Jack Smith 1The Reverend Dr. Jack A. Smith was approved as the Administrator of Plymouth Harbor in 1971, holding the position from 1972 until his retirement in 1989. At the time, Dr. Smith was a minister in the Florida Conference of the United Church of Christ, with administration experience and a degree in business. He was selected to replace Alan Switzer, Plymouth Harbor’s first administrator, who retired at the end of 1971.

Throughout Dr. Smith’s 17 years at Plymouth Harbor, the organization received an excess of $10 million in voluntary gifts from residents, was able to pay off a mortgage of roughly $3.5 million, and made capital improvements to the property in excess of $16 million—including the construction of the North Garden: then a 60-bed licensed skilled nursing home, 32 additional apartments, and a 58-car garage. Today, Dr. Smith remains actively involved in Plymouth Harbor life, serving on The Mildred and Bernard Doyle Charitable Trust scholarship committee.



William R. Johnston, Board of Trustees

Having spent much of my life here with my parents and other relatives, Plymouth Harbor is near and dear to my heart.  Someday, we will call it home, too.

Well regarded in financial circles throughout the country, Bill was the President and COO of the New York Stock Exchange from 1996 to 2001.  In addition, he has a long and distinguished career on Wall Street with several well-known firms, and is a graduate of Washington and Lee University.  Bill is a consummate board member who shares his time and talent with many organizations in addition to Plymouth Harbor, including DeSoto National Park and New College of Florida. He is also a past trustee of both Washington and Lee University and Hollins University, his wife’s alma mater. Bill’s additional advisory board service is too numerous to mention in this article, but suffice it to say that he is in demand and gives of his time generously.

Prior to Bill’s involvement with the Foundation Board, he served six years as a Plymouth Harbor Trustee.  He was first introduced to Plymouth Harbor by five relatives who preceded him, including his parents, two aunts, and an uncle.  He and his wife Betsy are Bradenton residents, who also spend part of their time in the northeast.


The Roman poet Virgil once said, “The greatest wealth is health.” At Plymouth Harbor we couldn’t agree more and our Wellness Center promotes that mindset in countless ways—through group fitness, whole-person wellness, social activities, and much more.

From its formal inception in 2011, Plymouth Harbor’s wellness program was designed to evolve. As we approach Plymouth Harbor’s 50th anniversary next year, we thought it would be fun to take a look back and see just how far fitness and wellness have come from those early days.

Back in the Day

While it was state-of-the-art at the time, retirement living back in 1966 (when Plymouth Harbor first opened its doors) looked quite different than it does today. Back then, physically-passive, socially-oriented activities like walking, gardening, and shuffleboard were the norm. Plymouth Harbor’s Activities Department offered a weekly exercise class and, in later years, resident Lois Droege, with her background in physical education, led a popular group fitness class for residents.

july-wellnessTimes changed, and by 2005, later generations were expressing a desire for more comprehensive fitness programming. The opportunities they were enjoying at the local YMCA or other health clubs weren’t available at Plymouth Harbor; Marketing was hearing this from prospects and their families as well.

A 2011 resident survey revealed that one of residents’ top three priorities was a wellness center with professional staff and programming. Residents wanted updated equipment, knowledgeable instructors, and a variety of fitness classes. Next step? Making it happen.

Our philosophy was “develop the program and they will come.” The brick and mortar would come later. The first step was recruiting a wellness professional, with the proper credentials and experience with a senior population, who could build a program from the ground up. Enter Chris Valuck in September 2011.  As planned, by April 2013, Chris had developed the program to the point that a second full-time staff member was needed and Amanda Kirk joined the team.

By May 2013, a capital campaign was underway and the funds needed for the cost for a new, state-of-the-art wellness center had been donated by generous residents and staff. In September 2014, Plymouth Harbor’s beautiful ‘new’ Wellness Center opened its doors. By November 2014, Chris and Amanda, along with seven other staff members,  were helping to develop Plymouth Harbor’s employee wellness program, OnBoard. 

