Amazing Seniors 2016 – 2023
1 Amazing Senior, Mr. Pat Boone
2 Amazing Seniors – An Interview with Ana Margarita Menéndez. Remembering “Que Pasa, USA?”
3 Amazing Seniors – Qué Pasa, USA?: Connie Ramirez, A Look Back in Time at a Cultural Jewel
4 Two Amazing Seniors That Have Done It All!
5 Lowell Ward
6 Ana Maria Ramos Ninou
7 Joan Riccio & Doug Wiedman
8 Surviving Cuba, and Now a Pandemic!
9 Juan Armando Montes
10 Joe Ferchak
11 Maria Chaviano
12 Mirta Ramos
13 Jerry & Esther Krueger
14 Cheryl Jenkins
15 Welcome Back, Barbara Andersen!
16 Forever Young and Always Dancing, Melanie LaJoie
17 Following up with Tom Yarbrough
18 The Dynamic Duo!
19 Phyllis Lozeau
20 Barbara Andersen, Outstanding Senior!
21 Tom Yarbrough, A true Young Senior!
Our world is blessed with amazing seniors all around us. We all know a few, but only a few are known to all of us. One of those rare people is Mr. Pat Boone, an icon of American music, movies, and television. It is inspiring to know that Pat Boone, now almost 89 years old, is still active in many enterprises, including two new movies, a book and an album.
Do you remember your first date or dance? There is a good chance that Pat Boone supplied the background music for those memories. That date might have been the movie “April Love,” starring Pat Boone and Shirley Jones. Pat’s recording of the song, “April Love,” became a number-one hit in the United States, spent 26 weeks on the US pop music charts and was the #1 single for 6 weeks.
Pat’s music career flourished for many years and he continues to record new music. According to Billboard Magazine, only Elvis Presley ranked higher in the music charts of that era. He describes himself as a “recording machine,” an entertainer who loves to perform and to hear and feel the audience’s reaction. All told, Pat Boone produced 6 # 1 hits, 13 gold single records, and a platinum album of “Pat’s Great Hits.” He still holds the record for the number of appearances in the single record charts: 220 weeks! That’s over 4 years of contiguous consecutive charted records.
That singing career alone would have been enough to make Pat Boone one of our Amazing Seniors, but he has been much, much more. Born in Jacksonville, Florida, his family moved to Nashville when he was a young boy. Pat’s parents were expecting a girl who they planned to name Patricia, but when the new baby boy surprised them, they just shortened the name to Pat. His father, an architect and contractor, moved the family so that he could work with a relative in the building industry. His Dad, Archie Boone, created a lot of beautiful schools, homes and businesses in Nashville. Pat worked with his brother, Nick, digging ditches and pouring concrete, but maybe it was fate that Music City acquired Pat Boone at a young age.
His early performances began not as a career, but just singing for fun at family gatherings, sometimes with brother Nick singing harmony. His first stage performance was at a Nashville movie theatre where mothers brought their children on Saturday afternoons to be entertained by family films. It was a talent show on stage and the winning singers received an ice cream treat from the drugstore next door. The ice cream kept him repeating performances until friends and acquaintances took note of his singing ability and began to call on him when a performer was needed. He was soon called “Blue Moon Boone” because of his ability to voice the song “Blue Moon” without accompaniment.
He was encouraged to audition for the Ted Mack Amateur Hour on national TV and won the competition 3 times in consecutive weeks. Shortly after, he appeared on the Arthur Godfrey Talent Scouts Show, which he won. Those two wins on national talent shows led to his becoming a regular on the Godfrey show and to a recording contract with Dot Records.
From then on, it was one success followed soon after another. In the mid-1950s, the name Pat Boone began to appear on record charts with regularity, and he began his acting career in movies like “Bernardine” and “April Love.” At age 22, Pat became the youngest performer ever to have his own network musical variety show. The Pat Boone Chevy Showroom was a music and variety show that attracted guests like Nat ‘King’ Cole, Johnny Mathis, Perry Como, and others appearing and singing with Pat as host. He has been a successful singer, actor, and TV personality.
