Editor’s Note:  While publishing an autobiographical sketch is not our norm, we found Christine’s version so refreshingly delightful that we couldn’t resist.

My biography will be very brief since I have absolutely no accomplishments and very few talents unless you count being able to make a mess faster than almost anyone alive.

I’ve lived most of my life outside of Philadelphia.  I went to Harwick College, majoring in as little as possible which has turned into a lifetime pursuit.

Being unprepared for a well-paying job, I have worked as a travel agent all my life.  I’ve traveled a great deal and, best of all, I fell in love with one of my clients.  Single for a long time, I was finally able to trap a man when I was 37, and it’s been happily ever since.  Since Angelo tells me we need the money, I still work part-time for the agency, doing light bookkeeping.

We bought a winter condo at the northern end of Longboat Key in 1997, moved to a larger condo a few years later and then relocated to the island permanently a few years ago.  We have kept the smaller place on the beach for family and friends because even though we had room for guests in our home, Angelo says, “I like to have people visit but keep them the hell away from me.”  Now I fritter away my time with Mah Jongg, entertaining, and endlessly playing stupid computer games.

I’m also writing Angelo’s biography since we have always had a clear division of labor at our house.  I am in charge of all the little things, like where we live, what we spend and where we go; Angelo is in charge of the big things, like peace in the Middle East and space exploration.

Angelo was born in Washington, PA, and earned a BS in Pharmacy from Duquesne University.  After serving stateside in the Korean War, he worked as a pharmacist while earning a Masters and Ph.D. in Pharmacology from the University of Pittsburgh.  His career was spent at Squibb and Johnson & Johnson and included a lot of overseas travel which is how he met his lovely wife, Christine.

He has two outstanding daughters who have given us seven wonderful grandchildren who don’t always write thank-you notes and one adorable great-grandson.

He spends his time watching the news, loading my sales receipts into Quicken and wondering why our apartment took so long to remodel.

We are both very happy to be at beautiful Plymouth Harbor.

Jean, born in Stretford near Manchester, England, and Brian, born in Sale, Cheshire, England, first arrived in the United States in 1957, Brian to earn an M.S. in physical organic chemistry at the University of Minnesota.  They then returned to England where Brian earned his Ph.D. at the University of Leicester.  In 1963 they were again in the U.S. with, as Brian put it, “two suitcases and six job interviews,” and from then on, as they both say, they lived the American dream.

Brian worked for many years in research and development and corporate management, serving as senior vice-president at several companies.  His focus was on petroleum, plastics, and air separation.  He developed patented products, such as anti-corrosion chemicals for oil wells and fire retardants.  Well aware of the tension between research and development and marketing, he emphasized innovation within his companies and through professional associations.  Later in his career, he served on a number of corporate boards and on public television and YMCA boards.

In 1994 he received an Honorary Doctor of Science from the University of Salford (England) and culminated his career as president of the American Chemical Society.

Jean earned her degree at Burleigh College in Manchester and worked as an executive secretary in Minneapolis and Leicester.  Over the years she volunteered at schools and hospitals and served on boards for a hospital and the YWCA, while raising three daughters, who have all had successful professional careers and have given Brian and Jean four grandchildren.

Brian’s work took the family to various states, but they finally settled in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.  For the last 25 years they have also lived part-time on Longboat Key.  Upon moving to Plymouth Harbor, they became full-time Florida residents.

Between professional and volunteer involvement, Jean and Brian have led busy lives.  It has not, however, been all work and no play.  They have traveled around the world, with their children when possible.  They both enjoy golf, bridge, and reading.

If you have not yet met Jean and Brian, I hope you have a chance to do so soon.

Change of routine alone can be difficult, and a major loss (such as the death of a spouse) can be crippling.   Everyone experiences such common life events, but there is no need to go through these challenging times alone.  That’s why Plymouth Harbor works with Vericare, a leading provider of comprehensive and integrative behavioral healthcare services.

Over the past five years, Vericare’s highly trained and compassionate clinical psychologists have helped Plymouth Harbor residents and staff through grief, caregiver stress, adjustment issues, as well as depression and anxiety.

Even when there is excitement and anticipation about moving into a new community such as ours, it is natural for new residents to navigate a period of adjustment and homesickness. Any of these experiences are also compounded when other issues are present, such as chronic health conditions, side effects from medications or a loss of physical independence.

One unique feature that Vericare offers our residents is a counseling “house call” that is covered by most insurance plans.  The psychologists can meet you “where you are” in your own comfortable and very private setting.   All residents, from independent living and assisted living to those in skilled nursing care are eligible for VeriCare services.  For more information on how they can help, call Brandi Burgess at 361-7379 or Liz Clark at 361-7245.