Wellness Today

With experienced and knowledgeable staff onsite, residents receive a multitude of benefits, including personalized fitness assessments, weekly orientations, and enhanced programming—including both group fitness and other physical activities.

Resident fitness assessments are conducted for each new resident, whether in-home or in the Wellness Center. After assessments are completed, resident records are created and maintained, including documents such as consent forms, waivers, guidelines, medical clearances, medical history, and exercise logs. Today, the Wellness department is in a position where they can also offer re-assessments to current residents, upon request.

With the help of contracted instructors, the Wellness Center offers at least 10 separate fitness classes each month, some of which meet two to three times per week. Chris is onsite to teach some; however, contracting with qualified instructors allows the Wellness department to offer specialized classes in areas like Tai Chi and ballroom dancing that might not otherwise be available. Countless hours are spent researching, contacting, and vetting these individuals, to ensure residents are receiving the highest possible quality of exercise.  In addition to monthly classes, Wellness staff researches, organizes, and conducts both off-site and on-site events, including last year’s Wellness Week, field trips, kayaking, and more.

Community outreach and networking with other local fitness centers and CCRCs is conducted on a regular basis to keep programming up-to-date. To promote both Plymouth Harbor and wellness in the greater community, Chris and Amanda also serve as “The Face of Wellness” at receptions and events to assist the Plymouth Harbor marketing team. The two additionally contribute monthly to the Harbor Light, and have prepared, designed, and produced numerous take-home brochures and guidelines for increased in-home fitness for residents.

Wellness in the Future

As time passes, there continues to be a resident desire for added programming. Residents can expect the Wellness Center to adapt and improve to meet these requests—through continued research, and an emphasis on unique classes and events. One resident-requested improvement in particular that will be implemented, is the expansion of outdoor physical activities (like the popular beach walk or kayaking) into regular programming.  You can look forward to seeing these types of activities more often, as well as new, never-been-done-before activities like visits to local state parks. Residents can also expect additional group fitness classes, such as the desired tap dancing class. These unique forms of physical activity promote exercise in an interesting, social environment and we hope they will inspire and encourage more residents to participate in physical activity to enhance their well-being.

With a higher resident demand for in-home fitness, a “Wellness Center Exercise Series” is also in process, which will encompass a series of exercise booklets and DVDs of the most popular wellness classes. As of now, the Line Dancing DVD is complete, and Sit Fit and Better Balance are in the works. Stay tuned for additions to this series. Along those same lines, the long-awaited Preferred Professionals Program is now available. Designed to meet resident requests for personalized services (including personal training, Pilates, yoga, dance, and massage), residents can expect this brochure in their mailbox in just a few short weeks.

Wellness goes beyond the four walls of Plymouth Harbor. For that reason, the Wellness department is collaborating with staff to offer an internship program to qualified students studying Exercise Science. They are also planning to offer a Harbor Club program, where members are allowed special access to participate in popular Wellness activities.

We’ve come a long way since 1966, and we plan to keep evolving to meet your needs. Stay tuned for updates on new programs and activities, and please continue to share ideas and enthusiasm with staff.

ElsaElsa Price is an energetic, optimistic lady who sees many positives as she reflects on her life. “I have been blessed,” she says, “to have enjoyed 43 years with my late husband, Don Price, who made our life together seem like a fairytale!” During Don’s working years, they traveled throughout Europe, cruised aboard the QE to Paris, flew home on the Concord, and delighted in the joys they discovered wherever they went. It will be four years since Don passed in August 2011, and her obvious love and deep admiration for this remarkable man is ever present.

Their love affair ignited when Elsa reconnected with Don (10 years her senior) while she and the children were living in Michigan with family—Elsa was gainfully employed with the police department doing criminal record searches at the time. Elsa recalls vividly when Don came to visit, not having seen one another since childhood. It was “love in the moment” tender and captivating, and they knew then that it was time to share their lives and their children: Elsa’s three daughters and one son, and Don’s two daughters became “our family” of six lively teenagers!