We have told you that this Amazing Senior is more than a performer and entertainer. More than anything else in his life, Pat is proud of his wonderful marriage at 19 years old to Shirley Foley for 65 years, who passed away in 2019, and their four daughters. He is the grandfather of 16 and a great-grandfather of 17 and counting! A stable, successful marriage was not easy while living in Beverly Hills and Hollywood. He credits their strong faith and church connections with this accomplishment. Pat Boone was a protective and involved father to his girls, and it has paid off, resulting in the most lasting joys he has known. Despite his huge success, family is still the most important thing in his life.
Mr. Boone has constantly been involved in church and civic organizations and activities. He has served as a Deacon and an Elder in his churches, is a past chairman of the National Federation of the Blind, and hosted the Easter Seals Telethon for 18 years, raising over 600 million dollars for childhood disease research. Today, he is on the board of 2 Christian universities, one of which is Pepperdine. You might think that this Amazing Senior would be thinking about taking a rest, but you would be wrong! Approaching 89 on June 1, he is still going strong.
Pat is still swimming, playing singles tennis with a younger guy (he is 82), golfing and hosting golf tournaments, working out at the gym, recording and considering doing a final tour. Right now, 2 new projects are being added to his long list.
His starring role in “The Mulligan” is a 2023 movie about getting a second chance. Golfers will know what the term “Mulligan” means, and who has not said to themselves, “I think I’ll take that shot over”?
Pat is extremely proud of his new book, “IF.” Years ago, Pat and Shirley Boone experienced what they call the baptism of the Holy Spirit. It is the infilling of God’s spirit to motivate one’s life. ”IF” tells you how that happened, and how it can happen for anybody who wants to have a seriously important life. Pat reminds us that a relationship with God is the surest path to health and successful living. He says he knows because that’s his story.
Mr. Boone also has a new Album release which is Pat Boone Country Jubilee: 25 All-Time Country Classics, which features a duet with guest artist Crystal Gayle, and Pat’s NEW song, “GRITS,” with featured guest artists Ray Stevens, Larry Gatlin and The Gatlin Brothers, Lorrie Morgan, Deborah Allen and Dean Miller. The 2-vinyl/2-CD album is set to be release on 8/25.
Pat Boone certainly deserves the title. “Amazing Senior.” Thank you, Mr. Boone, for your life’s work in so many areas. You are a great example and an important part of the soundtrack of our lives. OurSeniors.Net happily recommends that readers take advantage of the new additions to Pat’s collection of entertainment and life-changing accomplishments. You can find them here-
You can stream Pat’s new movie, “The Mulligan,” on https://www.amazon.com/gp/video/detail/B0B74H6N4D/ref=atv_dp_share_cu_r or order a DVD copy here: https://www.goldlabelartists.com/product/the-mulligan-movie-dvd/. Pat’s new inspirational book, “IF,” is available here: https://www.goldlabelartists.com/product/if-the-eternal-choice-we-all-must-make-hardcover/.
Ana Margarita Menéndez has lived a wonderful life. In many ways, it has been the “American Dream” with a Cuban accent. It has also been an adventure, a journey that led Ana from her family’s former home in Cuba to a new life here in the United States. Along the way she has been involved in almost every part of the entertainment industry.
Today, Ana is a public relations specialist, working for a health care organization in south Florida. As a young woman, she was an important cast member in the pioneering TV show, “Que Pasa, USA?” If you grew up in Miami in the 1970s (as many of OurSeniors did), you may very well recall this highly original and still very funny sitcom. In the late 1970s, Miami television station WPBT came up with a great innovation- a bilingual sitcom. The show was titled “Que Pasa, USA?,” and it quickly became a big hit in Miami and national syndication.
It won sponsorship from the National Council for the Arts, and for five seasons, the show told the story of the Pena family. It is sympathetically related to their struggles in trying to adapt to their new home, America. It appealed to a wide audience, but especially to America’s Hispanic and Cuban American population. Que Pasa, USA? accurately reflected the experience of many Cuban families, telling the story of three generations of a Cuban-American family living in 1970s Miami.
