On first glance one might not see that the finest continuing care retirement community located on the shores of Sarasota Bay stands like a sister next to the internationally renowned Sarasota Music Festival.  Of course, Plymouth Harbor residents number a good many of those enjoying the concerts performed by famed classical musicians and the extraordinary students who come from all over the world to vie for the limited opportunities at this all-scholarship chamber music festival.  But there is really more to it than that.

It all starts with the visionary individual, the Reverend Dr. John Whitney MacNeil.  In the same year that he negotiated the fundamentally essential financial support of the United Church of Christ for the establishment of Sarasota’s New College, he set his congregation on course to build “a retirement community of distinction.”  It was 1961.

By 1966, the first New College students were in their junior year of studies when the community gathered to dedicate the beautiful new building on the bay front.  Just a few months before, Dr. John Elmendorf had been installed as the New College’s second president.  According to his widow, Dr. Mary Elmendorf, herself a pioneering anthropologist, when her husband was interviewing for the position at New College, he was asked if he would support the concept of a new chamber music festival that was in the making.  “Not only did he say he would support it, he told them that he wouldn’t take the job UNLESS they started this music festival!” shares Mary with obvious pride.

The New College Music Festival held its first concerts in 1965 during Dr. Elmendorf’s first year in office and within two years was a three week festival drawing exceptional students from across the United States.   In 1984, renamed the Sarasota Music Festival, it was transferred to the administration of the Florida West Coast Symphony. 

What the visionary leaders of Sarasota set in motion 50 years ago is still enriching the community.  Dr. Mary Elmendorf, a Plymouth Harbor resident since 2001, is joined by many of her fellow residents as subscribers, regular concert attendees and financial supporters of this longtime musical gem.  For three weeks every June, music fills the air and Plymouth Harbor reaps the benefits.

Please join us in congratulating Nancy Baldwin, our Plymouth Harbor Employee of the Month for June 2013.

Nancy Baldwin is June's Employee of the Month!Nancy has been with Plymouth Harbor since December, 1987, when she was hired as a resident sitter. In April of 1990 she was promoted to a Certified Nursing Assistant in the Smith Care Center, where she consistently received “exceeds standard” remarks on her appraisals in several areas including Job Knowledge, Quality of Work, Efficiency, Attitude, Relationships with People, and Personal Conduct.

Her supervisors and nominators commented:

  • Nancy knows her job well.  She arrives to work ready to work and works well with coworkers.  Nancy goes the extra mile to assist others.
  •  Nancy is a pleasure to work with.  She takes excellent care of her residents and is helpful to others when needed.  I am glad to have her as a member of the night shift.  She is an asset to Plymouth Harbor.
  • Nancy takes a lot of pride in her work.  Her residents are always well taken care of.  She has a positive attitude and works well with others.
  • Originally from Cairo, Georgia, Nancy attended Washington Consolidated School.  She moved to Sarasota in the late 50’s where she graduated from Booker High School.

Congratulations, Nancy, on this recent honor, that comes from your loyalty and hard work.

Nancy Cressotti, LPN, is has joined Plymouth Harbor to serve as Admissions Coordinator at the Smith Care Center. Nancy says when she first started working at the young age of 14 in a nursing home; she knew her life-long calling was in health care. She will be responsible for the Smith Care Center (SCC) admission process and coordination of residents moving into the SCC in a manner that is supportive of the Center’s mission and values. As the Admissions Coordinator, she is accountable for all Smith Care Center admission activities.

Nancy Cressotti is the new Admissions Coordinator at Plymouth Harbor's Smith Care Center. “I am thrilled to have Nancy join our team. She will help improve our accessibility to residents of Sarasota and provide the medical community with information about Plymouth Harbor’s Smith Care Center,” says Joe Devore, Vice President of Health Services at Plymouth Harbor.

As the Admissions Coordinator, Nancy will be the first point of contact to build relationships with future families and patients that will come to the Smith Care Center. She looks forward to taking personal care of each family member and patient to make them feel comfortable during this crucial time in life.

Prior to joining the team at Plymouth Harbor, Nancy was with Universal Health Care in St. Petersburg, FL as a Case Manager. She has an impressive career of over 30 years of experience in the areas of direct patient care, patient evaluation, coordination of care, and verification of health services.

