Picture1237In April 2016, Sarasota Magazine announced the winners of its annual Best of Sarasota: Readers’ Choice Awards. This year, we’re proud to announce that Plymouth Harbor was voted a finalist in two categories — Best Retirement Community, and Best Place to Meet Singles.

While this category may imply meeting a significant other, it can take on another meaning here at Plymouth Harbor. One of the characteristics that makes our community unique is the friendliness and openness of our residents — and resident Fran Nikolich agrees. Fran moved in a little over a year ago, in March 2015.

“My first night, I was sitting at the bar by myself. Another r
esident walked right up to me and invited me to come and sit at her table,” Fran remembers. “It’s the people that make Plymouth Harbor a great place to live, and my first night here is a testament to that.”

Since then, Fran has developed many friendships — with both couples and fellow single residents. She credits them to the friendliness of her neighbors, her outgoing personality, and the Plymouth Harbor Welcoming Committee.

The Welcoming Committee consists of a group of people whose one goal is to ensure that new residents have a pleasant transition into life here at Plymouth Harbor. This includes introducing them to the campus and their colony, and inviting them to dinners and special events. Additionally, each new resident is assigned a personal mentor who greets them on their first day, and is generally available to answer questions.

“It is a tradition that has gone on for years and years,” says BJ Peters, chair of the Welcoming Committee. “I was a mentor myself and became very good friends with my mentee. I’ve also seen that happening with others — it’s a wonderful thing.”

One thing is for certain, you never know who you will meet here at Plymouth Harbor. From new friends to long-lost friends and colleagues — or even a significant other — anything is possible. We are proud to be named Best Place to Meet Singles — whatever the meaning.

 

DSC_5361On Monday, May 23, 2016, Plymouth Harbor celebrated its 50th anniversary on MacNeil Day 2016 — an annual tribute to our founder, The Rev. Dr. MacNeil. The event began with a Commemoration Ceremony at 4:00 pm in the Mayflower Restaurant and Café, and was followed by a reception.

Plymouth Harbor opened its doors on January 15, 1966 to the first residents of our community, and on May 6, 1966, an official dedication ceremony was held. Over the years, Plymouth Harbor has grown, welcoming residents from all over the world, enhancing programs, activities, and amenities, and expanding, first with the addition of the North Garden, and now the Northwest Garden. There is no doubt that Plymouth Harbor has endured the test of time due to the willingness of the entire organization to adapt and evolve to meet growing needs and changes in the industry.

The MacNeil Day celebration paid tribute to this notion, honoring our past, present, and future. It included remarks from President and CEO Harry Hobson, and a special address by John Patterson, former Chair and Trustee of the Plymouth Harbor, Inc. Board of Trustees. A proclamation from the City of Sarasota honoring Plymouth Harbor’s 50 years was presented by Suzanne Atwell, Vice-Mayor.

The proclamation conclusion read: Now, therefore, the City Commission of the City of Sarasota, Florida, and on behalf of the citizens of our community, takes great pride in recognizing May 23, 2016 as “Plymouth Harbor on Sarasota Bay’s 50th Anniversary,” a day of special importance and worthy of the recognition of the citizens of the city of Sarasota.

The Rev. Dick Sparrow, Interim Chaplain, gave the invocation, and The Rev. Dr. Wes Bixby, Senior Minister at the First Congregational United Church of Christ Sarasota, concluded the ceremony with a responsive reading and benediction.

More than 230 guests attended the event, including Plymouth Harbor residents, employees, past and present members of the Plymouth Harbor, Inc. Board of Trustees and the Plymouth Harbor Foundation Board of Trustees, representatives from the United Church of Christ, and the local media.

Plymouth Harbor is proud to celebrate 50 spectacular years, and we look forward to many more. Below please find the 50th anniversary video:

 

 

Picture12Nearly six years ago, residents Marian Kessler and BJ Peters began working with a program called “SnackPack.” This program helps deliver snack time meals to underprivileged children at the Bay Haven School in Sarasota. “Snack time” is a mandatory component of K-5 schools today, and without the SnackPack program, some children would show up with no snack at all. Can you imagine what it must be like for a child to sit empty-handed and hungry in school while classmates all around are having a snack? Teachers were left to fill the gap.

Marian and BJ have seen the SnackPack program evolve over the years. In fact, at one time, these snacks were packed on our very own campus. Today, however, Marian and BJ collect tax-deductible monetary donations from neighbors, friends, and family in order to purchase the food. Typically, the snack bags contain items such as granola bars, pudding cups, and the like, five items per bag to cover a week. They work with the guidance counselor at Bay Haven School to determine quantities and the right foods to buy. The school provides a designated space for Plymouth Harbor volunteers to come to sort and pack. While Marian and BJ only need six volunteers at a time to help pack the bags, it takes numerous contributors to ensure that they can purchase enough food to fill the need. The process of purchasing food, bag labeling, and packing is done once a month.