 By Becky Pazkowski

A few years ago I was meeting with a potential donor, talking to him about his interest in supporting a particular project we were considering at the community hospital where I worked at the time.  The project was a monitoring system that had proven to save lives at other hospitals where it had been installed. 

This young man (in his 40s) had worked very hard to build a thriving financial business in Chicago, and sold it to Goldman Sachs in the good old days of the 1990s.  He found himself very wealthy and moved his family back to his home town to be with his extended family. 

While we think that having a lot of money will make us happy, this was certainly not the case for this man.  He shared some of his family stories with me that day.  His siblings were struggling financially and even though he was in a position to help them, his brothers wouldn’t accept money from him.  They resented him for his success.  A rift was formed between him and his loved ones, and he found himself feeling helpless and frustrated. 

That day, he wrote us a check for $10,000 to fund the project we were talking to him about. We were elated.  He had been searching for some happiness to come of his good fortune, and it did.  What to him was a small amount of money, to us meant saving lives.  We left each other that day, both feeling a little lighter of heart.

When it comes to money, it is not how much we have, but what we do with it that brings happiness and fulfillment.  In the world of philanthropy, there is so much that can be and needs to be done, and so much joy that can come of it.

According to Rath and Harter in Well Being: The Five Essential Elements, researchers at Harvard found that spending money on others boosts one’s happiness more than spending on one’s self.  Their research also showed that even when given money to do with as they wished, those who spent it on others, or gave it to charity, were happier than those who did not. 

Philanthropy is about making “transformations” rather than “transactions.”  In other words, it is not what or that you gave, but what kind of good did your gift bring about?  Consider how here at Plymouth Harbor a scholarship helps make a college graduate, or how a dance floor brings people together, or how a therapeutic stationary bicycle reduces disease symptoms and increases someone’s quality of life, or how a piece of art or a musical performance lifts our spirits. 

Whether your giving is during your lifetime or through your estate, think about what kind of impact you would like to make, or what kind of legacy you would like to leave, and then consider making a gift toward those dreams.  It will make you and so many others happy. 

 Six months ago, there stood a lonely overgrown patch  in the west gardens that once was a place of joy for former resident Mary “Tilley” Bessemer.  In its heyday, more than eight years ago, Tilley could be found following the lazy wanderings of butterflies among their favorite blossoms in this lovingly tended garden designed just for them.  

When Nichole Peal first saw the garden last winter, the faded trellis was obscured by weeds and the birdbath filled with rotting leaves.  The potential that she soon saw in this butterfly garden was not far from the memory of Tilley’s former sanctuary and it emerged as the perfect project to earn her Girl Scout Gold Award.  The Gold Award is the highest honor a Girl Scout can achieve.  

“I had just finished my Harvest Award where I had learned about butterfly gardens on a visit to the Florida Native Plant Nursery in Myakka,” says Nichole, referring to another prestigious Girl Scout Senior award.  “There are so many elaborate rules for butterfly gardens like the number of plants and which ones are for the butterflies to eat and which are for laying their eggs.”

Nichole, now a senior at the Sarasota Military Academy, dedicated her spare time February through August to the planning and creation of “Tilley’s Butterfly Garden,” dedicated to the memory of Mary “Tilley” Bessemer.  Recruiting the assistance of fellow Girl Scouts and the expertise of local butterfly aficionados, Nichole sees this as an ongoing effort to maintain the garden and ensure that it remains a long-standing source of solace for Plymouth Harbor residents and guests. 

When the sun and the weather are just right, it’s easy to imagine the peace to be found in a well-appointed butterfly garden.  Sarasota abounds with these delightful gardens filled largely with native plants and the 170 species of butterflies that find their homes here at one time of the year or other (that’s nearly a quarter of 740 species found world-wide!).

“Butterflies are deep and powerful representations of life,” shared Plymouth Harbor CEO Harry Hobson. “They symbolize different things for different people:  endurance, change, hope, and life.”

It’s fascinating that face-to-face encounters with this most delicate and resilient creature, the tiny butterfly, can have such a dramatic effect on people.

The butterfly evokes an experience of calm, peace, and comfort. Research at medical centers has found that patients who visited or viewed a healing garden took less pain medication and overall had shorter stays than patients who did not. The greatest benefits are found by those living with illness, disabilities, or suffering from a loss.  The wellness aspects of a therapeutic butterfly garden are multifaceted.

Senator Bob Johnson, a former member of the Plymouth Harbor Board of Directors and the attorney managing Mary “Tilley” Bessemer’s estate, understands the affection with which she cared for this garden in the years before her passing in 2006. 

