After 16 years of retirement, divided between a condo in Bratenahl and a mountain home in Montana, George and Virginia “Ginnie” Havens knew it was time to make a choice. “It all came down to one question,” says Ginnie. “Are we urban people, or are we rural?”
Montana certainly had much to recommend it, including the active, outdoor lifestyle that both the Havens cherished. But in the end, the couple opted for “urban” and the cultural treasures of University Circle. In 2009, they consolidated the furnishings of both homes into a newly designed space in Judson Manor, and they couldn’t be more pleased with their decision.
“We could have lived anywhere,” says George, former president of The Jayme Organization, a Cleveland-based advertising agency. “But one of the prime reasons we chose to move here was for its cultural advantages. We are active seniors, so we walk everywhere: to Severance Hall for Cleveland Orchestra concerts, to Case Western Reserve University for classes, and the Cleveland Museum of Art for exhibitions. We love it here, and we wouldn’t want to live anywhere else.”
For Ginnie, another bonus of choosing Judson Manor was the opportunity to customize their living space. “Our apartment was on a floor that was being totally remodeled, so we had the privilege of being able to design the interior to fit our needs,” says the former English teacher and mother of three.
Among their custom touches, the couple opted to enlarge the kitchen, install the Manor’s only fireplace, add built-in bookcases and storage, and forego a second bedroom in favor of a larger, more expansive living room/dining room combination. Substantial white shutters enhance the windows, and white crown molding, chair rails, and baseboards add a sense of classical elegance.
Vivid red walls distinguish the family room, which also serves as a quilting nook for Ginnie and vital office space for George, an accomplished writer. Besides being a longtime jazz aficionado – he even teaches a classes on the musical art form through Case Western Reserve’s lifelong learning program, tracing its advancement from 1895 to the 1950s – George is the author of six self-published books on topics ranging from how to create winning sales presentations to his family history.
While Ginnie calls their décor a “conglomerate,” it is clearly a collection of carefully chosen keepsakes culled from a lifetime of experiences. Loon decoys, carved shorebirds and a beautiful Chinese print reflect Ginnie’s love of birding. In George’s office, books on military history share shelf space with a porcelain Winston Churchill ‘toby mug,’ recalling his service during World War II.
In the living room, a wooden trunk topped with the words “Anno 1948” holds an honored spot. “That was the year we were married,” Ginnie explains, adding that the antique trunk was restored by George’s father and custom-painted by his mother, then given to her as a hope chest. “I do treasure that,” she says.
Other treasured pieces include a corner cupboard passed down from George’s family, and a cherry drop-leaf table in the dining room that dates back to the 1850s. “I bought it at an antique store in Mentor around 1951, and through the years we’ve hosted so many events around it,” Ginnie recalls fondly. “My mother-in-law celebrated her 101st birthday at that table; it’s seen a lot of good times.”
Listening to the Havens, it’s clear there are more good times to come, as the couple happily pursues their myriad interests. They are both active on a number of Judson Manor committees, and Ginnie volunteers at Towards Employment, a job preparation and placement program for felons. Somehow, she also finds time to take full advantage of lifelong learning opportunities offered in partnership with Case Western Reserve.
In particular, she makes it a practice to audit one class each semester; her picks have ranged from 20th century art history to global ecology. “It’s like walking into a candy store each time I get to choose a course,” she laughs. “My professors are so good, and the classes are so exciting, I can’t imagine ever growing old!”