The most crucial element of the SnackPack program is that students who receive this aid remain anonymous. How is this accomplished? SnackPacks arrive in labeled plastic bags similar to other children’s snack bags at school. The bags are then placed in the same bin as all other classroom snacks, and when the time come for kids to take their snack, it is virtually impossible to tell where each one originated. Since they began working with the program, Marian and BJ have had support from more than 40 volunteers and contributors within Plymouth Harbor. The original 40 SnackPack recipients from Bay Haven School have increased to 63 children who qualify for food assistance.

“The need is real and growing,” says Marian. “It’s a very small amount of time that volunteers give, but the impact is huge.”

BJ, a school teacher herself for 25 years, adds, “It’s certainly a wonderful relationship between the staff and students at Bay Haven. It’s a comfortable place and you can sense the rapport right away. The SnackPack program fits right into that spirit.”

 

PlymouthHarbor50Logo (2)Fifty years ago, on January 15, 1966, Plymouth Harbor opened its doors to the first residents of our community. While much has changed since then, the original dream and vision of our founder, The Reverend Dr. John Whitney MacNeil, has remained constant.

The concept of Plymouth Harbor was certainly ahead of its time. To conceive a community for older adults that would allow them to live and age gracefully together in an enriched homelike environment offering a full continuum of amenities and services, including healthcare, is admirable. From raising the funds necessary to make this community a reality, to bypassing height restrictions to build our 25-story tower, Plymouth Harbor is truly a living and breathing miracle today.

The Reverend Dr. MacNeil was a force to be reckoned with. After moving to Sarasota, not only did he contribute to a substantial increase in membership for the First Congregational United Church of Christ, but he spearheaded the efforts to establish “a college of quality” in the region, known today as New College of Florida.  Next on The Reverend Dr. MacNeil’s list was to establish a retirement community where older adults could age with both grace and dignity, among friends. On March 14, 1961, records of the church contain a motion passed by the “Retired Community Planning Committee,” which consisted of five church members and The Reverend Dr. MacNeil. It was here that the Plymouth Harbor, Inc. Board of Trustees was established. Plymouth Harbor, even though it was not yet named, was born, and The Reverend Dr. MacNeil had been in town less than four years.

Once designed, an official groundbreaking ceremony for Plymouth Harbor took place on July 4, 1964. The tower was built in 16 months — an extraordinary pace. Essentially, one floor was completed per week, and upon completion, the tower had a total of 343 apartments. Since then, as a community, we have endured hardships, overcome obstacles, and surpassed expectations of what traditional retirement living looks like. Overall, the first 50 years in the history of Plymouth Harbor have revealed a commitment to innovation, perseverance, and excellence that serves as the model for many decades to come.

The future is bright for Plymouth Harbor, with an increasing emphasis on the many aspects of successful aging. In the coming years, we hope to continue to be the preferred community for multi-generations of older adults who desire an active lifestyle that challenges their physical, mental, intellectual, emotional, social, and spiritual well-being.

As the phrase coined for our 50th Anniversary states, Plymouth Harbor celebrates our past and envisions our future. We recognize that without the efforts of The Reverend Dr. John Whitney MacNeil and his group of visionaries, Plymouth Harbor would not be here today.

We pay tribute to that notion and are grateful to the countless staff, residents, donors, and members of the community who contributed to our success. In their honor, Plymouth Harbor continues to seek ways to innovate, improve, and stay relevant for both our current and future residents — who we hope will enjoy Plymouth Harbor for more than 50 years to come.

Thank you for choosing to be a part of Plymouth Harbor. We are thrilled that you’re here to ce
lebrate a spectacular 50 years with us. We hope you will join us on May 23, 2016 for our second annual MacNeil Day, this year celebrating our 50th Anniversary.

 

HISTORY

Picture8Earth Day, celebrated each year on April 22, marks the anniversary of the birth of the modern environmental movement that began in 1970. Earth Day is now a globally celebrated holiday, and serves as a day of education about environmental issues.

The brainchild of Senator Gaylord Nelson (D-WI), and inspired by the anti-Vietnam War protests of the late 1960s, Earth Day was originally aimed at creating a mass environmental movement. It began as a “national teach-in on the environment,” and was held on April 22 to maximize the number of students that could be reached on university campuses. By raising public awareness of air and water pollution, Senator Nelson hoped to bring environmental causes into the national spotlight. It is safe to say that he largely accomplished that goal.

