Resident Stories

She’s retired, but this Army midwife has never stopped serving

November 24, 2017

During much of her 24-year military service, retired Col. Jeri Graham helped deliver babies as a member of U.S. Army Nurse Corps.

Graham, 74, of Cary now works to protect veterans’ rights and is a life member of the Military Officers Association of America. Here, she talks about being a woman in the armed forces and how we can all do a better job of appreciating those who have served our country.

Volunteer Work Plays an Important Part in Roger and Nancy Schuh's Life

June 5, 2017

Volunteer work is something SearStone residents graciously offer the community as well as the Town of Cary. “We both find volunteer work very rewarding and feel it helps keep us active and healthy,” says Nancy Schuh, SearStone resident.

Roger and Nancy Schuh grew up near Green Bay, Wisconsin and were married in 1960. Roger’s work as a Mechanical Engineer has taken them from Madison to Chicago, Naperville and Winston-Salem. While working full-time, both Nancy and Roger have been providing volunteer work for more than 25 years.

Nancy had volunteered at the Wake Forest Baptist Hospital in Winston-Salem for 29 years. As for Roger, he had after 29 years of working for AT&T, decided to retire and began his new career as a woodworker and volunteer. Roger’s talents have brought him to do work for Habitat for Humanity and designing and building a playground and greenhouse for specially challenged children at Hanes-Lowrance Middle School in Winston-Salem.

“It’s amazing what people can do when they put their minds to it,” said Roger.

Roger’s work has not gone unnoticed. In 1996, he received a Jefferson Award from the American Institute of Public Service in Washington, D.C. for the playground project. “It was an incredible experience,” as he was met by politicians, TV personalities and other dignitaries. After having great success in Winston Salem – both professionally and through volunteer work, the Schuhs decided it was time for a change.

“Our grandchildren are a big part of our life and we moved to Searstone to be a part of theirs,” said Nancy.

After 55 years of marriage, Roger and Nancy decided to make the move to SearStone in order to be closer with their grandchildren. The Schuhs have passed along their charitable hearts to their grandchildren who are very active in sports and music. Their time together is spent supporting and educating the grandchildren. Both Roger and Nancy have worked hard to impart their knowledge of woodworking, financial skills, cooking, crafting and family history to the kids.

There is no doubt the amazing influence the Schuhs have had in their grandchildren’s lives as well as all the others they have touched among their many years of service. We are proud to have them as a part of our community and hope that their legacy continues to grow.

Photo courtesy of Cary Magazine.

SearStone Resident Joseph Polcaro Wins Medal at NASTRA

May 10, 2017

It is increasingly common for men and women to stay active as they get older but few of them win medals and awards this way. But Cary resident Joseph Polcaro recently got a Silver Medal for ski racing in the mountains of Colorado.

Polcaro took second place in ski racing at the NASTAR (NAtional STAndard Race) National Championships over the weekend of March 24, 2017. At 81 years old, he competed in the 80-84 age range in the bronze pin category. It took place in Steamboat Springs, Colorado.

“I was familiar with the slaloms in Colorado so I felt good and for two days, I went through the gates and did well,” Polcaro said. “Although on my last run, it didn’t count because I missed a flag and went left when I was supposed to go right.”

To get invited to the NASTAR championship, which is the largest recreational ski race program, skiers can race on some of the country’s largest mountains and make a qualifying time, which Polcaro himself tried out.

“I was invited to NASTAR four times but I did not get any medals until this last time,” Polcaro said. “This January, I decided to try it again and see what happens. I got the bronze pin but missed the silver pin by one second.”

In Cary, Polcaro said he does not have many places to practice, though he said he is going to try and ski at Sugar Mountain before attempting to qualify for the NASTAR National Championships again.

“In March, the guy I was competing against lives in Boston and goes up every week to ski. Where can I practice here?” Polcaro said with a laugh.

You Just Fly

While Polcaro, an Italian immigrant who came to the U.S. in 1950 before joining the military, has done exceptionally well in ski racing, he did not take up the sport until he was nearly 50.

“When my older son was around 12, around Christmas time, he asked to go skiing. So we went up to the mountains but there was no snow there until we hit Boone and skied there,” Polcaro said. “Although little did I know at the time that they made their own snow.”

From there, Polcaro continued to ski and graduated to larger mountains, including going several times to Breckenridge in Colorado. It is a long way from Polcaro’s favorite sport.

“I am a certified referee for soccer games. Soccer is my absolute favorite and it’s what I grew up with,” he said.

Polcaro also volunteers and coaches in the Special Olympics.

But even with skiing coming to Polcaro later in life, he still said he loves it and finds it exhilarating.

“You feel like a bird,” he said. “You just fly.”

As for whether Polcaro will try to qualify and compete in next year’s NASTAR National Championship, he said he met two other skiers there who were 94 and 98 years old.

“When I got to the airport, I saw them and they said ‘see you next year,'” he said. “So I thought, gosh, I have to go back now.”

This article originally appeared on CaryCitizen.com. http://carycitizen.com/2017/04/11/cary-senior-gets-silver-medal-in-ski-competition/ 

Meet Marshall and Janet Carter

December 19, 2016

One of the biggest challenges that Marshall and Janet Carter had when moving to SearStone was adjusting to the new lifestyle.

"It is just so darn fun, and there are so many things to do!" laughs Marshall.

He can usually be found in the Fitness Center doing flexibility and balance exercises in the afternoon. His wife, Janet, is dedicated to her yoga practice and other classes.