Ana played the part of Carmen Pena, the young daughter of the Pena family. She still recalls the show, its cast, crew, and writers with great affection. Playing Carmen Pena was a natural part for that young Ana Margo because she had lived the story. Besides, the theatre was in her blood. Born in Cuba, she left soon after the Communist Revolution. Her father and mother had both been active in Cuban entertainment and TV before the revolution.
Young Cuban Americans had little or no remembrance of life in Cuba. They had very different ideas and social behaviors, leading to inevitable conflicts with parents and grandparents. These situations also supplied opportunities for a lot of laughs as the Pena family transitioned to American life. “Que Pasa” treated these situations with humor and sensitivity, never making fun of, or demeaning any group.
In an interview with the OurSeniors.Net staff, Ana shared her memories of the show’s history. It ran for five seasons and a total of 39 episodes, all filmed before a live audience in WPBT’s studio. Ana remembers the high quality of the scripts and the sensitivity shown to the very real challenges faced by newly immigrated Cubans. The location was authentic, the “Calle Ocho” or “Little Havana” area of Miami. It was ahead of its time, a bilingual show that could be understood by both English and Spanish speakers.
The young actress was a natural for playing the part of Carmen, the somewhat Americanized young daughter of the Pena family. Carmen Pena was sometimes a little sassy, but she always exhibited the affection and respect that is common to Cuban families. All the show’s characters are well remembered. Imagine this-
You are hiking in the mountains of North Carolina when you pass a family you have never met. As they pass, one of the party turns, points to you, and asks, “Are you Carmen Pena from Que Pasa, USA?” Exactly that happened to Ana Margo, and it happened decades after the show had ended. That’s how beloved the show was. Viewers recalled it for years. People Magazine called Pepe and Juana, Carmen’s parents, the Latin versions of “Ozzie and Harriot.” Four decades later, in 2018, the cast reunited for a brief theatrical performance of “Que Pasa, USA TODAY.” It played to sold-out audiences in the Adrienne Arsht Center, Miami’s home for the performing arts.
Ana was eager to share her memories of this ground-breaking show, but also to express her love for her adopted home, the United States of America. OurSeniors.Net salutes Ana and the entire cast and crew of “Que Pasa, USA.” It is an important part of the history of south Florida and our Hispanic community. You can still find complete episodes of the series on the show’s official website. Watch a few and relive the Miami of the 1970s and 80s. Thank you, Ana! They are still great shows.
OurSeniors.Net works hard to be the best senior living resource magazine online and in print. To help us continue this, we are taking a page from the “Que Pasa, USA?” playbook. Starting with the Fall Edition of OurSeniors.Net Magazine, we will publish a bilingual edition. At first, this will be available only in south Florida, but we plan to expand it in the future.
Again, thank you Ana, the cast and crew of “Que Pasa, USA?” and to the readers and viewers of OurSeniors.Net!
Qué Pasa, USA?, is a pinnacle of happiness, humor, and enjoyment for Cuban-American families everywhere, but mainly in Miami, FL. Featuring a close representation of the life and culture of the Cuban-American population throughout Miami, the show was brilliantly created and provided an appreciated turn in direction on television.
What was once the start of an interesting and humorous journey of the Peña family, remains a treasure for Miamians today although the show has been off of the air since 1980, it is still a fan favorite.
The First of the Things That Mattered
As the first bilingual sitcom to hit the screens of families across the nation and to be produced by PBS, the show brought fans together in a way that only true connections can. In a way, this well-loved and well-known show was like an extension of your own family. It offered comfort, warmth, and genuine laughs. It also brought audiences closer to what it was like to cherish and hold Cuban heritage and values in your heart while struggling to overcome identity crises and the worry of losing oneself. Qué Pasa, USA? while portrayed as a comedy, still offers a raw sense of what a look back in time was like.
As we follow the Peña family through the ups and downs that living in a society mainly made up of Anglo Americans comes with, we learn something from each character, we form bonds with them and we learn the real meaning of tradition along the way.
Connecting With the Characters
With the natural frustration that language barriers can bring and the comedy that can arise while breaking down those barriers of both language and culture, the characters in this sitcom connect with us in more ways than one during the 4 seasons the show aired. Not too many viewers can say they haven’t connected with a Qué Pasa, USA? character just like the actors themselves are sure to have felt an attachment to their role. There are just some shows that are worthy of being binged or watched more than once in one sitting and Qué Pasa, USA? was exactly that.