In 1990, Earth Day went global, with 200 million people in over 140 nations participating, according to the Earth Day Network (EDN), a nonprofit organization that coordinates Earth Day activities. Today, EDN collaborates with more than 17,000 partners and organizations in 174 countries. EDN estimates that more than 1 billion people are involved in Earth Day activities, making it “the largest secular civic event in the world.”

HOW PLYMOUTH HARBOR IS CONTRIBUTING

With the establishment of the Conservation Committee several years ago, Plymouth Harbor does its part to contribute to the green movement. The committee promotes conservation of resources within Plymouth Harbor, including recycling, water, and electricity usage, and other appropriate conservation measures. The committee also researches and makes recommendations on ways in which Plymouth Harbor may become more environmentally responsible. The committee has begun tracking Plymouth Harbor’s recycling, water, and electricity usage over the last few years.

PLYMOUTH HARBOR’S 2016 EARTH DAY CELEBRATION  

Friday, April 22, 2016 from 10:00 a.m. — 3:00 p.m. in the Club Room.

The Conservation Committee invites all Plymouth Harbor residents to its annual Earth Day Celebration. At this year’s event, you can expect something different! We will provide refreshments, and most importantly interactive, informative, and fun activities! There will be giveaways, trivia, videos, and prizes. Mark your calendars, and stay tuned for more information.

 

April 10th-16th represents National Volunteer Week, a week when dedicated volunteers are recognized for their efforts. With so many of our own volunteers here at Plymouth Harbor, we wanted to find a way to celebrate these individuals. It is no secret that our residents and staff are kind, caring, generous, and giving. Whether they are donating their time within Plymouth Harbor or to the greater Sarasota community, they are committed to helping organizations succeed.

Each year, The Plymouth Harbor Foundation asks residents and employees to share their community involvement for use in the annual Impact Report. For 2015, we are proud to report that our residents and staff collectively volunteered over 10,100 hours to 73 area organizations, including, but certainly not limited to, American Cancer Society, Red Cross, Ringling Museum, Selby Public Library, Mote Marine Laboratory, Sarasota Memorial Healthcare Foundation, Suncoast Community Blood Bank, Selah Freedom, and many more.

WITHIN THE COMMUNITY.

Picture4Jim Griffith, M.D.  is a prime example of the generosity of our residents within the Sarasota community. Dr. Griffith has been a volunteer physician with the Friendship Center’s Rubin Medical Center for Healthy Aging for 18 years, where he receives no payment for his services. The center serves patients who are uninsured or have limited income, and is largely staffed by
retired or volunteer physicians, dentists, pharmacists, and nurses.

Dr. Griffith began working with the center after he retired and moved to Florida. “I wanted to do something useful,” he says. In 2015 alone, he spent 240 hours at the center, where he is involved in treating patients and other related activities. He also organizes the center’s medical library, completes required continuing education for his Florida medical license, attends weekly meetings at Sarasota Memorial Hospital, and gives medical presentations — one of which will be given as a Health Matters presentation on April 18, entitled “Sleep Disorders.”

Picture2

Jerry Kaplan spent over 385 hours volunteering with six different organizations in 2015 — including: Meals on Wheels, the Sarasota Education Foundation, Westcoast Black Theater Troupe, the Patterson Foundation, the Smith Care Center, and serving as a principal mentor for the Sarasota County school system.

“I get a lot of satisfaction out of the things I’m involved in,” Jerry says. “I hope to make a contribution and make a difference in the lives of others.”

Jerry became involved in volunteering early on after he retired as a means of staying busy. Today, he discusses news topics every Monday in the Smith Care Center, evaluates programs and grants for the Sarasota Education Foundation, improves children’s reading skills through the Patterson Foundation, and with the help of his wife, Nancy, he works with Meals on Wheels every Tuesday.

WITHIN PLYMOUTH HARBOR.

There are also so many ways that residents give generously of their time within Plymouth Harbor. Some work in different capacities in the Smith Care Center, while others work closely with the Plymouth Harbor Foundation to better our educational opportunities and philanthropic endeavors. And while they may not necessarily consider it volunteering, residents devote time to enhancing the lives of their neighbors. Ted Rehl spends countless hours preparing for his annual performances, while Don Wallace brightened the lives of others with his plays. Also among our internal volunteers are the many residents who serve on the Residents Association Board of Directors and 20 committees that ensure Plymouth Harbor operates at its greatest capacity.

Picture1Terry and Maureen Aldrich exemplify this volunteerism. Terry, president of the Residents Association until he passes the torch in early April, dedicated himself to the position. He’s seen his peers do the same.

“There are roughly 170 residents who volunteer their time to serve Plymouth Harbor — so we’re talking a huge number of people and hours,” he says. “It’s been a great privilege of mine to see.”