Some of Nancy’s other experiences include an External Care Coordinator at Skilled Nursing Facilities in Hartford, CT, and Admissions Director at Evergreen Health Care in Stafford Springs, CT.  Nancy started her career at Johnson Memorial Hospital, also located in Stafford Springs, CT, as a Staff LPN Nurse, Continuing Care Coordinator, and Placement Coordinator.

Nancy was born in Morrisville, Vermont, before moving to Enfield, Connecticut.  A Connecticut nursing home provided that first experience for Nancy who later graduated from Enrico Fermi High School in Enfield, CT, and Thompson School of Practical Nursing in Brattleboro, VT.  She relocated to Florida only one year ago with her husband. Now that their children are grown they love to spend their vacations cruising.

“With all my years of experience in nursing homes and hospital settings, none can compare to my new position at the Smith Care Center. Everyone has warmly welcomed me and it is a pleasure to come to work every day,” says Nancy. “I look forward to a long and rewarding career with Plymouth Harbor!”

Karen Novak, RN, MS, says that her daily goal is to touch the life of another and make things better.  Stepping into the role of Clinical Mentor as part of the excellent Health Services team at Plymouth Harbor, she will be responsible for training of all the nursing and ancillary personnel associated with health services.  In addition to continually assessing and polishing the clinical skills of the entire health services team, Karen will provide direct service in assessing potential residents and monitoring all infection control and skin condition issues.

Karen Novak is the new Clinical Mentor at Plymouth Harbor. “I am thrilled to have Karen join our team. She will help continue to raise the level of our staff competence, which will directly translate to even better resident care,” says Joe Devore, Vice President of Health Services at Plymouth Harbor.

Karen has experience as a staff development and training director and was the Account Clinical Director at Hill-Rom Industries, Inc. Karen has an extensive background in the health care industry, and has received several prestigious awards for her services during and including the years 1981-2006.

“I have been a nurse for over 33 years. To this day, I can gladly say that I am as dedicated to helping others as the day I received my nursing pin from Col. G, (the army nurse that taught me well),” says Karen.

Prior to Hill-Rom Industries, she was with Shands Lakeshore Regional Medical Center as the Infection Control Officer/Patient Representative and at Hillenbrand Industries, Inc. as a Clinical Consultant. At the Gainesville Healthcare Center she was the Director of Corporate Compliance.

At the Shands at Alachua General Hospital in Gainesville Florida, Karen wore many hats, including Nurse Educator for Subacute Nursing Unit, Nurse Educator for the Clinical Support Office, Clinical Practice Coordinator, and Staff Development.

Clearly, as Karen points out, “Nursing has always been my calling and my passion.”  In 1980, she started her career at Tampa General Hospital as a Pediatric Intensive Care Registered Nurse while she completed her first degree at the University of Tampa in 1982.  She continued in this field at Cincinnati Children’s Medical Center until 1987 and soon after completed a graduate degree at Concordia University in 2003 for Health Care Management.

Karen is a proud mother of three daughters. One daughter is a Program Director for the Children’s Miracle Network, another is an Elementary Kindergarten Teacher in Mississippi, and her youngest daughter attends University of Florida.

As a family they enjoy making creative pizza on the barbeque. Time and laughter with her daughters are always a priority for Karen, especially as they grow into their own lives. Karen feels that laughing comes easy when you do things fun and inventive with your family.

About that daily goal, she says, “I have yet to have that day where I didn’t touch someone’s life and make something better!” And for someone who is in the midst of career in the nursing field with a lot of time invested in Pediatric Intensive Care research in Food Science and Human Nutrition and Nursing Education, that’s saying she’s really dedicated.

For some the urge to travel across the globe to work in another country is a call to adventure, for others it is a smart career-building move. For Paul Groen, fresh out of Baylor College of Medicine and his internship in family medicine, it was a call to serve. And more specifically, it was a call to serve God.

Macky Groen, was on a rigorous career track completing her Masters degree in Nursing Administration at Columbia University when she felt a similar tug on her heart to devote herself to mission work in a Third World country.