Let’s take a trip down the binge-worthy memory lane and meet not just the characters of the show we love but the people that beautifully portrayed them.
Meeting Connie Ramirez as Violeta
Ms. Ramirez, or as we know and love her, Violeta was Carmen’s sassy and outspoken friend. Connie actually auditioned for the role of Sharon first so, you might be wondering how she was cast for the role of Violeta and we have to say that it’s by great judgment that she ended up with the part that she did. The crew wanted to see another version of her and how that could be transferred into another character and with that, Violeta’s personality came to life.
A Look Into Connie’s Own Story
Connie Ramirez, today, is 67 years old and in her life as herself and not her character, Connie has one younger sister who served as a great source of support during her Qué Pasa, USA? journey. She lived in Havana, Cuba with her sister and her parents until she was 14 and her family immigrated to Los Angeles, California where she also attended high school.
You may be wondering, where did Connie find her passion for acting and portraying positive messages on stage? Well, due to her mother’s line of work as an endocrinologist, her family decided to move to the Miami area where she began to flourish at the start of her acting career. While Connie attended the University of Miami, it was the Miami Dade Community College where Connie first found out about casting calls for Qué Pasa, USA?
While Miami marked the start of her journey with the show, it wasn’t with a light heart or an easy task that Violeta became the sassy character that we started to know her as once the show aired. During live filming, she knew that viewers were paying for tickets to see the cast, and with that, she knew that she had to do well, and that’s what drove her into a successful role and time on the show, on and off the air.
Today, she offers specialty services in voice work and although 42 years have passed, she is still remembered for her excellent and true-resemblance acting that she gifted so many with as she helped to steer the direction of the cultural favorite we are delighted by time and again, Qué Pasa, USA?.
Remembering Some of the Best Times Through Television
Qué Pasa, USA? follows three generations of the Peña family throughout their lives in Miami’s Little Havana. While following closely through hard times, great times, and confusing times, this comical cultural masterpiece is like a capsule of a time that was disrupting the cultural norm and inspiring while educating others on the trials and tribulations that Cuban-Americans had to navigate, solve, and adapt to.
As we learn new ways to celebrate and cherish personal values and Cuban heritage, we will always have one familiar place to turn to when we want to laugh, smile, and witness the true meaning of family, cultural strength, and the journey of finding new things for the better.
As one of the best online magazines for seniors, OurSeniors.net works to provide our readers with truly inspiring stories from our “amazing seniors”. When we feature our amazing seniors, we are allowed to share their stories with the hope of encouraging others. We decided to take a look at two amazing military veterans that have done everything they could to show those that looked up to them, and those around them that anything is possible, and that if you can be anything that you strive to be—if not more. OurSeniors.net presents:
Colonel Juan Armando Montes
Born in Cuba on October 27, 1936, Colonel Juan Armand Montes dedicated close to 30 years of his life to the Army. He fought valiantly in combat as a ranger and rose through the ranks, becoming one of the most highly respected officers in the military. His destiny was to command and lead hundreds of troops, and that is exactly what he did during his illustrious career. Colonel Montes got to witness the dedication and hard work of his father at a young age. His parents encouraged him to be a scholar, and he did exactly that; graduating magna cum laude with a B.A. from La Luz College in Havana, Cuba. He later received his Juris Doctor in Civil/Criminal law from St. Thomas Villanova Catholic University in Havana as well. John Wayne pictures, and other war-time movies, inspired Colonel Montes to pursue a career in the military. As time went on, he was faced with the need to escape Cuba after Fidel Castro took control of the country. As a Cuban immigrant, Colonel Montes found his calling in the U.S. Army when President Kennedy started the Cuban combat assault Brigade 2506. After arriving in the states, he dedicated his life to protecting and honoring the country that acted as a haven for him once living in Cuba was met with turmoil and difficulty. The integrity, honor, and dedication that Colonel Montes had could never be questioned as he spent 25 years as part of the Green Beret Special Forces. As an incredible leader, he was honored with various awards including the Legion of Merit, the Joint Service Commendation Medal, and the Vietnam Cross of Gallantry with Palm for valor in combat in 1971. As someone who has jumped out of airplanes to protect American freedom, and as someone that has been presented with various badges including the Combat Infantryman Badge that showed his participation and dedication during the 1965 invasion of the Dominican Republic that led to the successful freeing of Dominicans from Cuban-communist oppression. Colonel Montes served as a platoon leader during that time and his courage was of no question. Colonel Montes is seen as an image of bravery, dedication, and strength. Throughout his life, he has shown those that looked up to him that no matter what life throws at you, you can always overcome it if you have enough courage and strength.