As a retired psychotherapist, Terry also lends an ear when needed, and along with Maureen and Mary Allyn, he invites new residents to have dinner with them each week. For the last 10 years, Maureen has also devoted her time to tutoring English to priests — including Father Sebastian from St. Martha’s,  who serves at Plymouth Harbor regularly.

Picture3A resident since 2003, Mary Allyn is the epitome of resident involvement, serving in many capacities. Not only is she a past president of the Residents Association, but Mary also served as chair of the Grounds Committee, chair of the Nominating Committee, colony director, member of the Long Range Planning Committee, and a member of the search committee to select Plymouth Harbor President/CEO Harry Hobson. Additionally, Mary is involved in Plymouth Harbor’s bird rookery, annually counting our native birds, and ensuring their proper habitat.

“I’ve done a lot of Plymouth Harbor service over the years,” she says. “And I enjoy it because it’s a lot like what I did professionally.”

It would take countless pages to portray the efforts of all our residents and staff, but one thing’s for sure — we’re lucky to call such generous individuals part of the Plymouth Harbor family.

 

SuzFreundFrom Chicago to West Virginia, Ohio to El Salvador, Guatemala to Sarasota, Suzanne Freund has just about seen it all. Married to an El Salvador native, and the only child of an engineer during World War II, Suzanne is no stranger to embracing new places and new cultures.

During World War II, Suzanne’s father moved their family from Chicago to Charleston, West Virginia. After the war, they were transferred to Toledo, Ohio, and Suzanne spent her summers in Madison, Wisconsin, visiting her grandparents. Throughout her childhood, Suzanne always took piano lessons, as she had started playing at the young age of four.

So, while Suzanne’s location often changed, her love for music remained constant. At the age of 15, she was enrolled in Milwaukee-Downer Seminary, an all-girls day and boarding school, and the lessons continued. When she graduated, Suzanne went on to attend the University of Wisconsin, where she studied music. Little did she know, however, that she would develop a love for something else during that first year of school – Roberto Freund, a junior at Wisconsin, originally from San Salvador. The two met on a blind date, and the rest is history.

Two years later, in 1949, Roberto graduated from school and moved back home to take over his family’s rather prominent hardware and construction material company. In February of 1950, the two were married, and Suzanne relocated to San Salvador. The couple’s first purchase as newlyweds? A piano.

At the time of her move, Suzanne was only a junior in school. So, at the request of her parents, Suzanne promised to finish her degree – although it turned out to be more difficult than she originally thought. “It took forever,” Suzanne says, as she recalls having to take an English credit via correspondence. After that, she elected to spend two summers in Madison completing her coursework.

The move from the United States to San Salvador was a bit of a culture shock for Suzanne. She had no phone, little access to mail, and only two years of Spanish classes under her belt. “In those days, when you studied a language, you didn’t necessarily learn how to speak it,” she says. And while she could read and write in Spanish, she jokes that it took her quite some time to master the art of speaking. “I was told not to speak to our kids in Spanish because I couldn’t roll my R’s,” she laughs. Eventually she caught on, and like her three daughters who were raised in San Salvador, she’s now fluent in Spanish.

Business was booming in El Salvador. In addition to hardware and construction material, the company began manufacturing paint after the establishment of the Central American Common Market. Following that, during the Kennedy-era, Roberto attended a U.S. government-sponsored seminar in Miami regarding the development of savings and loan associations. These types of institutions were non-existent in El Salvador at the time, and Roberto took it upon himself to establish the country’s first savings and loan bank.

While Roberto focused on running the family business, Suzanne set to work volunteering within the community. Not only was she involved in the equivalent of the Parent Teacher Association in San Salvador, she was active in the American Society of El Salvador, serving on the Board and planning local events. She also helped establish the American Women’s Society – an organization that is still around today – serving as the second President. Additionally, she volunteered at the local maternity hospital.

In 1972, things in El Salvador took a turn for the worst. While business was lucrative, the family began to fear for their safety. Family friends and neighbors were kidnapped for ransom, and some never returned. Finally, in 1975, after the son of the most prominent family in the country was kidnapped and murdered, the Freunds decided it was time for Suzanne and their youngest daughter to leave San Salvador (their two eldest were in boarding school at the time). Suzanne moved to Madison, and Roberto remained in San Salvador until 1980, when he moved to Guatemala City to run the business remotely.

That same year, all savings and loan institutions in El Salvador were nationalized and that was the end of banking for the Freunds. However, the hardware and construction material and paint manufacturing business remained, and today it’s run by Roberto’s two nephews. In 1981, after years of long-distance marriage, Suzanne and Roberto reunited in Guatemala City. They lived there for one more year before they relocated to Siesta Key. They purchased a condo in the hopes of expanding it; all the while Suzanne was in search of yet another piano.