At age 42, when she and Don reunited, Elsa had already accomplished a great deal on her own.  There were many challenges…the early loss of her parents and the equally tragic loss of her identical twin sister (they were mirror twins) to cancer when they were only 37 years old.  The twins had always been inseparable, dressing alike well into their college years, and, of course, enjoying the baffled queries of young men who asked, “which one are you?!”

In late 1950, Elsa became a “farm girl” when she and the family were living in the beautiful Green Mountains of Manchester, Vermont.  This was a real  “working farm” with everyone sharing in the daily chores of milking their family cow, feeding the chickens, grooming the horses, breeding golden Labradors, raising their own beef,  and cultivating their large vegetable garden which provided produce for both the summer and winter meals.  During the winter season, part of their farmhouse was converted into a ski lodge, providing bunks for their guests who enjoyed the warmth of the big fireplace after a day on the slopes, and a hearty dinner around the farmhouse table.

Being adventurous by nature, Elsa found time to expand her horizons by learning how to fly at the local airfield. She ultimately became General Manager of the Morrisville-Stowe Airport that services General Aviation and small jets (very small jets as the runway is short and the mountains are very tall!). Curious to fly a small plane with no engine, Elsa experienced the awesome solitude of “soaring in a glider” as the thermals carried her over the mountains in a world of total silence…amazing!

Aviation appears to be a family trait as Don was an accomplished pilot in his own right, and as a very young man flew his single engine Belanca—solo—from Minnesota to São Paulo, Brazil in just four days. Their son, Jay, an Air Force Veteran, carries on this tradition as he pilots his own single engine, four place, Cirrus SR22 for both business and pleasure. As Jay and his wife, Leslie, live in Sanderling on Siesta Key, Elsa has been known to “hitch a ride” on occasion.

From “living off the land” to “flying high in the sky,” Elsa moved on to “life at sea.” Don introduced Elsa to boating, which became a way of life throughout their years together. Elsa recalls with pride that Don was a great captain, and was assured that she was the finest “first mate.” Being the proud owners of three motor yachts, all aptly named PRICELESS, they weathered their share of dangerous storms, skirted around “sea pirates,” and experienced many other exciting adventures at sea. Their yacht was berthed at the Sarasota Yacht Club (SYC), where Don was a highly respected Past Commodore. Both are also life members of the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary.

In 1981, Don retired, and Elsa and Don cruised the east and west coasts of Florida in search of their next home together. Sarasota captured their hearts: how could it not?  They bought their home in Lido Shores, directly on New Pass, where they lived for ten years. Driving past Plymouth Harbor everyday, on the way to SYC, piqued their interest. After a “stop in,” Elsa and Don knew they had found their final home in the tower on the 23rd floor, with its endless windows, a vista of blue sky, spectacular sunrises, and water all around!

In 1993, at age 63 and 73, Elsa and Don became residents of the Plymouth Harbor family. Don, a natural leader and visionary, saw an immediate need for members of the Board of Trustees to be aware of the residents needs through a voice on the Board, proposing the appointment of at least one resident representative. “We now have 16 highly-qualified trustees,” says Elsa with pride. “Don was privileged to serve as a resident representative on the Board of Trustees from 1997-1998.” Following in his Dad’s footsteps, their son Jay was recently appointed Member at Large on the Board of Trustees of the Plymouth Harbor Foundation, and looks forward to being an integral part of Plymouth Harbor’s destiny, and perhaps, in time, a future resident!

Elsa Price 2“During my 23 years in residence, I have watched Plymouth Harbor’s continual advancement in every arena as our CEO, Harry Hobson, with his vision and dedicated focus, strives to ensure the ultimate in our senior care living to its full potential,” says Elsa. “I am very impressed with the many improvements over the years of the lobby decor, restaurant renovations, creation of the state-of-the-art Wellness Center, our Smith Care Nursing Facility, the imminent groundbreaking of our Memory Care Center, valet parking, errand cars, each amenity enhanced for the ultimate comfort of our residents.”

