If you’re ever at Buffalo Terrace and looking for Marvin Schultz, you can often find him in the Patio Room or Wooden Nickel playing games with his friends.  Marvin has long enjoyed games of all kinds.  I know this first-hand because I’ve known him all my life—he’s my Grandpa.

Marvin moved in to Buffalo Hill Terrace almost two years ago.  As soon as he moved in, he found a group of friends with whom he regularly plays his favorite card game, Hand and Foot.  And if you walk in the North Entrance and see a group of people playing a dice game called Farkle in the Café, that’s probably our family.  Marvin can and will play almost any game—board games, card games, dice games, games of chance, games of strategy—that others want to play.  No matter whom he’s playing with, he takes a relaxed approach.  “To me games should be fun and relaxing,” he comments.  “If you get all uptight about losing, don’t play.”

Family has always been central to Marvin’s love of games.  When he was growing up, he played games with his mother, Hilda, and his whole family of four would play canasta at Christmas time. His Passions Project photo shows him playing chess, one of his favorites.  His older brother, Merlyn, taught him to play the game and was his most common opponent when they were growing up.    Eventually, Marvin got good enough that he could beat Merlyn at a game or two, but it didn’t happen often!

That was okay, though, because winning has never been what Marvin likes most about playing chess.  He enjoys formulating a strategy, including a plan of attack and a defense at the same time.  He doesn’t memorize move sequences the way some players do.  Instead, he takes it one move a time—and one game at a time.  “Every game’s different to me,” he says. “It depends on what your opponent does.”

Marvin was born in Wisconsin and, when he was growing up, his family lived in a variety of states including New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, and Texas.  After graduating with his engineering degree, Marvin took a job at Boeing and moved to Wichita, Kansas.  He soon met Shirley, the love of his life.  The couple dated for one summer.  Then, Shirley went back to college.  While she was away, he wrote her one letter.  It must have been a good letter, because they became engaged almost as soon as she came back to Wichita the next summer and married that August.  They went on to have six children (one passed away as a young child), three of whom now live in Northwest Montana.

Marvin moved to Kalispell in 2013 to live with his second daughter, Carla (I call her Mom).  In 2017, he moved into Buffalo Hill Terrace.  He loves living here, where he has a lot of friends and game-playing buddies.  And next week, his two children who don’t live nearby will be coming to visit along with their spouses and some of their kids (Marvin’s grandkids, my cousins).  I know he’s looking forward to it, and I’m sure we’ll be playing some games! 

On the door of Shirley Pryor’s room at the Immanuel Skilled Care Center hangs a sign informing visitors that the occupant is an artist.  As soon as you open and step through that door, you see why.  Shirley’s walls hold several of her works, and their variety, skill, and beauty is evident.

Shirley has been an artist for most of her life.  “I just always liked to draw,” she said when we interviewed her before her Passions Project photo session.  This love of drawing grew into a passion for painting as she grew older.  The artwork in her room includes both oils and pastels, and she’s painted in watercolor, as well.  Oils are her favorite, though, because of their vibrant colors and their texture.

Shirley was fortunate in that she was able to support herself and her three children with her art.  She sold dozens of paintings over the course of her working life and, while she taught occasionally, most of her income came from selling her artwork. 

Unfortunately, Shirley is no longer able to paint.  She still enjoys looking around at all the art hanging on her walls, most of which is her own.  Her family, which now includes over a dozen grandchildren and several great-grandchildren as well as her two daughters, one son, and their spouses, also have and enjoy some of her remaining paintings.  Her youngest daughter lives locally, and Shirley feels lucky to get to spend a lot of time with her.

Shirley has painted everything from garden scenes to wildlife.  Her favorite painting she’s ever done is a full-length portrait of her daughter.  It was challenging, she says, but totally worth it.  And it’s not the only large painting she’s completed; once, when she was living in Arizona, she painted a large mural in a public space.  The painting of irises she’s pictured with here is Shirley’s favorite of the pictures she has left.  She’s certainly able to capture the beauty in what she sees!

If you spend enough time at Buffalo Hill Terrace, chances are you’ll encounter a long, brown, mixed-breed dog walking through the halls with one of his people.  He’s a very friendly dog, so he’ll probably come up to you to say hi.  At least, that’s how many visitors and residents first encounter David and Martha Maurer and their dog, Toby.

