My Saint Therese Story

Residents share their unique experiences.

No two seniors are alike. Every individual has a different life story, different interests, and different needs. With the breadth of offerings at Saint Therese, each individual can choose to live a vibrant life, however that is defined.

Don and Margaret wedding photo at Saint Therese at Oxbow Lake

A Community Within

“It is never too late to live life to the fullest. Our lives are so complete for us now.”

"I didn’t expect life at this age to be so exciting. Everyday, our lives are expanding with new experiences, friendships and love,” said Margaret Hittner as she reflects on an incredibly eventful year. At age 89, she and Don Vandergon are enjoying life at Saint Therese at Oxbow Lake as newlyweds.

Don and Margaret both moved to the apartments at Saint Therese at Oxbow Lake with their spouses, Catherine Vandergon and John Hittner. Several years ago, their spouses passed away.

It was a difficult time for them both, but family and community support played a critical role in getting them through it. They both attended support groups led by Saint Therese at Oxbow Lake Director of Pastoral Care, Sister Marie Fujan. “By her example, Sister reminds us that to live in community is to be supportive and kind to one another,” said Margaret. As years went by, supported by family and the Oxbow Lake community, they learned to cope with their loss.

Sometime after, Don and Margaret began to get to know each other at various community gatherings such as the bridge card group, swimming classes at the pool and at Mass in the chapel. One Friday afternoon at a happy hour in the dining room at Oxbow Lake, Don worked up enough courage to ask Margaret if she would like to join him for dinner. And so they would have their first date enjoying one of Don’s famous chicken dinners. Shortly after there would be romantic getaway drives to see the autumn leaves, afternoon cookie baking with friends and gatherings with each other’s families. “As we spent more time together, love grew out of an incredible friendship,” Margaret said.

In early winter of 2014, Sister Marie led a discussion after tenants viewed the film The Lost Valentine. As the discussion continued on, Sister said “at our age, if there is something that we would like to do, we’d better go ahead and do it.” Inspired by this message, yet still very nervous, Don knew at that moment that he had to ask Margaret to marry him. As Don looks back, he shares that “if it weren’t for Sister, I would probably still be procrastinating on this.”

Just a short time later, on Valentine’s Day, Don gave Margaret a box of chocolates, roses and a valentine card. The card read “Will you be my Valentine?” Then below, a handwritten message with another question from Don, “Will you marry me?” There were four options for a response with check boxes available for Margaret to choose. “Check yes, elope to Las Vegas. Check yes, get married in the chapel. Check yes, you decide where. Check here if I should slow down!”  Margaret checked yes, to get married in the chapel. It was an easy choice for Margaret. “The chapel is so meaningful to the community at Saint Therese at Oxbow Lake,” said Margaret. “It is the center of life here and the perfect place for our wedding.”

They didn’t waste any time. They married on May 2nd of that same year in the chapel surrounded by family and community. A first ever Saint Therese at Oxbow Lake wedding, the chapel was packed full. To ensure that this moment was shared with all of their friends at Oxbow Lake, the wedding was broadcast live from the chapel to the televisions in everyone’s apartment. Following the wedding was an elegant dinner in the dining room and club room.

As Don sits next to Margaret, reflecting on this past year he smiles ear to ear and shares “it is never too late to live life to the fullest. Our lives are so complete for us now.”

Story originally published January 2016.

2nd generation New Hope tenants

Welcoming Second Generations

“It’s a friendly, Catholic community that I would recommend to anyone. There is just so much to do we cannot take it all in.”

Saint Therese has been serving individuals and their families since 1968. Over the years, the organization has expanded from a single campus in New Hope to a multi-site organization serving individuals in their home or in one of three communities around the Twin Cities metro area. Saint Therese has seen many trends in health care come and go.

Recently, the New Hope campus has seen a new trend. Or rather they have begun to see a few familiar faces at the apartments; faces, which not long ago, were the adult children of parents who were tenants at the New Hope apartments.

New tenants like Charles “Chuck” and Roberta “Bobbie” Schumacher. Chuck and Bobbie were first introduced to Saint Therese back in the late 1990s. Chuck’s parents moved to the New Hope apartments and the care center following a change in their health.

“They liked that Saint Therese was a Catholic setting,” said Chuck. “They were active in their own parish and they had a lot of friends here at the time.” “They were so happy here,” Bobbie added. The couple was active at the New Hope campus participating in weekly events like cribbage, bingo and happy hour.

Chuck and Bobbie both laughed and smiled saying “they would tell the kids not to come during happy hour.”

The experience Chuck’s parents had at Saint Therese made a lasting impression on the couple. “We just always said that when the time came for us, we wanted to be here,” said Bobbie. “Saint Therese had everything we needed.”

Now, 14 years following Chuck’s parents, the couple is calling the New Hope campus home as well. Bobbie said that with the structure of their home and all the work that goes with it, “we couldn’t keep up.” “So, we called Pete,” the now retired housing director, Bobbie said with a smile. “It was just like calling family.”

Chuck and Bobbie moved to the New Hope apartments in August of 2014. With five children of their own, 11 grandchildren and three great grandchildren, the couple is kept busy with a variety of events and activities.

They spend most of their summers at “the lake” near Perham, MN enjoying time with family and friends. When they are home at the New Hope apartments, their busy lifestyle doesn’t change. The couple plays card games like 500 and helps out with bingo.

“It’s a friendly, Catholic community that I would recommend to anyone,” said Bobbie. “There is just so much to do we cannot take it all in.”

Story originally published January 2016.