Jon F. Swift, Board of Trustees

Prior to joining the Board of Trustees, I knew about Plymouth Harbor’s great reputation in the community. Since joining, I have been thoroughly impressed with it as a comprehensive CCRC. It has been very educational  for me, and I’m glad that I can contribute my construction background to help the organization during an exciting growth period. 

An Ohio native, Jon Swift attended Miami University at Oxford, Ohio, studying industrial technology. In 1969, Jon started his own construction company and moved his organization to Sarasota 10 years later. Currently, he is the CEO of Jon F. Swift Construction.

As an active member of the community, Jon is past president of the Argus Foundation of Southwest Florida, the Education Foundation of Sarasota County, Inc., and the Police Athletic League of Sarasota County. He has also served on the Board of Directors of the Gulf Coast Builders Exchange and the Development Services Advisory Board of Sarasota County, and is currently on the Board of Directors of Sabal Palm Bank and The Field Club. Jon has a passion for woodworking and enjoys spending time in the shop. He and his wife Janey have five children and seven grandchildren.


By Chris Valuck

We have yet to meet a resident that doesn’t enjoy using the Nu-Step located in the Wellness Center. In fact, they’re so popular that we had to acquire another to keep up with demand.

A Nu-Step is a recumbent cross trainer, which is sometimes referred to as a recumbent stepper because the user “steps” back and forth (from a seated position) rather than moving their legs in a circular motion like a bicycle does. It is a piece of exercise equipment that has historically been seen in a rehab setting and is intended for cardiopulmonary conditioning. However, in recent years, it has become increasingly popular in health and fitness settings for general conditioning.

The Nu-Step has gained popularity in part due to the fact that it is safe, easy to use, and comfortable, while still offering effective muscular and cardiovascular endurance. The Nu-Step provides an option to exercise only the legs or to add upper body exercises as well. The seat and arm levers can be easily adjusted for a custom fit. The convenient low entry onto the machine makes it easy to get on and off, without having to climb over any part of the equipment. If need be, the seat also swivels for easy transfer from a walker or wheelchair to the seat.

Many residents also enjoy the easy-to-use console, with it’s ability to monitor heart rate, SPM (steps per minute), time, distance, and 15 different levels of resistance. Each Nu-Step is equipped with adaptive equipment such as a chest belt, lap belt, foot supports, and even arm rests to assist users that may need this additional support (i.e. Multiple Sclerosis or Parkinson’s Disease).

Considering the Nu-Step’s wide variety of custom adjustments, and the fact that it is an excellent form of low-impact exercise (therefore more gentle on the muscles and joints as opposed to a treadmill), it’s no surprise that users claim to have a more enjoyable exercise experience when using it.

If you would like to experience the Nu-Step, stop by the Wellness Center and let us show you this great piece of equipment.

Nora Patterson, Board of Trustees

Our ties to Plymouth Harbor date back many years, to when John’s father was a resident. I am pleased to serve on the Board of Trustees.

Nora Patterson served as a Sarasota County Commissioner for 16 years, retiring in November 2014. Prior to that, she held a seat for eight years on the Sarasota City Commission. Nora grew up in New York City, obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology from Duke University and a Master of Education from the University of Florida in Educational Psychology. She has been a small business owner, a teacher, and a real estate broker. She has lived in Sarasota County since 1970 with her husband John, a local attorney and a former chair of the Plymouth Harbor Board of Trustees.

Nora has always been active in the Sarasota community, serving on numerous boards of directors.  In addition to the Plymouth Harbor Board of Trustees, she currently holds a seat on the board of Teen Court of Sarasota as well as the Jewish Family and Children’s Service. She previously represented Sarasota County on regional boards that deal with subjects such as the regional water supply of a four-county area; MPO, the transportation planning organization advisory to the Florida Department of Transportation regarding Manatee and Sarasota counties; the maintenance of the Intracoastal Waterway in a four-county area; and TBARTA, a regional transportation authority.

We are indeed fortunate that Judy and Dick Diedrich chose Plymouth Harbor! They are charming, delightful, enthusiastic people whom you will enjoy meeting and getting to know.

They were both born in St. Paul, Minnesota. Judy attended college at Centenary College in Hackettstown, New Jersey, and Hamline University in St. Paul. Dick went to Macalester College and the University of Minnesota.

Dick was in the Air Force and went to the Russian Language School in Monterey, California, and was then stationed in northern Japan and Omaha, Nebraska. He started his working career as a computer programmer and worked his way up to being president and CEO before he retired in 2004.

Judy and Dick were married in August 1961. They lived in St. Paul, Omaha, Cleveland, Syracuse, and Springfield, Massachusetts, before moving to Kanaya condominiums in Sarasota. Along the way, they had three children: Pamela who lives in St. Petersburg and works with an eating disorders program, Stuart who lives in Redwing, Minnesota, and works as a shift supervisor at a Sioux casino, and John who trains Arabian horses and works for a custom office manufacturer. They have five grandchildren.

However, their most important commitments have always been in doing service to their church and their community, wherever they live. At one point, Dick was on the board of 17 different community groups! Perhaps most important has been his association with the Boy Scouts where he has received many awards and traveled to the World Scout Foundation.

Judy has been a member of the Junior League in the various cities they lived in, and was involved with the Children’s Hospital in St. Paul, including co-chairing a major fundraising event. They have both been active with the Church of the Redeemer.

For fun, they are members of the Bird Key Yacht Club, and enjoy movies, plays, the symphony, and eating out with their friends. They anticipate playing golf. They both enjoy reading mysteries, and they are both circus “nuts,” attending every circus that comes to Sarasota.  Here in Plymouth Harbor, Judy has attended line dancing and plans to continue with it, and also hopes to try out water aerobics. Dick is attending the Better Balance class.

So do get to know the Diedrichs, and help to welcome them to Plymouth Harbor.


Do you ever feel like it takes years to get something accomplished in Washington? So did Senator Marlow Cook, who was featured in our July Insights Program. Throughout his time in the Senate, he co-sponsored several bills that passed Congress during Nixon’s presidency. Senator Cook has always been a “go-getter.” Even before serving in the Senate, he served as a county judge, was elected to the Kentucky State Legislature, and became the youngest county executive in Louisville, Kentucky, at the age of 36. After his Senate term, he spearheaded the effort of a major Kansas City law firm to create one of the top decision-making firms in D.C.

How did Senator Cook accomplish it all? View the full Insights presentation to find out:

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:

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”

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.