Eventually, she located a piano that was originally owned by Owen Burns (yes, as in Burns Court), and was for purchase from a woman by the name of Cerita Purmort – a woman who would eventually become her neighbor here at Plymouth Harbor. “It’s such a small world,” she says.

Their first contact with Plymouth Harbor was in the 1980s when Suzanne’s mother was a resident here. The couple moved into Plymouth Harbor in 2006, and Roberto passed away in 2011. Her mother played the piano for both the Chaplain and residents of Plymouth Harbor, and Suzanne continues this legacy by playing for the Chaplain’s Sunday service in the Smith Care Center.

In addition to her musical interests, Suzanne has always had a keen interest in architecture. Today, she serves as a volunteer for the Sarasota Architecture Foundation, and as a docent for the Dr. Walker Guest House designed by Paul Rudolph at the Ringling Museum of Art. On Saturdays, she also serves as a volunteer for the Center for Architecture Sarasota.

Prior to her architectural involvement, Suzanne spent 25 years working as a volunteer with the National Council of Jewish Women in conjunction with Prevent Blindness performing eye screenings in preschools for Amblyopia (lazy eye syndrome). She also served as a volunteer for the Symphony Showcase House for several years, and provided lunches for dancers of the Sarasota Ballet on performance days.

Above all, however, Suzanne enjoys spending time with her three daughters, five grandchildren, and one great-grandchild.

 

ATemizerZFLAkgun Temizer was born in Konya, Turkey, and grew up in the capital city of Ankara. He was an only child born into a middle income family. His parents were hard working and made do with what they had. Despite his not so glamorous upbringing, Akgun feels lucky to have grown up in Ankara.

“I’m a product of public education,” he says, having attended primary school, middle school, high school, and college all free of charge, courtesy of the Turkish government. “It was the best free education you could get,” he adds.

When he graduated from high school, Akgun went on to attend the University of Ankara, where he studied both Finance and Political Science. After graduation, he applied for a job with the Turkish State Department in Ankara. He spent seven years there before he was transferred to the Turkish Embassy in Washington, D.C. to work as an Assistant Economic Counselor. Originally intended as a two-year assignment, and unknown to him at the time, this position would remove Akgun from Turkey for good.

While working at the Embassy, a military takeover of the Turkish government back home caused Akgun to lose his job. “I had a choice to go back and face uncertainty and no job prospects,” he says. “Or I could stay here and face uncertainty and no job prospects.” He chose the latter.

After losing his position at the Embassy, Akgun applied for a position at a construction company in Washington, D.C. He worked his way up from the bottom, and at the end of his nine years there, he was in a supervisory position.

From there, Akgun saw a listing for a job opening at the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and decided to give it a shot. In 1971, he landed the job. “Would you believe my construction job led me to the job at IMF,” he says with a laugh.

Headquartered in Washington, D.C., IMF hires employees from all over the world as they work with 180 member countries. Having become a U.S. citizen in 1969, Akgun joined IMF as an American member of the staff. He worked in the treasury department and oversaw all kinds of fiscal transactions between IMF and its member countries.

During his time at IMF, Akgun only occasionally traveled for work. However, he does remember a time in 1976 when IMF held its annual meeting in Manila, Philippines. He recalls this trip as especially memorable because he was introduced to Imelda Marcos, the Philippines’ First Lady at the time, as well as English ballerina Margot Fonteyn, Russian ballet dancer Rudolf Nureyev, and American pianist Van Cliburn.

While IMF only paid for Akgun’s travel for the meeting, he decided to extend the trip. “They paid for the travel to and from Manila, but I paid for the travel in between,” he says. Before returning to the U.S., Akgun explored Japan, Thailand, Egypt, and Nepal — where he saw Mount Everest “from the sky,” in the comfort of a private airplane.

In 1987, Akgun retired from his post at IMF. At that point, having spent 48 years in the Washington, D.C. area, Akgun believed that he would live out his retirement in Arlington, Virginia. It wasn’t until his cousin invited him to come visit Sarasota that this idea changed. “Sarasota is a great city,” he says. “It has a small city feeling with big city advantages — like the opera, theater, and symphony.” Akgun moved to Sarasota in 2003, and into Plymouth Harbor in 2012.

After relocating here, it didn’t take him long to get involved in the community. Akgun enjoys attending musical performances at our local theaters, particularly opera and classical music, and in recent months, he’s become largely involved with New College of Florida.