Jerome “Jerry” Kreuger was born in Miami, FL in 1922. He enlisted in the Army Air Corps and became a flight radio operator. After completing testing in Miami, he traveled to Sioux Falls, SD for radio school. Upon graduating, Jerry was assigned overseas to support the Flying Tigers in Kunming, China. Jerry flew more than 600 hours and received an Air Medal and a Flying Cross for his heroism. In addition to his military accolades, Jerry also received a medal from the Chinese g o v e r n m e n t honoring his service. Jerry is a man that has exemplified great determination and resilience. In 1945, the war had just ended and he only had two years of collegiate e x p e r i e n c e . However, that didn’t stop him from attending Rutgers University Law School. He was driven to achieve his goals and obtain his law degree. After working hard for two years, he met his wife Esther – a Cadet nurse who had also trained to be a registered nurse during the war. After meeting his match, Jerry and Esther began a relationship and friendship that would last more than 70 years. After he worked in a law firm for two years, he decided to start a personal practice in Linden, NJ. What’s more, while he was actively working at his practice, he was asked to run for councilman of Linden, NJ. It’s safe to say that he won the position and he stayed within it for two years. Jerry is the type of person that goes above and beyond and he showed everyone exactly that after he was elected as the president of the city council. He was also later elected to the state of New Jersey legislature for a year. Jerry gained unmatched experiences which led him to become the city attorney for the city of Linden. He stayed within his position for 30 years, all while maintaining his private practice. Jerry did not retire until he reached the age of 91. As the inspiration that he is, he and his wife Esther remained active within their community. Jerry Kruger is someone to be celebrated and he’s the oldest surviving Jewish war veteran in the Daytona Beach area which he received an award for. Jerry and his wife Esther are perfect examples of strength, teamwork, and drive. Jerry himself not only reached multiple milestones in his military career, but in his career in law, public policy, and his joy of being a family man. As of today when this article was written our young Jerry is only 97 years young, and his beloved wife Esther is only 95 years young.
Having turned 95 on November 25 this year, Lowell Ward is truly an inspiration. Born in Iroquois, South Dakota, growing up during the Great Depression and serving in the Navy, he has a wealth of firsthand knowledge and experiences that most Americans only read about in books. Speaking of books, Lowell has written one, “Fragments, A Novel”, which is a brilliant fiction that shows his creativity and imagination. You can find it on Amazon. A Navy man for much of his young adult years, he volunteered for submarine service in New London, Connecticut which was a very stressful experience that many failed to complete. He was assigned to the USS Sterlet and USS Razorback, which is now at a memorial park in Little Rock, Arkansas. The USS Razorback was once bought by the Turkish navy in the 60’s but 40 years later, the state of Arkansas bought it back for $1. It was towed across the ocean to New Orleans and then by river to Little Rock where it is now in a memorial park for people to visit. Lowell went back with his son Tom and he “cried like a baby seeing his old ship,” Tom said. Upon returning from the war, he was walking down main street Montevideo, Minnesota, and asked his sister, Audrey (who is still alive at 97), who she thinks is the prettiest girl in town. Audrey pointed out Suzanne Crandall across the street and said, “there she is”. At that moment, Lowell found the love of his life. During this time, he started college on the GI bill at Macalester College where he received his four-year degree and subsequently got a job working for the state of Minnesota. Around the mid60s, he returned to college to get his master’s degree at Florida State University (where his love of Florida began) for advancement purposes. Lowell and Suzanne raised three boys, Douglas, Thomas, and Richard, who gave them four grandchildren and eight grandchildren. Retiring at the earliest possible point, they decided to move to Ft. Lauderdale, Florida and joined Lowell’s sister there. Not retired for too long, they decided to work with her to run an apartment complex for ten years as an extra source of income. Once that ended, they moved to the Villages in Central Florida with her and bought homes next to each other. When he is not spending time with family, Lowell has many hobbies. His most interesting hobby is that as a collector of casino chips as well as newspapers from major events in America. Many of these collections have been given to his great-grandson, Sam, who is named after his father. Above everything, Lowell has had a great life and feels lucky enough to live through 95 years of watching his family grow and seeing the world change. He looks forward to many more years of it.