Macky got there first and was just starting her third year of nursing in the bush of Nigeria when the handsome new doctor arrived. Their clinic consisted of eight women, nurses and educators, and one male doctor. The entire group worked and socialized together and everyone got to know each other quite well. Paul wisely treated each woman with equal attention and respect, careful not to betray any favoritism. Yet when he was given the opportunity to invite a select young woman to entertain on a friend’s veranda, supervised of course, it was Macky that got that call.

Their individual life choices had brought them together in this remote region and between that and the intense daily collaboration between them in their work, their love sprang from a deep “knowledge of the heart,” as Paul described it. They were meant to be. Paul and Macky married in Nigeria and spent a total of 10 years there together before finally deciding to return to the States when their two sons were of school age.

After completing a residency in orthopedics, Paul practiced medicine in Wheaton, Illinois outside of Chicago while they raised their sons. Their boys, initiated by their early childhood years in Nigeria, travelled with them on numerous trips back to Africa for short-term teaching stints. As a result both are “Third World citizens” comfortable wherever they might land.

Seventeen years of medical practice was enough, as both Paul and Macky were eager to get back to what they felt was their true life calling. This time, they formed a not-for-profit organization called Doctors on Call for Service, or DOCS, in order to develop the partnerships within countries like Kenya, Rwanda and the Congo to provide local medical education.

Their work was very successful. Rather than losing talented young people who trained abroad and failed to return home, Kenya and Rwanda developed their own capabilities to train medical professionals with the help of DOCS. “We were a catalyzing force in those countries and they were quick to draw on other resources to build their own training centers,” shared Paul.

The Democratic Republic of Congo was another story. Here, in a region rocked by years of war, genocide and sexual violence, there has been an even greater need for the outside assistance and support of DOCS. They focused their efforts in the eastern city of Goma which was at the center of the refugee crisis resulting from the genocide in Rwanda and two Congo wars. Understandably, success has been slower in coming there. The Learning Center that they built in Goma was soon destroyed by the eruption of the volcano Nyiragongo in 2002.

Undaunted, Macky and Paul strengthened their efforts with dedicated volunteers and a board of directors consisting of medical educators, business people and physicians based in the U.S. The Learning Center has been rebuilt and is serving their training efforts in that region. Only two years ago did Macky and Paul decide it was time to pass the reigns of the organization over to others to carry on their work.

After so much excitement, not-so-glamorous travelling, and hard work they are satisfied with their lives and are now enjoying the cultural riches of Sarasota from the comforts of Plymouth Harbor. Both of them relish the expanse of blue sky and water outside their living room windows. “We spent years in the dry, dusty bush and look at us now – surrounded by water!” Macky says with a smile. Paul enjoys walking the Ringling Bridge in the cool, early mornings and being surrounded by other interesting residents at Plymouth Harbor.

“Maybe we lived an exciting life, but I think the people here at Plymouth Harbor are really stimulating!”

Music came so easily to Ted Rehl when he was a child that he almost took it for granted. Able to play nearly anything by ear at an early age on his family’s parlor piano, he was encouraged with lessons. His talent on the piano was a given, or so it would seem by the matter-of-fact way he describes his musical training. While Ted enjoyed it enough, there were always other things that captivated his interest and challenged his mind, such as math and more “logical” pursuits.

Nevertheless, the young boy from Galion, Ohio attended Oberlin College Conservatory of Music on a full scholarship. It was here on this quintessential Midwest liberal arts college campus that he met Fran, a gifted cellist from Seattle. They were soon married and Ted stayed on to earn his graduate degree in music at Oberlin. After one year in working in New York City, Ted joined the faculty at Washington State University, Pullman before finally settling at Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin.

Fran taught music for many years before deciding to take on the different challenges of real estate with a good bit of success. Meanwhile in addition to his faculty responsibilities, Ted was an active soloist, accompanist, and chamber music player; in the 60s he was member of a duo-piano team that had a New York manager and played programs all over the United States.

When offered an early retirement package after 34 years at Lawrence University, Ted took it. He played his last concert with conservatory colleagues in a final hurrah. Perhaps only he knew that this was the definitive end of a chapter when he closed the lid on the keyboard after that concert.

