Seniors valuable to our island community

Life would not be what it is today without them.

  • Thursday, November 21, 2019 8:17pm
  • Opinion

As editor of The Beachcomber, I have been fortunate enough to visit Vashon Community Care for some assignments.

The first was last month, when the senior living community, located on the north end of the island, started construction for a new memory care facility that will open next year. The second was last week when I interviewed several VCC residents to get their take on the passing of Olde John Croan, a longtime island resident who, despite his health challenges, was known for his volunteerism.

These trips to VCC and the passing of my step-grandmother, Elsie Day Sutherlin Mack — who died at 101 years young last month — are what inspired me to write this editorial.

People like Elsie and the residents at VCC reinforced in me the notion that seniors are gems in our community and we should all take a little bit of time to visit and hear what they have to say; we’ll all be better for it.

The interactions I’ve had with the residents at VCC were charming. I met a man in his 70s named John Whitney, who donned a hard hat and safety glasses as he hammered away at a wall to make space for the memory care unit. Johnson agreed to give me perspective for my story on what the new unit might mean to him — especially if, as time goes on, his memory starts to challenge him, he joked. Johnson’s mind seemed sharp and he sounded optimistic about life, bucking the stereotype a lot of people my age have about seniors.

Last week, I met another VCC resident, Kathy Evans, who spoke in glowing terms about Croan. In the dining area, she told me she learned more about America from him than she did from any textbook — a powerful statement coming from someone who immigrated to the U.S. from Germany. Evans, 94, is blind, but she conversed well, had a sharp wit and a powerful handshake. She even invited me back to VCC to talk with her again. I walked away from VCC that afternoon feeling like I had made a new friend.

This week’s Beachcomber also contains an inspiring story about Diane Brenno, an 83-year-old islander, known to many as “Grammy,” who volunteers in the schools and thinks others should do the same.

I bet in your life, you’ve known a few good seniors, like Brenno and my step-grandmother. With that in mind, don’t forget that there are places on the island that care for them, including VCC, off the highway across from the Episcopal Church, and the Vashon Senior Center, off of Bank Road. The senior center can be reached at 206-463-5173 and VCC at 206-567-4421.

If you stop by either location, think about these seniors and the rich life they’ve lived. Thank them for all their hard work, community or military service and remember that life would not be what it is today without them. They paved the way for all of us.

— Kevin Opsahl

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