The Carters moved to SearStone almost 2 years ago into Calais Terrace. Now they have more time to enjoy outside activities, and as Marshall says, "Happily we have to spend about zero time worrying about maintaining a home." The Carters have stayed busy with other things - Janet directs a children's hand bell choir, and Marshall enjoys doing personal investing at home.

Prior to SearStone, Janet's career path took many turns. She began as a Registered Nurse, and then was a business owner of a floral/retail shop. After they sold the store she became the provider of business accounting services. Marshall has worked in the mortgage finance industry for most of his career, a job that kept him on the road in the mid-Atlantic states.

The Carters have been married for 21 years, and met on a blind date. "Although I refused to go out on a blind date," says Janet, "So I made my best friend come with me on the date. The three of us had dinner, and the rest is history!"

Many family members have relocated to North Carolina, and they've enjoyed spending more time with siblings, children and their four grandchildren. Their newest grandchild, Michael, was born this year and he has already spent many nights at SearStone. The Carters other grandchildren love the SearStone campus as well. The older kids enjoy the pool, the billiards and the Bar & Grille, and they just can't wait for the baby to grow and enjoy new things here.

Now that the Carters are settled in the community they are enjoying a more reasonable pace of living as opposed to the fast pace of their previous careers. They have so much more time to enjoy friends and hobbies. And the SearStone community is enjoying having them here!

A Well-Designed Life

October 3, 2016

With a slice of cake and a tall glass of beer in front of her, Helen Staley celebrated her 93rd birthday (along with Ana Erskine) at SearStone last December, thanks to the second-floor residents at the Winston Clubhouse. Helen recalls that the celebration seemed to transform the relationship of the residents and staff, a role reversal of sorts.

Perhaps "transforming" serves as a good metaphor for her life, as she has broken down more than one barrier in her 93 years. At the tender age of 14, Helen was moved to a mechanical drawing class after the teacher of her cooking class broke up her lively group of friends for being disruptive. She took architectural drawing classes in senior high school, which was not a big stretch for her since her mother was a landscape architect. Although she was accepted to Cornell, Helen's father didn't think she'd be a good fit there (or perhaps, that they were not ready for her!). She enrolled at the all-female Stephens College in Columbia, Mo., only to find that the professor she wanted to study under had accepted another position elsewhere.

College and Career

Helen subsequently transferred to the University of Pennsylvania, where she encountered some overt hostility while applying. The dean told her she could earn a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree but not a degree in architecture, to which she replied, "It's the knowledge, not the sheepskin." She did earn a Bachelor of Architecture degree.

One of her final assignments at Penn was designing a standalone television studio, a rarity in the nascent days of the medium when most studios were converted within existing spaces. Her design received a first-place medal, after which General Electric invited the winners to Schenectady, N.Y., to present their solutions to a TV audience.

Helen says she was fortunate to get a job with an architectural practice in New York City during World War II when few firms were open. She married her high school sweetheart, William Warner Staley, fresh from his return from England and eventual discharge from the Air Force. With a six-week-old daughter in tow, the couple moved to Charlottesville, Va., where he completed his degree from the University of Virginia.

The family subsequently moved to Maryland, and Helen was asked, pretty much as a favor, to design an educational building for a church in their community. She worked for several firms in the Baltimore and Annapolis areas to complete her mandatory three years of architectural experience, and upon meeting the four-day test requirement for her architectural license, started her own firm called "helen ross staley" out of her home.

"The only advertising allowed in 1955 was the architectural firm name, address and telephone number in the Yellow Pages, a sign in front of a commission in progress, and word of mouth," she recalls. "My practice pretty much consisted of residences, alterations and additions to existing buildings, as well as churches. That same church I did work for earlier hired me to design their new church building. This time it was for pay!"

Her largest commission was a movie theater with one cinema auditorium superimposed on top of another. Her design was served by a single projection room projecting normally into the upper auditorium and what might be called a "reverse periscope" that projected into the lower one using a series of mirrors within the projection well.

Professional Recognition

Recently, Helen was contacted by the Women in Architecture Committee of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) Baltimore chapter about contributing items to an exhibit on Early Women in Architecture. She has been assembling and photographing original drawings, and emailing them to exhibit organizers.

The exhibit is scheduled to open for Women's History Month in March at Morgan State University, and will travel throughout the year to other locations including the University of Maryland, the Maryland Women's Heritage Center, the Baltimore Leadership School for Young Women, the Baltimore Design School, and the Jefferson Patterson Park Museum.

Coming to North Carolina

Helen and her husband originally researched retirement communities in Maryland and Pennsylvania, and had actually signed up for one many years ago. She was not actively looking to make another move when she visited her son in Cary for Thanksgiving two years ago. 

"My daughter-in-law's parents were SearStone depositors, so I asked to take a look," she says. "I came, I saw, I signed, and now happily live here much to the surprise of our three older children in Maryland."

Helen believes the social lessons she learned at Stephens College are paramount and encouraged at SearStone: "To be friendly with and to everyone." She says, "It's difficult to start the social interaction in a new retirement community. I think SearStone has done especially well with all that a continuing care community presents."

She attributes the success of the community to the high-quality social activities and personnel. "The staff is truly welcoming," she states. "They learn everyone's name and greet us personally. SearStone is very wise in their selection of staff."

A wise observation indeed from someone with much wisdom to share.