Ted didn’t touch another piano for 18 ½ years. There was no tragedy or drama involved. It wasn’t that he disliked the piano, he was just finished with that and wanted to do other things. He sold his piano, disposed of all of his music, and pursued his other hobbies.

In addition to bridge, puzzles, and volunteer work, Ted turned his curiosity and mathematical logic to the world of computers. It was never dull and he was never aware of any void left by the absence of the piano in his life.

When Fran and Ted moved to Plymouth Harbor, they enjoyed living in and being surrounded by a community rich in the performing arts and music. The intimate Pilgrim Hall struck them both as a perfect recital and chamber music venue.

In 2010 they spoke to Harry Hobson about their desire to provide a fine, recital-quality grand piano to be used by visiting artists in Pilgrim Hall performances. It started simply enough, searching listings of used pianos as well as talking to the regional Steinway dealers, they began to narrow their search. Each time a prospective instrument was presented to them, Ted declined to try it out himself. Listening to the dealer’s playing was enough to test the sound for them.

Until one day, it simply wasn’t enough. They scouted out a dealer who had a Steinway grand piano in a small showroom near Venice. There was something Ted heard that caught his attention. It touched his heart, in fact. No one was more surprised than his wife Fran when Ted agreed to try it out. He spent the next two hours playing, listening, and falling in love with a piano for the first time in his life.

This might sound odd, but Ted had just never met the right piano before. This little Steinway had an alluring sound and touch that inspired a new joy of expression. With the piano soon settled into its new home on the stage of Pilgrim Hall, Ted began to look forward to his time making music with it.

“At first I had no technique whatsoever,” says Ted, “and it was slow getting it back.” He practiced at least 3 hours a day for weeks, even months before he felt comfortable. Urged to set a date for the dedication of the piano with a recital, Ted practiced steadily. Not until about a week before the April 1, 2011 date did he feel confident that he could make it through the program without embarrassing himself.

He was a smash hit and each successive concert since (5 so far) is greeted with a full house and standing ovations. While making his fellow Plymouth Harbor residents happy with his performance, Fran realizes that he’s happier than he had been in years.

Ted just knows that his goal now is to keep practicing. It’s exhilarating to have his technique at the previous professional level, and, he believes, even better than before. His plan is to keep presenting programs that his friends enjoy. He takes requests and slips in some music that he’s always wanted to perform. Fran’s considerable musical judgment is called upon to make sure the programs have the right mix of music to be entertaining for all.

His last program, The Romantic Piano, was recorded. For a donation of any amount given to benefit the arts at Plymouth Harbor, a CD of the program is being given as a token of gratitude. (For more information, contact Becky Pazkowski,The Plymouth Harbor Foundation.)

Ted’s next concert, an all-Russian program, is scheduled for October 18 and will include Moussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition in its original form for solo piano. Stay tuned for more on that.

It’s Memorial Day today and, for many, this last Monday in May is set aside for watersports, time with the family or simply shopping. In short, it is a welcome day of vacation. While Americans have been honoring those who have given their lives in battle since May of 1868 shortly after the end of the Civil War, the bloodiest conflict in our history, in recent decades it has lost its solemn sheen.

Like many men and women of my generation, I served our country in the military during World War II. I did so willingly and without gripe or fuss, spending most of my time in a submarine in both the Atlantic and Pacific. I was young and I learned many good things in the military such as being on time and learning every bit of my duties. I had to because on a submarine you don’t get a second chance.

Anyone who has been in battle will tell you that war is never to be taken lightly. Nor should the fact that each man (or woman) in combat risks losing their life, and they are well aware of this fact. This reality does not change whether the war is labeled just and with full support of the country or not. I doubt any of that makes a bit of difference either to the family grieving over the loss of a son, daughter, husband, wife, father or mother.

In March 2012, the United States marked its tenth year of having our military men and women deployed in combat in the Middle East in the War on Terror. Although the deaths and casualties our country has suffered during the past decade pale in comparison with the bloodshed of both World Wars and our own Civil War. But even that is beside the point. How many millions of men and women must die in the name of democracy and freedom for everyone to sit up, take notice and think seriously about the significance of Memorial Day?

