stewardship of contributed funds, develop fundraising strategies that support the most positive aging experience possible, and provide funding for innovative programs and services in the surrounding community. The Board consists of the CEO and CFO of Plymouth Harbor, Inc.; at least three members of the corporate Plymouth Harbor, Inc. Board of Trustees; three Plymouth Harbor residents who do not sit on the corporate Board; and three at-large members, one of which is now Jay. Members serve a term of three years, and may elect to serve two consecutive terms.

As a member of The Plymouth Harbor Foundation Board, Jay is responsible for helping to guide the Board’s decisions in relation to both Plymouth Harbor and the greater Sarasota community. Jay has a close connection to Plymouth Harbor, as his parents moved into an apartment in the Plymouth Harbor tower 23 years ago. His father, Donald Price, has since passed, however, his mother, Elsa Price, remains an active member of the community today.

“It is a pleasure to welcome Jay Price to The Foundation Board. He has history with Plymouth Harbor as both of his parents have been residents. He comes to us with a strong financial background as well as a wonderful philanthropic interest,” says William (Bill) Johnston, Chair of The Plymouth Harbor Foundation Board.

Jay was born in Southport, Connecticut, and was raised in Manchester, and Stowe, Vermont. After finishing high school in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, he moved to Wichita, Kansas, to serve six years in the 8th Air Force Strategic Air Command. After his Air Force service and his education at Wichita State University, he joined Boeing Military Co. Aerospace Group, and worked on national defense projects.

In 1984, Jay moved to Sarasota, Florida, and spent 12 years traveling and managing worldwide, special access international defense projects for Fairchild Weston and its successors, Loral Aerospace – Lockheed Martin. He then served as Director, Corporate Accounts for an international telecommunications firm.

His previous board service includes chair of the St. Thomas More Finance Committee. Additionally, he and his wife, Leslie Juron, co-chaired the Girls Incorporated of Sarasota County Capital Campaign and were both awarded the Girls, Inc. Visionary Award.

To learn more about The Plymouth Harbor Foundation, click here. To learn more about Plymouth Harbor on Sarasota Bay, click here.

About Plymouth Harbor on Sarasota Bay                                                                                                                                                                                                    Plymouth Harbor on Sarasota Bay, founded in 1966, operates as a not-for-profit continuing care retirement community (CCRC) for 300 residents and is centrally located on the Bay between Bird Key and St. Armands Circle with vistas of the Gulf, Bay, and the city of Sarasota. It offers customized independent living residences, home care, assisted living, and skilled nursing and rehabilitation therapy services in the Smith Care Center. The Plymouth Harbor Foundation was established in 2012 to further ensure the appropriate stewardship of contributed funds, develop fundraising strategies that support the most positive aging experience possible, and provide funding for innovative programs and services in the region. Please visit or for more information.



Please join us in extending a huge thank you to Bruce Crawford, Winnie Downes and Carl Denney, and Phil and Barry Starr, all whom recently made legacy gifts to The Plymouth Harbor Foundation. Two of the gifts were made through changing the beneficiaries on a life insurance policy to The Plymouth Harbor Foundation. The third was by naming The Plymouth Harbor Foundation in their will.  We welcome them all into The MacNeil Society, as a result.

Individuals who have thoughtfully included a gift to the Plymouth Harbor Foundation through their estate are part The MacNeil Society. Their gift has been named through a will, gift annuity agreement, trust agreement, life insurance policy, or retirement plan. Currently, there are 19 members of The MacNeil Society, whose consolidated gifts total over $1.4 million. We are extremely grateful for your future gifts to sustain the zest that continues to define the culture of Plymouth Harbor.


Leon was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, but lived in Allston, Massachusetts. He enlisted in the Air Force during World War II, training as a pilot until the war was over. He attended Northeastern University through the G.I. Bill, and graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration. He joined a family jewelry business for several years and then decided to start his own company, Opus, Inc.

It started in a garage at his home, where he made products for lawn and garden wholesalers. Bird feeders became the main product. All manufacturing and shipping was outsourced. He built a factory in Bellingham, Massachusetts, and employed several hundred people. Leon has some patents for squirrel proof feeders. After many years, Opus sold bird feeders around the world. He feels that much of his success was due to serendipity, which gave rise to many wonderful stories.

Leon has two sons, one daughter and six grandchildren. He has done sculptures in soapstone and some work in wood carving. His favorite animal is the giraffe which he made using clay.

Both Leon and Pat lost their first spouses within a week. They met through a mutual friend and were married.

Pat was born in and grew up in Chicago, Illinois with her twin sister. She attended the University of Illinois and Gregg business school. She worked as a secretary for several years before marrying her first husband. She raised three sons and has seven grandchildren. In 1972, she moved to the Detroit area and in 1978, she moved to Paris, France, where she lived for three years. Upon returning to Birmingham, Michigan, she became a fashion coordinator for B. Siegal and a small boutique in Birmingham.

Her hobbies were lapidary, jewelry making, sewing and cooking. In 1987, she moved to the Meadows where she lived until 2005, when she married Leon and moved to University Park. Leon and Pat remained there until April 1, 2015, when they moved into Plymouth Harbor, a place which she adores and loves the people.