An incredible mother, grandmother and friend, Ana Maria Ramos Ninou is someone who is a wonderful example of a strong woman who has made it through adversity and kept her faith along the way. At 30 years old with a husband and two children, she had to make a very difficult choice to leave the place where she was born, Cuba. This was during a time when she was excelling in her career as a professional executive secretary for a prestigious French cargo company. Her life was going well, and she believed Cuba was where she would always live, until the story we all know too well of Fidel Castro. It took an abundance of inner strength for her to leave but she was able to adapt to the next place she called home – Venezuela. There, she worked at the executive offices of a petroleum company as well as a renowned law firm. She was equipped with skill, motivation, and persistence for anything that came her way. After ten years, Ana Maria and her family, with two more children added to the bunch, had to immigrate one more time and sought family support in the United States. Her family in Cuba was fortunate enough to leave and move to Miami while she was in Venezuela, which made the transition easier. With plenty of skill and a long resume, she was able to use her background to work at the office of a hotel on Miami Beach and later worked in the banking industry. A smart and driven woman, she worked until retirement and made many friends along the way in her career. These days, Ana Maria lives in Miami and has all four children (Ana Maria “Anucha,” Patricia, Jorge, and Loreta) living close to her. She has six grandchildren and seven greatgrandchildren who she loves and prays for every single day, one by one. Her faith in God and love for her family and inner strength were key factors during difficult times. It has helped her through many obstacles and now living through the pandemic she has found a way to stay positive and busy by keeping in touch with friends over the phone, reading, painting, and praying for her family and anyone in need. Her family believes she leads a great example for them as well as those she comes into contact with because she enjoys helping others no matter the distance. She says, “Be kind to one another. It is a pleasure to give everyone beautiful and encouraging words. Thank you“.
A story of two childhood sweethearts defines the relationship between our Amazing Seniors, Joan Riccio and Doug Wiedman. Originally from New Jersey, the two lived in the same neighborhood, going to the same grammar school and hanging out with a group of neighborhood kids going on hikes, roller-skating and going to the movies. During high school, both Joan and Doug attended different high schools, hers being an all-girls school named St. Vincent’s Academy and he went to Bloomfield High School. At that time, his family moved to the same block as hers, making them close friends. He took her to all her school dances including the Junior Prom and she attended his football games. Things changed for them once high school ended. He was drafted into the Army, served for two years and later attended Farleigh Dickenson while she attended Washington Secretarial School. Joan became an office manager for an insurance company and Doug was in property management and later an assistant tax assessor. They both got married to people they met along the way and Joan had three children and Doug had three children. They never saw each other for 42 years. While they lived only two towns away, they never crossed paths and their children went to different schools and churches. In 1986, Doug’s wife passed away and in 1992, Joan’s husband passed away. As fate would have it, a cousin of Joan’s worked at a church that Doug was attending. She decided to give him Joan’s phone number and “the rest is history,” says Joan. They were married in 1996 and retired from their jobs to move to Port Orange, Florida. Their families joined and together they have 12 grandchildren and four great grandchildren. They enjoy their lives in Florida and have made many friends that they would see and get together with for lunch before the pandemic. They are also a part of different senior groups such as Sociable Seniors at their church, Sensational Seniors and OurSeniors. These groups have allowed them to meet many different people and even travel to different places. They have been to Europe, Hawaii, Alaska, the Caribbean, Mexico, Panama and a bunch of U.S. states. During their free time at home, Doug enjoys jigsaw puzzles and Joan enjoys reading, knitting, and crocheting. They believe that God has a plan for everyone and getting them together at the right time was His work. It was a time when they needed someone there for them after losing their spouses. Joan wants other seniors to know that “no one knows what life has in store, so it’s important to just live each day to its fullest and never give up.” She and Doug have been married for 25 years and are both 87 years old.
