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From homemaker to executive … from volunteer to vice president … from Cleveland, to Florida, and ultimately back home, Carol Markey’s life has been guided and enriched by her involvement in communities.
Community, in fact, is what led this retired Judson Foundation vice president back to South Franklin Circle, the vibrant senior neighborhood in Chagrin Falls that she had once helped to plan.
Listening to Carol, 80, reflect upon her life and opportunities, it’s clear that she values roots, connections, and a sense of place. The great-granddaughter of Russian emigres who arrived in Cleveland in the late 1800s, Carol grew up in the midst of her family’s successful, multigenerational business. Her father, Leonard Sogg – for many years the Master of the Foxhounds at the Chagrin Valley Hunt Club – taught her how to ride. And her mother’s role as a “gray lady” for the American Red Cross set Carol on the road to her own volunteer involvement with the Red Cross, Junior League, and The United Way.
In 1985, through a series of connections made in her volunteer work, Carol snagged the job of manager of community involvement at Eaton Corporation, overseeing the company’s United Way campaigns, corporate contributions, and employee volunteerism.
Then, in 2002, she joined the Judson community as vice president of the Judson Foundation. Here, she spearheaded Judson’s successful Centennial Campaign, raising funds for Judson Manor renovations. “It was a wonderful experience,” Carol says. “We started out with a $4 million goal and ended up with $7 million – all thanks to donations from private and family foundations, plus our wonderful community of exceptional and generous residents.”
As she approached retirement, Carol was given another opportunity to make her mark: Together with Judson’s now-retired president and CEO, Cyndy Dunn, she was among the first to take part in the planning for what would eventually become South Franklin Circle. “I was absolutely thrilled by Cyndy’s concept: an independent living community where seniors can age in place,” Carol says. “I knew this is what I would choose for my own future, if I had the opportunity.”
And yet, when she retired in 2006, Carol headed to Florida, not to Chagrin Falls. “It made sense at the time,” Carol laughs. But after 13 years, as her friends began to downsize and move to retirement communities, second thoughts set in. “At that point, I was 74. I realized I was too far away from everybody I loved, and keeping up my own house was getting to be a chore.
“It felt important to make the choice of where I was going to live next while I still could. And the vision I had been carrying around of South Franklin Circle suddenly became clear: The best plan was to come back to Cleveland to be near family, friends, and my Judson community. I moved into my beautiful apartment in May of 2019!”
Especially during the pandemic, Carol says, the Judson community proved priceless. “How wonderful to live in a place where your friends are right across the hall, where all you have to do is open a door if you need a smile, or an egg, or a roll of toilet paper! We found places where we could gather together safely, and we just didn’t feel alone.”
As you might expect from someone so shaped by a sense of community, Carol has some well-considered insights about its value. “Community means peace and safety,” she reflects. “It means being comfortable together and having someone who understands.
“There are people here I have known from all parts of my life,” she adds thoughtfully, “and wonderful people I had never before met – and we all just have the best time. We really are there for each other: We keep track of each other, we organize outings, and we get together for cocktails. I have a good, supportive community at South Franklin Circle, and I have to say, it feels just great.”