By Sallie van Arsdale

A cormorant splashes down beside my kayak.  It swims alongside and is so close I could touch the wet, black feathers.  Its eyes are blue-green, its beak orange tipped with a hook.  Quickly it dives under the boat.  Surfacing on the other side, it is again within reach. 

Only recently have we been favored with this friendly behavior.  There is, of course, an explanation; the cormorant is fishing.  We are in shallow water on a sunny day.  Our kayaks cast shadows which seem to help the birds see their small darting prey.  Apparently, too, cormorants have learned that kayaks are harmless.  They see them nearly every day in the bay off Plymouth Harbor so familiarity has overcome fear, at least for the local, winged divers. 

Although cormorants are experts at fishing, a successful catch can take many tries.  Once it occurs, to see a bird with a beak full carefully maneuver its captured prize into swallowing position and gulp it down is fascinating.  One is tempted to call out, “Congratulations!” despite the fate of the fish. 

Cormorants have to be accomplished underwater swimmers to survive.  Wide, webbed feel propel their streamlined bodies through speedy twists and turns in pursuit of their agile food source.  As a good example of double use, the same feet serve as flying brakes.  When a cormorant on the wing comes in for a water landing, each wide-spread foot is thrust out in front to hit the water first and slow forward motion.  The technique works perfectly and is fun to watch, especially when the splashdown is next to you. 

Our cormorant encounters are a continuing pleasure—even a privilege.  After all, how often does one share, if just for seconds, a degree of closeness with a wild creature?

Photos courtesy of Lou Newman

Participating in exercise benefits all components of health and is important for all ages.  Aerobic exercising and strength training creates a strong immune system by improving cardiovascular and lymphatic circulation.  Keeping fit also helps increase blood flow, which benefits all parts of the body.  Increased blood flow helps the liver detoxify waste more resourcefully, the heart to perform its many functions efficiently, and the brain to think better and quicker. The likelihood to develop dementia, high blood pressure, diabetes, and cancers are decreased with regular exercise. 

A study about living longer by exercising was conducted by a team of researchers from the Brigham and Women’s Hospital and the National Cancer Institute (Halvorson, 2013) The researchers took findings from six different studies and looked at a total of 650,000 people between the ages of 21-90 over a 10 year period (Halvorson, 2013)

Their results show that participating in 75 minutes of low activity per week, such as walking, added 1.8 years onto the life expectancy, compared with no exercise (Halvorson, 2013).  Participating in 150 minutes of moderate physical activity per week added an average of 3.4-4.5 years onto the life expectancy, compared with no exercise (Halvorson, 2013). Inactivity results in 3.1 fewer years than the life expectancy.

All of these factors and research indicates that exercise and physical activity is required to live a long, healthy life!


Halvorson, R. (2013). Leisure-time physical activity adds years to your life. IDEAfit, 10(2), Retrieved from

In 1972, Beaulah Gaither and her husband Bob were proud to be working at Plymouth Harbor. It was the glamorous retirement community built in 1967 whose striking tower, the city’s tallest building, sat right on the shore of Sarasota Bay.  “It was a real nice place and we enjoyed the residents,” says Beualah who celebrated her own retirement at the end of March 2013 after 39 years of service. 

She and her husband Bob worked in housekeeping together until Bob retired after 37 years. During that time their work at Plymouth Harbor had become a family affair.  All three of their daughters as well as their son worked there when they came of age.  The entire family pulled together and all four children graduated from college and are enjoying successful careers. The daughters manage medical practices and the son owns his own mechanic shop. Beaulah and Bob can be proud of these many accomplishments.

Jim Myers, their supervisor for 25 of those years, knew the entire family well. According to his stories, they were an important thread in the fabric of life for their co-workers and the residents they served. From all reports, Beaulah always has a smile, rarely a complaint, and is quick to help out someone who needed a boost.