In fact, this past summer, Akgun established a $1.3 million scholarship program for students from his Ankara high school to attend New College. Akgun says his desire to do this stems from his days in Turkey’s public education system. “I felt indebted to Turkey and wanted a way to pay back my mother country,” he says. Continually impressed by its reputation and consistently high rankings, Akgun says New College was the obvious choice for him.

“Before I moved to Plymouth Harbor, I had named New College in my will, but after I moved in, I realized I wanted them to see that money now,” he says. “Spending money on education is an investment for the future.”

Because New College can use only the income derived from the scholarship fund, the number of students will change year by year. This September, the first of these students arrived at New College, ready to begin his studies for the next four years. Akgun has met with this student several times, and just recently enjoyed Sunday brunch with him and his cousin at Plymouth Harbor. Akgun proudly shares that he shows great promise, and already has plans to earn his advanced degree at MIT.

In addition to his generous spirit, Akgun is a smart, caring individual, whose regard for hard work, perseverance, and education is contagious.

 

At age 90, Arthur Ancowitz is still dancing…tap dancing, that is. While Dr. Ancowitz has many talents, hobbies, and interests, his passion for tap dancing is one thing he prides himself on the most. However, unlike his passion for medicine, Arthur didn’t always have an interest in tap dancing.

“Five years ago, I saw a YouTube video of Bob Hope and Jimmy Cagney tap dancing,” he says. “I thought to myself if they can do it, I’d like to try.” So he began taking lessons at the local YMCA. He liked it so much that he went on to work with instructor Mike McManus at the Friendship Center, and he’s been taking classes ever since. “I’d say I tap dance at least once a week,” he says matter-of-factly.

Not only does Arthur dance once a week (or more), he was also instrumental in getting tap dancing classes started here at Plymouth Harbor. Along with Wellness Director Chris Valuck, Arthur helped to develop the class with his Friendship Center instructor. Today, the class has at least five resident “regulars.”

It’s not surprising that Arthur is still tap dancing. From a young age, he placed a heavy emphasis on remaining active and healthy, and had a keen interest in practicing medicine. “My grandfather wanted me to be a good doctor. The best I could be, and I was,” Arthur says.

A New Yorker “through and through,” Arthur is one of three children, born and raised in New York City. After Arthur graduated high school, he decided that he wanted a small-school experience and chose to attend Bethany College in Bethany, West Virginia. After one year there, Pearl Harbor occurred. As a result, he joined the Navy as an apprentice seaman. He worked his way up to Pharmacist’s Mate Third Class, and in 1944, the Navy sent him to medical school at New York University College of Medicine.

After graduation in 1948, Arthur went on to complete his fellowship, internship, and residency. After that, he was called back to service, this time by the Army, to serve in the Korean War. He was assigned duties in the Pentagon as an internist, and one of his responsibilities was to accompany VIPs assigned by the President on numerous air flights across the world.

Among these VIPs was General Omar N. Bradley – one of the United States’ most distinguished and respected generals. “I got to know him very well,” Arthur recalls. “He treated me like a son.” In fact, the General and his wife, Mary, hosted the wedding for Arthur and his wife, Marjorie. It was at the Pierre Hotel in New York City for 200 guests. Though they later divorced, Arthur and Marjorie had three beautiful children – a son, Richard, whose full name is Richard Bradley Ancowitz, and two daughters, Nancy and MJ.

After his service in the Army, Arthur returned to the Veteran’s Administration where he served as the Section Chief in Internal Medicine at the Bronx VA Hospital. Following his time there, Arthur went into private practice in New York. But to this day, he articulates a strong respect and admiration for the military. “I identify very strongly with those heroes,” he says, referring to the men he treated throughout his service. “And I hold in high regard those men and women who choose the military as a career.”

Arthur experienced a loss during those years in private practice when his father suffered a stroke. However, out of this unfortunate situation came some good. “I felt that the treatment he received was inadequate. That motivated me to study stroke and improve its treatment,” he remembers. In 1967, Arthur founded the Stroke Foundation – an organization that he still runs to this day.
Extremely motivated and passionate, Arthur has written several books on stroke prevention, and with the help of the Stroke Foundation, he is helping to fund research for the University of Florida, the New York University College of Medicine Department of Geriatrics, and Sarasota Memorial Hospital. In November, the Stroke Foundation will present an award to a young internist who wishes to pursue a fellowship in Gerontology. For more information on stroke and stroke prevention, he encourages others to take advantage of the informative and helpful articles that can be found on the Stroke Foundation’s website: www.strokefoundationusa.org.

After 40 years in private practice, Arthur retired and “migrated to Florida.” In 1980, he purchased a condo on Longboat Key and continued to remain active. He says he chose the area because, after he came down for a 6-mile race many years before, he was impressed by the surroundings, water, palm trees, and, of course, the weather. In 2014, he moved into Plymouth Harbor.