Toby has actually been in Martha’s life for longer than David has.  At the time of our conversation, she’d had the dog for about ten years, and now, that’s closer to eleven.  She and David have been married for eight years—both had previous spouses and were widowed.  Toby had a previous person in his life, too.  Martha’s neighbor in Texarkana, Arkansas had adopted him through a rescue program.  But Toby kept digging under the fence into Martha’s yard.  Eventually, Martha and her neighbor agreed that Toby should come to live with her on a permanent basis.  They’ve been together ever since.

After Martha’s first husband died, Toby used to snuggle with her, and he was very comforting.  Soon, though, Toby had two people.  Martha and David are both originally from California.  In fact, they went to the same high school and dated briefly.  Fifty-seven years after their original meeting, they reconnected online, and they eventually married.  Toby quickly adjusted to having David in his and Martha’s lives, and he’s certainly happy to be with either or both of them.

The small family relocated to Montana upon Martha and David’s marriage.  Some years before, David had moved to Somers because he was tired of California.  He heard Montana was a nice place, and when he came to visit, he agreed.  When he reconnected with Martha, Montana was where they chose to make their home. 

The couple and their dog moved into Buffalo Hill Terrace in the summer of 2017, and it’s been their home ever since.  Every time Martha or David takes Toby out for a walk, he stops to greet almost everyone he sees.  They also make regular visits to residents at the Immanuel Skilled Care Center, where Toby brightens the days of residents and staff.

Both David and Martha have long valued community service.  David volunteered with a number of organizations when he lived in California, and Martha still volunteers with a charity that reunites adoptees and their birth parents.  Both David and Martha like to feel like they make the world around them better.

As for Toby, when he’s not out and about visiting current friends and making new ones, he’s an active dog who likes to run around.  He also enjoys spending quiet time with his people.  In spite of his playful nature, Toby doesn’t much enjoy playing with dog toys, and he doesn’t like to travel.  He’s a social homebody, making him the perfect companion for two community-minded seniors like Martha and David!

As spring swings into full gear in the Flathead Valley, Terrace resident Lorraine Ondov can often be found riding her adult-size tricycle around the neighborhood.  Lorraine has been interested in bike riding since she was a young teen.  She would borrow a friend’s bike and ride around her childhood neighborhood, and she enjoyed it so much that she asked for a bike of her one.  She was promised one for her fourteenth birthday, but in the end her parents couldn’t afford it.

Lorraine grew up, married, and started a family of her own.  While she’s always been focused on health and exercise, she didn’t get a bicycle until she turned fifty.  That year, her family decided it was time, and they bought her the bicycle for her birthday.  She enjoyed it so much that she kept it—and rode it regularly—for the next 41 years.

These days, Lorraine rides an adult-sized tricycle.  She got it for herself as a treat because she missed her bicycle, and her kids thought the trike would be safer.  It has added stability, and she still gets all the benefits of riding her bike.  And what are those benefits?  First of all, Lorraine gets regular exercise in an outdoor environment.  The health benefits have been obvious; Lorraine was able to go off her diabetes medication because of her diet and exercise routine, of which riding her bike is a major part.  She especially enjoys getting her exercise outside. “You can stop and look at the scenery or the birds,” she said as she explained why she enjoys bike-riding in particular.  There are also psychological benefits in having the freedom to go farther afield than she probably could on foot.  “It’s very good mentally, too, to be able to spread your wings,” Lorraine explained during her Passions Project interview.

Lorraine has found that community living helps her spread her wings.  For one thing, Buffalo Hill Terrace is located in a safe neighborhood with minimal traffic and roads that form a convenient loop that takes Lorraine about 30-40 minutes to ride.  The community also helps her keep in shape during the long Montana winters.  In addition to a stationary bike in the fitness center, the recreation department has bike pedals so residents can “ride” through various locations while watching videos during regular “cycling adventures” sessions.  Lorraine exercises in other ways, as well.  Through connections she made at Buffalo Hill Terrace, she was able to participate in a 5K walk/run last summer—and she was the oldest one there!

Lorraine bikes, walks, and goes to exercise class because staying fit is important to her and because she enjoys these activities.  “I’m going to keep doing it as long as I can,” Lorraine says.  “You’ve got to enjoy what you have now, because one day you know you won’t be able to.”

Lorraine signed up for the Passions Project because she loves to bike, and it turns out that her photo session made just a little difference in how she does it.  During her interview before the photo shoot, Heidi Wagner, the photographer, asked her if her trike had a name.  At the time, it didn’t.  A few weeks later, though, she called me.  “I’ve thought of a name,” she said.  “My bike is now named Trixie.”