Resident Joan Runge knew Beaulah not as a housekeeper, but as one of her best customers at the Fund Shop.  “She was always stopping in to buy something pretty for one of her ‘babies’,” says Joan. One might ask if she meant one of her five children, grandchildren, or even one of her co-workers who seemed to call Beaulah “Mama.” 

At her retirement celebration on April 1, friends, co-workers, and residents gathered to honor “Mama” and speak to the many ways in which Beaulah enriched the lives of everyone at Plymouth Harbor for nearly four decades. Many friends who had already retired or that were not scheduled to work that day came in just to say good-bye. That is how special a lady she was to so many.  

Harry Hobson, Plymouth Harbor’s CEO, surely appreciated her service but was concerned, he said, with a projected decline in income from the Fund Shop after Beaulah’s retirement.  Of course this was all in jest, but Harry did point out that her husband Bob had told him that at the end of every day as he waited outside in his car to drive her home he asked himself, “What WILL she bring home today from the Fund Shop?”  According to Bob, they used to have a garage that echoed. Now he can barely park the car in it. LOL!

At this farewell party Beaulah was showered with well wishes, a basket of goodies, a big bouquet of roses and a certificate for a special weekend retreat at the Lido Beach Resort. She also was able to go home with a large photo of Plymouth Harbor filled with loving messages from her many admirers.

Thank you, Beaulah Gaither, for your many years of hard work, generous service, and loving kindness.

A Zest for Life Profile

Phil Starr was introduced to dancing when he was 16 years old, by his wise mother. He suspects that her motivation was to ensure she always had a dance partner. However, in her infinite wisdom she raised a young man who would make his dancing-inclined wife very happy one day.

Phil and Barry Starr

Phil and Barry Starr

That day came 55 years ago in 1958 when Phil was asked to teach his younger brother and his fiancé how to cha cha before their wedding in 1959. Friends–and their girlfriends–also wanted to learn, which left Phil the only person in the group without a partner. A friend’s younger sister, Barry, was asked to be Phil’s blind date. Even though Barry brought to the dance lesson her college roommates, she was the one who had the dance talent who caught Phil’s eye, and his heart.

Phil’s father was active in insuring the Ringling Brothers’ Circus, which required frequent trips to Sarasota and on one trip he acquired several homes on Longboat Key as an investment.

Phil and Barry danced their way through the courtship and Phil popped the question while attending a chaperoned house party at his parent’s home on Longboat Key.

After their marriage in 1960 Phil and Barry lived an active life in their Kansas City community, participating in their childrens’ school, their church, and the Boy Scouts. Phil was awarded the Silver Antelope, the highest volunteer award given by the Regional Board of the Boy Scouts of America. As an Eagle Scout Phil enrolled his sons in the Boy Scouts when they reached the proper age, and both sons and three grandsons also became Eagle Scouts.

Life happened, their children grew, and they began to find other ways to share their love of dancing. They started teaching foxtrot, waltz, tango, rhumba, and swing to a group of 10 friends in their basement. What started as a small group ended up as a group of 30. They added sizzle to the experience by capping off a 10-week course with a black tie dance party with live music at their country club.

Phil and Barry Starr ready for a dance competition.

Phil and Barry Starr ready for a dance competition.

In 1982, after a severe bout of pneumonia, Phil and Barry followed doctor’s orders of sunshine and relaxation by spending a month at the beachfront home of his parents on Longboat Key. After their return to Kansas City they enrolled in serious dance classes with a professional dance teacher couple John and Diana Berry. Lessons three times a week gave them plenty of exercise and eventually they entered dance competitions around the United States including the Sam Sodano’s Ohio Star Ball made famous by the annual PBS TV show. At one point they were coached by an English ballroom champion when he visited the Berry Dance Studio in Kansas City.

Phil retired in 1991 and he and Barry changed their legal residence to Longboat Key Florida in 2000. When friends moved into a continuing care retirement community (CCRC) in 2011, they were urged to do the same. Although they didn’t think they were ready for such a place, their minds changed when they met current residents and sampled the many programs at Plymouth Harbor. They took the plunge. And “we haven’t looked back” says Phil. There is more to do, but freedom to do nothing, and the food is like eating on a cruise ship–all you need and then even more.