DSCN0692When asked about his hobbies, Arthur again circles back to tap dancing. But he also adds that he’s an advocate for line dancing, applauding Plymouth Harbor for offering both of these “wonderful aerobic exercises” to its residents. In addition to dancing, Arthur was once big into tennis, running, and biking. He completed 11 New York Marathons, and has “biked all over the world” with his now partner of 15 years, Ina Schnell, listing Timbuktu and Mongolia as two of their destinations. Arthur lights up when talking about Ina, who will move into Plymouth Harbor after the sale of her home. “She is a remarkable woman. She is knowledgeable in many subjects. Her charity is selective. It benefits many deserving organizations,” he says.

In addition to exercise, Arthur is also a strong advocate of low-fat and vegetarian diets, and applauds Chef René for “offering a diverse menu which avoids ‘institutional’ meals.” For fun, Arthur has a love of poetry. He is the author of a 2014 rhyming poetry book entitled “The Bard in Me,” available in the Plymouth Harbor Library. When it comes to being a published author, Arthur’s children followed in his footsteps. His son Richard, an attorney, has published several books on legal matters, and his daughter, Nancy, published a book entitled “Self-Promotion for Introverts®.”

Arthur enjoys the theater, the atmosphere here at Plymouth Harbor, and his six grandchildren – Allison, Valerie, Jonathan, Pamela, Joseph, and Benny. “They have been raised to be contributors to our society and a source of pride to our family,” he says of his family.

Arthur Ancowitz is a clinician, professor, lecturer, author, researcher, and scientist. But most importantly, Arthur is a smart, caring, and kind-hearted individual who still has so much to share with the world. “Before the final curtain descends, as it does for all, I intend to remain active, to help others, and to continue to have fun,” he ends with a smile.

 

Two desserts a day…that’s what George Heitler credits for reaching his 100th birthday. On September 3, 2015 to be exact, this accomplished and energetic Plymouth Harbor resident will celebrate this landmark with his wife Florence, who’s 95 years of age herself. But that’s not the only milestone being celebrated this summer – on July 30, 2015, Medicare and Medicaid celebrated its 50th anniversary. What do these two have in common? George Heitler.

As a child, George always admired Abraham Lincoln. “I thought he was a good man, an honest lawyer, and I respected that he charged modest fees,” he says of the former president. Despite his apparent interest in law, George first thought he’d try his hand at pre-med. That didn’t last long though. In college, he performed his first dissection and decided, “That’s not for me.” It was then that he settled on law school.

In 1938, George graduated with his Juris Doctor from Columbia Law School. But it wasn’t until 1957 that he joined the national Blue Cross Association as in-house legal counsel. Oddly enough, it was George’s friend who first applied for the open position, but when he was interviewed, instead suggested George for the job. It was as simple as that. George joined the Blue Cross Association as Assistant Secretary and House Counsel, and when he retired from his post in1981, he had moved his way up to Senior Vice President and General Counsel.

As a senior officer of the Blue Cross Association in 1965, George proudly remembers that he had a hand in drafting Medicare and one of the biggest programs in U.S. history, the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program. Not surprisingly, George counts this among his proudest accomplishments throughout his 100 years. He remembers the hard work that he and his team put into it, and the seemingly endless months of drafting and redrafting of the bills. “Few people know that in the first draft of Medicare there was only supposed to be one unit. But AMA (American Medical Association) opposed it. They wanted two parts – Part A and Part B, which is what we have today.”

When reminiscing on these times, Florence instead remembers their silver bowl – a “gift of forbearance” given by the Blue Cross Association (BCA) to the wives and families of those involved. “The country got Medicare and I got a silver bowl,” Florence jokes as she pulls the bowl out from her kitchen cabinet. Engraved, it reads, “In Grateful Recognition of Your Months of Forbearance – BCA, 7–1–66.” While she jokes, Florence has a constant smile as she listens to George talk about this piece of their history.

Capture2Even outside of his involvement with Blue Cross, George never seemed to experience a dull moment in his life. When he was a toddler, he participated in a “baby beauty contest.” When he was 20, he met Florence over the back fence of his parents’ home in Brooklyn – she was 17, attending college at Adelphi, and visiting relatives next door. One rainy day, Florence’s aunt asked George to drive her to the subway, but he instead drove her home, and the rest was history when they were married on April 21, 1940.

Back in 1938, George’s first job out of law school paid him only $10 per week. After he passed the bar exam, he graduated to $25 per week, which is when he and Florence were married. They lived in a Brooklyn apartment that cost them $58 per month. At that time, Florence had just passed the social service exam and was working for the Child Welfare Bureau. When George was asked about the initial years of his career, Florence instead replies, “Well, he was really interrupted by World War II.”