Lorraine met Trixie the trike rather late in her life, and Trixie is only her second cycle.  But her passion for cycling began before she even had a bike of her own, something she recalled during her photo session.  As she reflected on her history with the activity, she said, “When I think of the gal who was 14 years old and then finally got her dream—and to follow it all the way through, that’s pretty special.”  It is indeed special, and we look forward to seeing Lorraine and Trixie for a long time to come.

Pretty much everyone has a model in their head for what aging looks like.    Almost anyone who works—no matter how young—has probably had at least fleeting thoughts like, “When I retire, I’m going to spend all my time traveling” or, “When I retire, I’ll have all the time in the world to knit/read/build things/run marathons.”  Especially as grandkids arrive on the scene, others imagine themselves prioritizing family in ways they haven’t previously been able.  In our imaginations, retirement is a time of leisure and a different kind of engagement with the world.

However, the positive conceptions of retirement I outlined above contrast sharply with many public portrayals of aging.  The word “aging” tends to be associated with negative things like dependence, decline, and disease.  And it’s something we’re told every day we should avoid, as if that were possible.  How many ads for “anti-aging” products do we see every day?  I’ve never counted, but I bet it’s a lot.  Even generally positive actions we’re encouraged to take—like saving for retirement—tend to pose a pretty alarming model of aging (if you don’t save the right way, those commercials tell us, you are headed for disaster, or at least misery).

It turns out that this difference in our ideal picture of aging and what we believe to be the reality is very common.  It’s so common that The FrameWorks Institute’s 2015 report on “Mapping the Gaps between Expert and Public Understandings of Aging in America” names it as the number one issue in public perceptions of aging.  According to the report, for many Americans, aging is “a positive ideal that is always thwarted by the reality of the issue.”  So, most of us have it in our minds that aging could be great, but we don’t think that it is great.

At Immanuel, we do our best to reinforce the ways in which aging is great.  This is probably easiest to see in our independent living areas, where you’ll find residents who go for bike rides, tend plants, paint pictures, attend lectures, and travel regularly to new locales as well as their favorite vacation spots.  In skilled care, residents generally have less capacity to leave the building on their own, but that doesn’t stop them from enjoying painting, crafts, reading groups, time in the courtyard, or outings with family or on Immanuel’s bus. 

“Nursing home aging” is probably, in many imaginations, the polar opposite of “active aging,” so it’s harder in that case to fight the perception that aging is inherently negative.  It’s simply true that most of us will experience some physical decline as we age, and if we decline enough, we will need nursing care.  But that physical decline doesn’t mean we need to stop being who we are, and it doesn’t mean that we should try to push aging from our minds until it inevitably stops us in our tracks.  Immanuel emphasizes that aging doesn’t have to stop us—we want aging to be positive, regardless of what level of care a person requires.

As I read the FrameWorks report, I thought a lot about the Passions Project photos that hang in the hallway of Buffalo Hill Terrace.  The photos feature residents from across campus who live active, positive lives.  They’re wonderful examples of the ways in which our ideals of aging can, in fact, become real.  Whether they’re riding a bike or painting a watercolor, the Passions Project participants are spending their time joyfully, and that’s something we all strive to do, no matter how old we are.  If you’d like to think more about how the ideal and real pictures of aging intersect, I encourage you to look at these beautiful photos!

Immanuel Skilled Care Center resident Donna Mallery has been playing the piano for eighty-one years.  It’s no surprise, because she comes from a musical family.  When she was growing up in Minnesota, Donna’s entire family would gather around the piano while her mother played.  By the time she was twelve, Donna had decided that she wanted to play, too, so she started taking lessons.

Donna grew up on a farm and is one of eleven children.  Because she was born during the Great Depression, her family didn’t have much to spare for luxuries.  Everything they had, they spent on necessities for the large family.  One of Donna’s brothers even left home and joined the Civilian Conservation Corps to help the family out.  Hard economic times didn’t stop the family from enjoying music.  Often, they would sing together while Donna’s mother played the piano and sometimes, they would listen to the radio together.

At times, the radio played music, but at other times the family listened to the news, including news of World War II.  Singing was one way they coped with the difficulties of war.  While Donna’s father and some brothers were exempt from military service because they were farmers (farming was an exempt occupation), one of her brothers was a mechanic for the Navy Air Corps.  As the radio informed them of the battles overseas, Donna’s family gathered around the piano and sang and prayed for peace.

As she grew up, Donna left this happy family to form a happy family of her own.  At first, she headed to St. Paul, Minnesota, where she attended Bible College.  She studied music as well as regular academic subjects.  While she was there, she met and married Bob Mallery.  Bob was a minister, and one of his first posts was in Savage, Montana (in the eastern part of the state).  As time went on, Donna and Bob moved west, first to Columbia Falls and later to St. Ignatius, Shelby, and finally Plains, where Bob had his final ministerial post.