Of course their activity is not confined to within the campus of Plymouth Harbor. The Starrs enjoy dining at Euphemia Haye on Longboat Key, the Salty Dog on New Pass, and Andrea’s on Siesta Road. They make it a point to visit Mote Marine Aquarium as well as to attend the ballet, the opera, and the symphony–all very close to Plymouth Harbor.

Art is a particular interest of theirs as they are avid collectors of glass sculptures–and we don’t mean just nice paperweights. They have become acquainted with and have collected work by some of the most renowned glass artists of our time. Their apartment is beautifully designed to show off each work of art and they enthusiastically share the story behind each treasure with joy.

Two of the Starr's beloved glass sculptures.

Two of the Starr's beloved glass sculptures.

The Starrs say they couldn’t be happier with their lives at Plymouth Harbor. They are looking forward to more dancing opportunities in the near future as a new dance floor is planned for the updated Wellness Center and funds are being donated to buy a portable dance floor for various locations, including the dining room and the outside pool area. All this dancing must be modified as Barry had two back surgeries, which have disturbed her sense of balance. But dancing skills, like riding a bicycle, aren’t easily forgotten. Phil and Barry believe dancing is a good exercise activity and they hope to participate fully.

by Harry Hobson

We are very happy to announce our new legacy society at Plymouth Harbor, The MacNeil Society.  The MacNeil Society recognizes people who have thoughtfully included a gift to The Plymouth Harbor Foundation in their estate through a bequest, gift annuity agreement, trust arrangements, life insurance, or retirement plan.  When you name The Plymouth Harbor Foundation in your estate plans you have, in essence, declared to your family and friends that you truly believe in Plymouth Harbor’s mission and commit to the vision for its future.

Founder of Plymouth Harbor on Sarasota Bay, Rev Dr. John Whitney MacNeil

The Reverend Dr. John Whitney MacNeil

It is only fitting that this esteemed legacy be named for the person in our history whose vision and persistence was his lasting statement of faith in Plymouth Harbor, The Reverend Dr. John Whitney MacNeil.  Through the astute vision of Dr. MacNeil, Plymouth Harbor was founded in 1966.  From the first organizational meeting in 1961 to welcoming the first resident in 1966, Dr. MacNeil was committed

committed to establishing a retirement community in Sarasota.  Today, our campus is filled with vibrant, active residents to whom we have promised to provide care as long as they are with us.

 Membership in The MacNeil Society

When you make a gift in any amount to The Plymouth Harbor Foundation from your will, trust, retirement plan, or other estate plan, you become a member of The MacNeil Society.

We ask that you inform us of your plans and complete a Declaration of Gift Intent, which is available through the Foundation Office. The Plymouth Harbor Foundation records your membership into The MacNeil Society, which means you will be recognized in the Honor Roll of Generosity as part of an exclusive group of people who share Dr. MacNeil’s commitment to Plymouth Harbor’s mission and vision.

If you would like more information about membership in The MacNeil Society, and the many ways you can make a planned gift benefitting the mission of Plymouth Harbor, contact Becky Pazkowski at The Plymouth Harbor Foundation at 941.361.7398 or via e-mail at

“What we do for ourselves dies with us.
What we do for others and the world remains and is immortal.”
– Albert Pike

Supporting Employee Education by Becky Pazkowski

Building a strong sense of community and creating an outstanding older adult living community depends, in no small part, upon the quality of the work force. In the spirit of a deep culture of fellowship, and an equal emphasis on recruiting, hiring, retaining, and developing the best work force possible, Plymouth Harbor offers education assistance to its cherished employees. Educational assistance is funded through the Mildred and Bernard Doyle Trust, administered by Northern Trust, and through charitable gifts to the Employee Assistance Fund, administered by The Plymouth Harbor Foundation. It is our goal to continue to award these scholarships annually.