When war was imminent, George volunteered for the Navy but was rejected due to very poor eyesight. He later volunteered for the Army, but was again rejected. After that, George and Florence were blessed with their first son, James. However, after Pearl Harbor, George was drafted and accepted by the Army for limited duty. On the day that he reported, he was the last man in line selected for limited duty in the U.S. only. Despite that classification, George wound up at the port of embarkation to go overseas and join the 1st Army. “Had I just gotten out of line to go to the bathroom, I wouldn’t have been chosen,” George remembers. But, as luck would have it, or as George calls it, “his dumb luck,” one of his college classmates happened to be one of the ranking officers that day. He took George out of line and rejected him.

The reassignment center then assigned George to serve as Chief Clerk and Legal Advisor to the 4th Service Command Rents and Claims Board at Fort Jackson, Columbia, South Carolina. While living there, George and Florence had their second son, Richard. But, George’s light-hearted tone quickly changes as he shares that the group of 1,600 men, of which he would have been a part, were involved in the invasion of Normandy. Of those 1,600, an astounding 1,200 lost their lives.

After George was discharged, the family made their way back to New York. It was then that George took a break from law, and worked for his grandfather’s smoking pipe manufacturing firm. After some time, George made his way back into law. He became a member of the Ethical Culture Society of Long Island, New York, where he met the leader, who became his dear friend and eventually led him to the job at Blue Cross. While working for the Blue Cross Association, he was instrumental in the taking over of the Blue Cross Commission from the American Hospital Association. This eventually took the Association from New York to Chicago, and the Heitlers followed suit.

“Chicago is a wonderful city,” Florence says. “You could do and be anything you wanted to. It was also a much more welcoming city for getting involved.” In their time in Chicago, George served on the board of the Chicago Public Library, while Florence spearheaded the efforts of the Citizens Information Service (CIS). She worked with people of all ages, informing them of their rights and eventually gaining a three year government contract. At the end of its contract, the CIS was one of only 12 organizations to receive commendation.

George retired from Blue Cross at the end of 1981, and immediately joined a private practice law firm in New York, where he stayed for only four years. “The nature of the practice changed and I wanted out,” George remembers. This time he retired for good, and it was around the same time that they visited Sarasota with friends. After this visit, they were sold. “There wasn’t a doubt in our minds that we wanted Sarasota,” Florence says. They bought a condo on Longboat Key and split their time between here and a summer home in Southbury, Connecticut.

When George and Florence moved into Plymouth Harbor in 2000, their children made them promise not to sell the condo. They kept that promise, and today, the Heitlers’ sons have bought the condo underneath, expanding the space for their growing family – including the Heitlers’ four grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren. George and Florence’s motivation and drive continued once they were here at Plymouth Harbor. Together, the two have served on numerous committees and have participated in a laundry list of groups and activities. Florence has served as the Chair of the Plymouth Harbor Dining Committee and as Secretary of the Residents Association.

George served as Colony Director for five years, and prides himself on leading the Smith Care Center monthly birthday bash, the low vision support group, and Plymouth Harbor sing-alongs. George has been passionate about singing all throughout his life, running numerous choral groups, and play acting as a member of the Plymouth Harbor Players. The two also make it a point to stay active, playing bridge and only recently giving up tennis – Florence played tennis for 90 years of her life, and George played up until a few months ago, retiring at the age of 99 and a half.

Outside of Plymouth Harbor, George brings the joy of these sing-alongs to other continuing care retirement communities in the Sarasota and Manatee areas. The list of their contributions and involvement in the community throughout their lifetime is almost endless, but to name a few, the Chicago Henry Booth House, Heritage Village Master Association, The Ethical Culture Societies of Chicago and Long Island, the Law Committee of the American Ethical Union, and board member and vice president of the Democratic Club of Longboat Key.

As you would expect, George places an enormous emphasis on the importance of ethics, admiring Abraham Lincoln as much today as he did as a child. The tradition even carries on with his family, as each child, grandchild, and great-grandchild that ever played Abraham Lincoln in a school play uses the top hat that George wore on his wedding day. While 2015 has blessed the Heitlers with numerous highlights this year – George’s 100th birthday, Medicare and Medicaid’s 50th anniversary, and the Heitler’s 75th wedding anniversary – it still has one more milestone in store for this couple. This coming November, on the day after Thanksgiving, George and Florence will celebrate their 15th anniversary of living here at Plymouth Harbor.

It’s hard to beat a year like 2015, with so many exciting and noteworthy moments, but if anyone can do it, it’s George Heitler. Happy birthday, George! Thank you for sharing your 100 inspiring years with us. We look forward to seeing what 2016 holds.