With a quiet acceptance, Elsa recalls Don’s decline with Alzheimer’s, and praises both the intensive training with Teepa Snow, who provided the tools to help her cope with caregiving, and the invaluable six-week course offered by the Friendship Center under the tutelage of Nancy Hobson.  In this setting, Elsa remains forward-looking, focusing her energies on her health and healing to match her young spirit. In a philosophical moment, Elsa shares, “If you meet the challenges that life puts before you, strive to find that haven of peace and stillness, remain inspired and directed, search for the abundant goodness in those around you, then you will find that hope shines in every heart that believes.” Beaming with one final thought, Elsa reveals that a family reunion is planned the end of December 2015, a joyful time when family will gather together in the holiday spirit of sharing and creating magical moments and memories!

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Two hundred and thirty nine years ago today, on July 4, 1776, Congress formally adopted the Declaration of Independence, marking the birth date of America’s independence. Today we celebrate with family, friends, parades, backyard barbeques, fireworks, and more, all while sporting our latest red, white, and blue get-up. But no matter how or where we choose to spend this historic holiday, we together celebrate the freedoms that our Founding Fathers set out for us – making the words spoken by Oliver Wendell Holmes ring true today: “One flag, one land, one heart, one hand, one Nation evermore.”

Wherever the holiday may take you this year, we wish you a joyful, safe, and festive 4th of July.

Have you ever seen a fashion show at Macy’s, read an advertisement for Vanity Fair lingerie in The New Yorker, or dried yourself on a Martex Towel? If so, you might know Plymouth Harbor resident Jane Smiley, who was featured in our June Insights Program. Jane has lived an exciting and active life – working in fashion advertising in New York City, serving as an advocate for women in the workplace, and promoting education and scholarships for youth. Jane shared with us how she broke the barrier for women in top executive positions during the 1950s, and how her journey eventually led her here to Plymouth Harbor.

You can view Jane’s full Insights presentation here:

Insights is a monthly connection where residents can share stories and insights about their lives, careers, and hobbies with Plymouth Harbor employees.  A feature of Plymouth Harbor’s developing employee wellness program, OnBoard, Insights is offered at noon on the fourth Friday of each month.  Open to all employees, lunch is provided, supported by gifts to the Plymouth Harbor Foundation employee assistance fund. Thanks to resident Phil Starr, each Insights presentation is videotaped for viewing by employees unable to attend the live event.

Upcoming Insights Presentations:

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”

By Isabel Pedersen

When you first meet Lorna Hard, do not be deceived. This gentle, soft-spoken woman is the winner of a bitter bureaucratic war. As the Board Chairman of the Council on Aging of Southeastern Vermont, she became convinced that the clients would be better served by an independent 501 (c)(3) agency.

Founded under Lyndon Johnson’s Older Americans Act of 1965, the council in Wardsboro, Vermont, had always been under the supervision of Vermont’s Windham Regional Planning Commission. Her local group was funded by the government, by state and local grants and some private fundraising. The Windham “umbrella” group put up stiff resistance to the breakup. Before the years-long fight was settled, Lorna was threatened with a personal liability suit and hate mail. It was “very horrible” but, as she said, “the good guys won.”

Lorna, a graduate of Smith College, spent an early and life-altering year wandering around the world. After tasting life, and sometimes working, in far-flung places, she settled in for 22 years at the United Nations as an International Civil Servant. Most of her career was in Conference Services, helping with planning and day to day meeting servicing.

Cleveland, Ohio was home for her earliest years, then Basking Ridge, New Jersey. But she soon fell in love with New York City and never looked back.

In 1982, she married Fred Hard, whose career was in finance. When Fred went to Bermuda in 1986, she retired, keeping an apartment in New York as she would for about 20 more years. Upon Fred’s retirement in 1989, they moved to Wardsboro, where they stayed until coming to Pelican Cove and then to Glenridge for four and a half years. Sadly, she lost Fred just two months before moving to Plymouth Harbor, a change they had been anticipating eagerly.

During their 20 years in Vermont, they traveled widely and were especially fond of our Southwest, as evidenced by the big collection of Indian fetishes in her apartment. Whether you want to talk about the Zunis, horrible bureaucracies you have known, or exchange travel stories with one more inveterate traveler, you will enjoy meeting Lorna.