Doyle Scholarship

Through the generosity of the Doyle’s, former Plymouth Harbor residents, the Doyle Scholarships provide educational assistance to a worthy and needy employee or high school senior child of an employee seeking to increase their skills or to obtain a higher education. Up to two scholarships are awarded annually.


We are very happy to announce that this year, through past generous donations, several new scholarships will be available for employees, and in some cases their immediate family members, through The Plymouth Harbor Foundation. Applicants must be employed for at least 12 months by Plymouth Harbor. The following describes the new scholarship offerings.

Bea Davis Memorial Scholarship

Supports educational opportunities for housekeeping employees and their immediate family members. One $1,500 scholarship will be awarded annually.

General Education Scholarship

Supports educational endeavors of current Plymouth Harbor employees who are seeking post-secondary degrees, certifications, or specialty training in any field. One $1,500 scholarship will be awarded annually.

Nursing Education Scholarship

Supports educational endeavors in pursuit of post-secondary degrees in nursing from an accredited college or university. Up to five $2,000 scholarships will be awarded annually.

We are grateful to the donors whose gifts to the Employee Assistance Fund have made possible these scholarships currently and in the past. Continued offering of these opportunities annually depends upon charitable support.

On Thursday evening, March 28th, four illustrious “Aging Industry” leaders presented a panel discussion on “The Art of Aging” to the toughest audience imaginable—residents of Plymouth Harbor.  One might assume that if anyone knows something about the “art” of aging with dignity, courage and panache, you would find them here.

Undaunted, Dr. Nancy Schlossberg, a nationally renowned scholar and author of numerous books on aging and retirement, and three panelists shared their well-considered thoughts with each other and the audience gathered before them.

The opening question, “It has been said that demographics are destiny.  How does that apply to Sarasota?” was fielded first by Tom Esselman, the Executive Director of Sarasota’s Institute for the Ages.

Art of Aging Industry Experts at Plymouth Harbor

Harry Hobson, Nancy Schlossberg, Tom Esselman & John Overton

Pointing to the demographic reality that gives Sarasota County the distinction of having the oldest average population of any large county in the U.S., Tom declared, “Our destiny is leadership.  As the world wonders what it will face in the future with the dramatic growth of an aging population, we are experiencing that future now.  Our destiny is to embrace new ideas and provide lessons of learning and leadership.”

John Overton, CEO of The Pines of Sarasota, chose to reflect on the demographics of dementia that he sees as a leader of a skilled nursing residence.  “Our challenge is to demonstrate the leadership learning about the disease, examining the lessons of the last 20 years and seeking innovative ways of providing care in the home for this growing population.”

“Appreciating the Mecca of older adults that we are,” reflected our own Harry Hobson, “we are truly a microcosm of the future of our country.  We will be challenged for some time with dementia, and we are called to emphasize preventative health care and wellness.”

When asked, “What do you see as the hot button issues around aging?”  John Overton pointed quickly to a difficult dilemma.  There is the need to care for more people who are acutely ill and have outlived their income, while at the same time funding, such as Medicare and Medicaid, is increasingly restricted.  His was a call for more access to care.

Harry noted the shift of language from “care for the rest of life” to “aging in place” saying that the challenge is having access to the new technologies that enhance our lives as we age.  “The question is ‘How will we bring affordable technology to a caring bedside manner?’.  It’s a matter of aging in the ‘right’ place,” he added.

“Business and industry are too often seen as the bad guys,” said Tom Esselman, who wants to change that dialog around aging to encourage businesses to tap into the value of older adults to drive innovation.  This is an area of great promise and opportunity.

The panel went on to discuss their observations of age bias, the marginalization of older adults and whether or not we all get happier with age.  It was clear that bias and marginalization exist, but are muted in the vibrant senior-centric community of Sarasota.  Local philanthropies benefit from senior volunteers and there is great intergenerational value in the active involvement of retirees on many levels.  The Institute of the Ages is mobilizing older adults for meaningful involvement with research and product testing to support businesses developing new technologies.