I was a member of the U.S. Senate when the National Holiday Act of 1971 was passed, turning all such days into long weekends with Monday holidays. Some say that this act contributed to our drift away from the more sobering remembrance of those we memorialize for their patriotic sacrifice. It would be a shame if we let a change in date distract us from considering the price paid by so many on our behalf.

Any day of the week we can consider how giving of ourselves to the community around us – with time and energy, not blood – can make a significant impact on individual lives. We could, in some small yet significant way, help build a community that can prevent the unnecessary loss of lives. My life of service might have begun in the U.S. Navy, but it continues to this day with my active support of Goodwill Industries and many other human services. I know it makes a difference.

If you have plans to barbecue in the backyard, watch TV or head to the beach, there is no reason not to enjoy your day off. In fact, I recommend it. I live in Plymouth Harbor and our entire community – residents, staff and families of both – gather for a barbecue right on Sarasota Bay. You can bet we will be enjoying tasty food and lively conversation, but I intend to reflect on the sacrifices that made this holiday, Memorial Day, necessary.

In a moment of quiet sometime during your day, I encourage you to ask yourself a couple questions.

· If you had the opportunity to thank someone who gave their life in battle, what would you say?

· If you had the opportunity to have walked in their shoes and seen the fruits of battle, would you feel proud and appreciated for what you had sacrificed for your country?

· Without risking your life, what could you do and how proud might you feel to give even more back to the community around you?

The preceding Guest Editorial was published in the Sarasota Herald Tribune on Memorial Day of 2012.  It was written by Plymouth Harbor resident, Senator Marlow Cook who represented the state of Kentucky in the U.S. Senate and served in the Navy during World War II.


Well, no one can ever claim that Plymouth Harbor residents don’t know how to have a good time and aren’t extremely talented at entertaining themselves! This spring saw the third “Plymouth Harbor’s Got Talent” evening with master of ceremonies George Heitler welcoming a parade of performers to the stage of Pilgrim Hall.

This tradition started in 2006 when George thought he’d present something along the lines of Major Bowe’s Amateur Hour. But, in reading the biographies on file, he discovered so much talent that he switched it to a Talent Show. That successful show then led to another in 2010 and 2013, now under the name referencing the British and American reality-talent shows popular today.

So, certainly you are wondering, “Who’s got talent, anyway?” Well this evening, the audience heard from 16 brave talents.

The show opened with Joan Sheil on the organ, playing “Side By Side,” written in 1927 and sung by many popular stars. Ater playing it once, the audience was invited to join in a chorus led by George Heitler.

Monologues, story-telling, jokes, and skits were very popular. We heard monologues from Naomi Wittenberg and Bill Brackett, both familiar to us from their involvement in the annual Plymouth Harbor Players productions. Joanne Hastings and Serge Oliel told humorous stories. Al Balaban brought to life the story told in the song, “Sam, You Made the Pants Too Long.” LuVerne Conway, in costume, ended her story with the song, “My Heart Belongs to Daddy.”

Dancers Jim Griffith and Bobi Sanderson chose not to attempt their talent on the small Pilgrim Hall stage, but shared a video of their performance at a previous dance competition.

The only non-resident performers were the intrepid duo Becky and Paul Pazkowski. Becky is our Vice President of Philanthropy, but she forgot to send the hat around after she sang. Or maybe she thought twice about it.

Rev. Rosemary Gremban not only sang her lovely spiritual songs a capella, but composed them herself. Peggy and Don Wallace did the same thing, but the message was a little, shall we say, irreverent. Peggy sang a series of not-so familiar college alma maters and fight songs to her favorite schools – East Overshoe U, Puberty Normal, and Missouri College of Mines, among others. You had to laugh and it wasn’t because of Don’s piano playing!

Finally, Florence and George Heitler tested their thespian skills by portraying a dear older couple that hated, despised, and loathed each other in poetic recitation.

It was all great fun, particularly when the entire cast was called upon impromptu to sing the final song, “Give My Regards to Broadway.”

Plymouth Harbor’s Got Talent       PART 2

If you missed this show watch these videos, or a DVD of the entire evening can be found in the Library on the Mezzanine. And if you are wondering, yes, there will be other opportunities to perform, so dust off the tap shoes, tune the guitar strings, and get to work so we can applaud you in the next “Plymouth Harbor’s Got Talent!”