Donna and Bob eventually had five sons.  Their family continues to grow; Donna has over forty grandchildren and a number of great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren (Bob passed away in 1990).  As of this writing, Donna has over one hundred descendants!  When they make music together—as they do at large gatherings—it’s quite the event.  At their family reunions, they always have a piano and recording equipment available.

Though she can read music, Donna often prefers to play by ear.  She’s also not afraid to put her own spin on familiar tunes and prefers “living music” or “active music.”  “If I started playing ‘What a Friend We Have in Jesus,’ I might jazz it up a little bit,” she explains. 

Music and worship are so important to Donna that when it became time for her to move out of her house, her sons chose Immanuel because of the emphasis our community places on both.  Frequent musical performances by area groups mean there’s always something for Donna to listen to, and there are worship services and/or Bible studies at least twice every week.  Immanuel and Donna really are a great fit.  Donna still practices every day she can.  She plays because music moves her.  In conclusion, Donna sums up her love of music: “I just want to go over and play and enjoy myself.  It’s part of my life.  And it’s my way of worshipping the Lord, as well.”

Villas resident Mark Norley is native Montanan, and his life’s journey has taken him far away and back again.  He was born and grew up in Conrad.  As a child, Mark loved to draw, and he was always trying draw cartoons.

Mark received his Bachelor’s degree in design from Montana State University, where he deliberately chose to pursue a degree in art over agriculture because of his longtime love of drawing.  After college, he spent four years in the US Airforce, and then he moved to California, where he lived for most of his career.  His first job in California was in a high-end department store where he designed window and interior displays.  Eventually, Mark became the display manager.  While Mark enjoyed the department store work, he knew he ultimately wanted something different, so he returned to Montana, this time to the University of Montana, where he obtained a lifetime teaching credential. 

Once certified, Mark received a job offer from a junior high school in California, and he taught art there for some years.  At the same time, he returned to school once again, this time for a Master’s of Design at UCLA.  After a few years teaching at the junior high and college levels, the principal of the junior high offered Mark a position teaching at the 3,000-student high school where he (the principal) had just accepted a position.  Mark jumped at the chance to help build the largest high school art department in the state of California.  At the time he retired, they had eight full-time faculty.  Mark has particularly fond memories of his last year teaching there, as he was able to make it an extra-good year by using all the stored-up supplies he had accumulated throughout his career.

In addition to being an art teacher and practicing artist, Mark has always had an interest in architecture.  When he lived in California, he met the founder of the California Historic Preservation Society.  He admired this man’s historic house so much he eventually ended up buying it!

During the summers, Mark engaged in his other passion: travel.  Every summer, he came back to Montana.  Often, he stayed with a friend who had a cabin at Lake McDonald.  He also traveled around the United States and abroad.  Sometimes Christmas breaks, too, were spent at various locations around the globe.

But no matter where he went, Mark always saw Montana as home.  “It was inevitable to come back to Montana,” he said during his Passions Project interview.  He game back upon his retirement from teaching, and his goal was to find someplace to live and a studio to paint in.  Mark never did find that studio, but he did find a lovely house near Woodland Park, where he lived for many years.

Now that he’s retired, Mark invests a lot of time in Flathead Valley civic life, especially in its artistic, design, and historic preservation communities.  He is the chairman of the city’s Architectural Review Committee, and he is always trying to convince applicants to buy and plant evergreens around their new buildings.  He also is currently or has been involved as a board member and volunteer with the Hockaday Museum of Art, the Conrad Mansion, and the Museum at Central School. In spite of never having found the perfect studio, Mark has continued to paint in his preferred medium of watercolor, though a hand injury prevents him from doing it as much as he might like to.  Since moving to Kalispell about 25 years ago, he has exhibited at the Hockaday, among other venues.  He continues to enjoy looking at art, whether as a judge in the Waterton/Glacier art show or simply as a viewer.  Mark’s favorite painters are the California Impressionists, and he also appreciates the work of his former teacher, the Abstract Expressionist Sam Francis.  When asked to sum up his view on painting, Mark says, “It’s sometimes relaxing and sometimes really fun, but it’s hard work.”