Nancy Schlossberg pointed out that the Stanford Longevity Institute, AARP and Pew Research all have data showing that happiness increases as you age in the seventies and eighties.  Is it true?  For the most part, yes, they all agreed.  John Overton mused that many centenarians he knows are very happy.

“The human spirit is amazing in its capacity to find silver linings,” Tom quoted Hugh Downs.

Harry added, “There are many moving parts to aging and being happy.  The two most important factors are physical health and financial health.  I’ve seen that staying connected is a huge factor.”

Many in the audience agreed that optimism and actively reaching out to others were of great importance to them.  Some questioned age bias in employment and expressed some frustration with keeping up with the constant changing technologies around us.  There was obviously energy to continue these conversations for some time into the future, be we can focus on the panelists’ concluding statements about aging.

Harry Hobson — “Embrace it.  Let go of frustration.  Welcome new ways.”

 Tom Esselman — Quoting the title of a favorite song by artist Jesus Jones, “Right Here, Right Now, There’s No Place I’d Rather Be.”  Or simply, “There’s no better place than Sarasota.”

 John Overton — “Life is not a dress rehearsal.  Experience it now.  Live it now.”

And one last word from Art Linkletter, “Things turn out best for people who make the best of the ways things turn out.”

The “Art of Aging” panel discussion was also the featured program at the Tiger Bay Luncheon on Monday, April 11 at Michael’s on East.   

Plymouth Harbor Smith Care Center Five Star Rated Nursing Home, US NewsAs a certified Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC), Plymouth Harbor not only offers a spectacular lifestyle for independent residents, but also provides excellent assisted-living and nursing care.  We don’t just say this, because that is too easy. We have the Five Stars to prove it, says U.S. News Health.

The data behind the U.S. News report on the Best Nursing Homes comes from Nursing Home Compare, a website run by the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS.)  CMS sets and enforces standards for nursing homes enrolled in Medicare or Medicaid, as most are. The agency also collects information from states and individual homes and assigns each home a rating of one to five stars in each of three categories: state-conducted health inspections, nursing and physical therapy staffing, and quality of medical care. The ratings are combined to produce an overall rating of one to five stars.

This means at Plymouth Harbor data collected measured the quality of service in our Smith Care Center for comprehensive skilled nursing and rehabilitative care. The five stars measure nurse staffing, quality measures from clinical data, and results of periodic health inspections.

Check it out yourself

U.S. News collected meaningful data and ratings from about nearly every nursing facility in the United States, and built from them a searchable database designed to highlight the highest-rated homes likely to meet each user’s needs.  Here’s the link to that database if you would like to check it out yourself.

Please join us in congratulating Jim Oates, Plymouth Harbor April 2013 Employee of the Month!

Jim Oates is Plymouth Harbor's Employee of the Month for April!Jim came to Plymouth Harbor in April of 2007 with over 20 years of experience as a painter, including Journeyman status.  He has been described by his Plymouth Harbor supervisors as efficient, positive, prompt, and an asset to the Maintenance department.  Previous Shining Stars awards demonstrate he is a team player and is dedicated to our residents.

Nominators of Jim stated that he deserves to be recognized for his loyal, dedicated, and constant efforts.  There is no job too big or too small for Jim, and he always goes the extra mile.

Prior to his Plymouth Harbor employment, Jim was with West Rentals Corporation in Wheeling, West Virginia, self-employed for several years in Santa Monica, California, and with Pelican Cove Condominiums in Sarasota. Jim’s previous employers describe him as dependable, dedicated, a great quality worker with good follow-through, and very good with people.

Jim is married to Theresa Oates who was a Plymouth Harbor employee several years ago.  Originally from Carlisle, Pennsylvania, Jim is a graduate of Triadelphia High School in Wheeling, West Virginia.  He moved to the Sarasota area in 2005.

Congratulations, Jim!