“Tilley loved her butterflies,” said Senator Johnson who met Tilley when she married his long-time neighbor. Widowed in later life, she had reunited with her high school sweetheart and found love anew.  They moved into a new home at Plymouth Harbor where they enjoyed many years together.  “Tilley was unassuming and down to earth. Even as her vision worsened, she could see those butterflies,” he added.  “She would be very proud, and probably astonished, by this garden dedication.”

A celebration and dedication of the newly refreshed butterfly garden  on Tuesday, September 10 at 11:00  recognizes and appreciates Mary “Tilley” Bessemer and Nichole Peal for their past and present contributions.

“Our very special butterfly garden will serve as a symbol of peace and serenity for all who visit,” added Harry, “and a life-affirming tribute to Tilley, whose zest for life continues to grace us.”   

May the wings of the butterfly kiss the sun and find your shoulder to light on,
To bring you luck, happiness and riches today, tomorrow and beyond.

~Irish Blessing

Jane Smiley (left) with Janet Zarro of Women's Resource Center

Generous, passionate, compassionate . . . three words that describe Jane Smiley and her feelings for Plymouth Harbor, our employees, and education. 

here is hardly an arts, human service or arts related not-for-profit organization in Sarasota, Florida that has not benefited from the wisdom and energy of Jane Smiley.  New College is grateful for her support.  The Women’s Resource Center of Sarasota County counted her as a board member for many years.  She has chaired the boards of the Sarasota County Arts Council and Art Center.

As a long-time Plymouth Harbor resident,  Mrs. Smiley has also given significant support to her current home as well. Recently she established, through an annual gift, the Jane T. Smiley Scholarship to benefit Plymouth Harbor employees.  The annual $2000 scholarship supports educational endeavors of current Plymouth Harbor employees who are seeking post-secondary degrees, certifications, or specialty training in any field.  Asked what inspired her to establish this scholarship, Mrs. Smiley said, “I have been so fortunate in my life, and it began with a good education.  Giving back is the right thing to do now.” 

Harry Hobson, Yaima Comas, Jane Smiley (l-r)

Yaima Comas is the first recipient of the Jane T. Smiley Scholarship.  Yaima has been a member of the Home Care staff as a certified nursing assistant for nearly three years.  She is pursuing her bachelor’s degree in Health Services Administration. 

“We are very grateful for Mrs. Smiley’s generosity and vision for advancing the dreams and ambitions of our employees,” said Harry Hobson.  “This is a perfect example of how passions and needs come together to benefit all.  Thank you, Mrs. Smiley, for your kind support.” 

Interesting research conducted at the Cleveland Clinic showed a 35% reduction in Parkinson’s symptoms by simply pedaling a bike quickly at 80-90 rpm’s.  Some people showed up to a 60% reduction in symptoms.

Movement disorders such as Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, arthritis, diabetes, stroke, fibromyalgia, spinal cord injury, muscular dystrophy, obesity and cerebral palsy can all take their toll on your ability to stay active. The Theracycle motorized bike was created specifically to provide exercise for those with movement disorders.

The Theracycle assists the rider in passively moving both the upper and lower body through a full range of motion.  This is an ideal piece of equipment for residents who may have orthopedic and/or neurological disorders such as Parkinson’s, Multiple Sclerosis, stroke, or frailty, because it can help the rider maintain a pace that they may not be able to do on their own.

While Theracycles are more commonly seen in physical therapy or rehab settings, thanks to generous donations from several residents, we now have a Theracycle in Plymouth Harbor’s Wellness Center!  If you are interested in the Parkinson’s research or would like to discuss incorporating the Theracycle into your exercise program, please contact Chris (x377) or Amanda (x350) in the Wellness Center. 

 Seven adventurous Plymouth Harbor residents recently took a quick five minute ride down the beach, slipped into kayaks, and  spent the next 2 1/2 hours traversing through the amazing mangrove tunnels located in Sarasota Bay just south of Plymouth Harbor. 

These mangroves are easily part of the landscape viewed daily from resident homes from their southern facing windows. A morning of kayaking reveals the wonders hidden within them.

In addition to enjoying invigorating exercise and beautiful scenery, the group learned many interesting facts about this fascinating section of Florida’s west coast as their experienced tour guide pointed out various features, plants and birds along the way.

Thanks to Chef Renee and his culinary team, our intrepid kayakers enjoyed a waterside picnic after their morning adventure. This is not the first kayaking foray that Plymouth Harbor residents have enjoyed, nor will it be the last!