John has lived at South Franklin for almost two years, but he’s no newcomer to art. He started drawing pictures when he was 10 years old and at 82 he’s still creating—a consequence, he says, of a lifetime of dyslexia. “I read things upside-down and backwards,” he explains, “but as an artist it was wonderful.” He’s always seen a different dimension to things, as if he were looking down on them from the sky or seeing things inside out. “Becoming an artist meant taking a liability in life and turning it into an asset,” he says.
Over the years, his talents have been recognized in the Greater Cleveland and Chagrin Valley communities. Most recently, Artisan’s Corner Gallery in Newbury, just east of Chagrin Falls, mounted an exhibit of John’s work. South Franklin Circle arranged for a bus to take residents to the gallery to visit his show, and then back for a festive late-night supper at South Franklin’s restaurant, Radius. “The staff and residents couldn’t have been more accommodating and supportive,” John says.
Before being transferred to Cleveland in 1962, John and his wife, Nikki, lived in St. Paul, Minnesota, where he worked for the 3M Company. “Nikki’s relative Arnold Saunders suggested we settle in Shaker Heights, where we lived for 40 years,” he says. “We retired to Chagrin Falls in 2001. Nikki, myself, and our children were deeply involved in numerous aspects of community life throughout the years.”
A few years later, John and Nikki had the opportunity to get acquainted with South Franklin Circle through a friend who had business ties with the residence. “We needed a space where we could teach a course offered by a support organization we founded, Parents of Adult Addictive Children (PAAC),” he says. “We started the group in 1999 when our daughter was deeply addicted to drugs and alcohol. Today she is 16 years sober—a miracle.” PAAC’s need was, in John’s words, “met beautifully” by a member of South Franklin’s staff, who offered their conference room for two-hour evening sessions over a six-week period. The room was WIFI-fitted with SKYPE capabilities. “This generous offer allowed our organization to teach the course called `Take Back Your Life.’ The SKYPE capability allowed for some of our group to gather around the conference table at SFC and connect with another group in a small town on the coast of Maine. It worked out for both of us beautifully,” John says. “That experience put a bright spot in my mind about the mission of SFC and Judson, so ultimately moving here made sense. By the way, PAAC is still going strong under new leadership.”
One of John’s priorities is convenience in visiting Nikki, who has Alzheimer’s disease and now lives a few minutes away. He’s able to see her every day, even takes a nap with her during his visits.
John also values the center’s excellence in healthcare. Shortly after he moved to South Franklin Circle, John was treated for pre-cancerous lesions on his scalp that also affected his brain, resulting in a wound that wouldn’t heal. After a major trauma, John was admitted to University Hospitals, where he was diagnosed with a subdural hematoma. Surgeons operated immediately, and then performed several more operations. He completed his rehabilitation at South Franklin Circle’s Crane House. “The care at Crane House was wonderful. Meeting other residents over meals, sleeping, getting my strength back through therapy sessions and using the pool for water exercises all helped in my healing,” says John. “I was in good hands.”
But one of South Franklin Circle’s best features, John believes, is its philosophy that encourages residents to decide how they want to live. “As an Independent Living resident, you can be social, or you can go into hibernation,” he says. He converted the main bedroom in his sunny, 2,000-square-foot cottage into an art studio, and it would be tempting to make it a hideaway—but according to John, the quality presentations offered to residents are too good to pass up. “I go to musical performances, lectures, all sorts of events, right here on campus,” he says. “You can participate or not. It’s all there if you choose.”
Next to marrying Nikki, the love of his life, John says moving to South Franklin Circle might be the best decision he’s ever made. “I do love the place,” he says. “The staff is absolutely wonderful, the food is good and the community table in Radius Restaurant is a great way to meet old friends and make new ones! This is the best place for me.” His family totally agrees!