Lois McClaren and her husband, Bill, moved to Kalispell in 1955.  Bill had just graduated with his teaching certificate, and he’d been sending resumes all over the country.  He received an offer for a position teaching math at Flathead County High School (now Flathead High School) via telegram.  The couple had to look at a map to see where Kalispell was, but they decided to take the plunge and make the move sight unseen!  Lois has lived here happily ever since.

The Flathead Valley was the perfect location for the McClaren family because they love to be outdoors.  Lois and Bill chose the job in Kalispell—Bill had several other offers—because they wanted to be among mountains and lakes, and they knew they would find that here.  They quickly developed a love of hiking in the area, and as time went on and their family grew, they shared this love with their four children.

While there are many beautiful places to hike around the Flathead Valley, Lois’s favorite location is Glacier National Park.  Lois remembers the days when Glacier wasn’t quite so busy.  She liked it even better then because it was quieter and more peaceful.  She and Bill would frequently take their children and join friends for hikes in the park, including one particularly memorable very long one.  The kids didn’t complain—they loved being outside and active. 

The natural beauty made the hikes even more enjoyable, and it helped maintain the kids’ interest as they hiked.  “If anyone’s bored in this country, it’s their own fault,” Lois commented as she told us about the many hikes her family took together.  The McClarens have wandered a lot in Glacier and in other local areas, but they’ve never been lost, and while they saw bears on their hikes, they never met one.  Their hikes in Glacier have always been fun, positive experiences, and Lois still goes to the park whenever she can.

Lois continues to enjoy walking and hiking.  She can be seen almost every morning, in all kinds of weather, walking the sidewalks around her Buffalo Hill Terrace home.  When she can, she also likes to go to Heron Park to hike the extensive trails there.  And all this walking isn’t just about pleasure for Lois.  She knows exercise is important for maintaining a healthy lifestyle, especially as one ages.  That’s why she goes to every exercise class the Terrace offers, except yoga, which isn’t her thing.  On yoga days, she swims.

Though she’s always loved the outdoors, Lois hasn’t always been this health-conscious.  It wasn’t until Bill had some heart problems about thirty years ago that she really started paying attention.  Shortly after that event, their daughter ran a 5K, and Bill and Lois decided to start doing them, too.  They traveled all around Montana doing 5Ks and even went to the Senior Olympics. 

Though Lois and Bill started pursuing exercise seriously to help Bill’s health, it became a real passion, and Lois continues to participate in various forms of exercise because she truly enjoys them.  When asked what she enjoys so much about her physical activities, Lois replies, “You might hurt or be tired, but once it’s over you just want to go out and do it again.” 

Susan Allison loves reading to children.  Her passion for helping those younger than herself goes all the way back to own childhood, when she helped her grandmother in the church nursery.  Susan grew up in Lawrenceville, Illinois, where her parents first ran a clothing store and later managed an apartment building.  Her first work experience included helping her father with his property management duties.

Susan grew up surrounded by family.  Her grandfather was a minister and her grandmother ran the church nursery and daycare.  When she needed some help, Susan (then a child herself) offered to come take care of and play with the little ones.  She loved it!  Helping in the nursery became a regular part of her weekly routine.

As Susan grew up, she continued to enjoy spending time with children.  She also continued to be grateful for her family’s support.  Susan married and had a child of her own, but her marriage didn’t work out.  Her parents helped make sure that she and her son were secure and that her son had a solid start in life.

Susan realized during her son John’s childhood that one of her favorite ways to spend time with kids was to read to and with them.  She enjoyed it because, in addition to being a fun activity and a way to spend time with her son, she felt she was teaching when she read to him.  She’s carried her warm feelings from this experience with her own child over to her work with other children. “I feel like I’m doing good and helping children learn about things when I read to them,” she told us during her Passions Project interview.

In spite of the pleasure she gets from reading to children and helping them learn, Susan never considered teaching as a career.  “I don’t have the patience,” she says.  Instead, she’s found other ways to continue incorporating work with children into her life, even now that her own son is grown.  These days, she reads to groups of children who visit the Immanuel Skilled Care Center.  Sometimes, when the weather is nice and a ride is available, she goes to read to kids at the nearby daycare.

Now that she’s older, Susan enjoys different aspects of her interactions with children.  She’s in a wheelchair, and she’s learned that kids are curious about it.  They really enjoy the chance to wheel her around, and Susan likes this, too.  Reading to kids and interacting with them continues to give Susan a sense of purpose, and she appreciates the way children tend to take people just as they are.

Susan discovered her passion for caring for kids early in her life when she helped her grandmother in the church nursery.  Now, she’s one of the “grandmas and grandpas” the kids from the daycare come to visit.  She truly found her lifelong passion!