If you have been reading our magazine the past few years, you probably have seen our Amazing Seniors and the inspiring stories they tell. With the pandemic happening, we wanted to take a look at some of the people we have featured and ways they still inspire us. With International Women’s History Month happening just last month, we looked at two women who have been through lifechanging trials and have now survived another one: the pandemic. Maria Chaviano was 16 years old when she had to leave Cuba. Leaving behind her brother, who was forced into the military, she went to New York with her mother. To make ends meet, she worked up to three jobs at a time instead of going to school in order to support herself and her mother. She worked hard, getting better paying jobs as time went on. She married, had a son and was able to put him through private school even after separating from her husband. She’s now a proud grandmother living in Florida and enjoying retirement.
Another amazing woman, Mirta Ramos was 23 when Fidel Castro took power in Cuba. She experienced the country quickly go from vibrant and tight knit to tense and fearful. Food dwindled and meat became a rare commodity with grocery stores going away and basic necessities becoming non-existent. She knew that her family, with her husband and two daughters, had to leave but it took eight years to get out. The only way they could go was if her husband and two daughters went to Miami and her and her mother went to Spain. After eight months, they were reunited in the United States and everything was great. It would be four years later that she found herself divorced as a single mother working as a maid in a hotel in Miami Beach. Her toils never ceased but her strength and determination never diminished. Today, she lives with her eldest daughter, four grandchildren and three great-grandchildren in Ormond Beach, Florida. A true role model and Amazing Senior, she showed bravery in her actions and continues to educate others on the dangers of communism and what happened to her in Cuba. These women, despite their hardships, have persevered and came out stronger. It is no different with the pandemic and all it has done to the world, but they are staying strong! Let these women inspire you to keep going and feel motivated to stay strong no matter what is happening.
There aren’t many Americans who can say they have jumped out of airplanes to fight for America’s freedom. Not only that, but to have served in the Army for almost 30 years, fought in combat as a Ranger and went from being a private to retiring as a full-bird Colonel. A true hero, Col. Juan Armando Montes was born to be a military man and destined to command hundreds of troops. Born in Cuba on October 27, 1936, Juan grew up with a hardworking father and loving mother. His father, Juan Sr., worked in many lines of business while getting his education, such as moving storage, owning a shark fishing industry and other jobs. Juan’s parents pushed him to be a scholar as well, and he eventually graduated magna cum laude with a B.A. from La Luz College in Havana, Cuba. He later obtained his Civil/Criminal Law Juris Doctor from Saint Thomas Villanova Catholic University, also in Havana. Although he was a successful scholar, there was always a part of him that was enamored with the idea of being in the military. He was exposed at a young age to war movies with German and American paratroopers and John Wayne movies with war heroes. Little did he know that he would need to escape Cuba years later when Fidel Castro took over. With the fire inside him to be a fighter and a newfound reason to fight, he found his passion in the U.S. Army when President Kennedy created the Cuban combat assault “Brigade 2506,” to fight in the Bay of Pigs, Cuba. A true military man, Juan devoted his life to serving the new country that provided a haven for him and his family after Fidel Castro made life too difficult to live in his home country. Moving to Miami in 1960 with a wife and two young daughters was already a difficult task, but to work for $56 a week as a dishwasher and live in a hotel for 42 days was an even bigger burden. The military is what he was destined for—he served in a variety of divisions from being a ranger in direct action missions to being a part of the special forces and training civilians to fight for their own countries. While being a part of the famous 82nd Airborne Division as an officer in the All-American Division, he was required to be ready deployed by air within four hours along with 16,000 other paratroopers and be ready to fight on arrival. Under President Johnson, he was a part of the April 1965 invasion of the Dominican Republic. Juan commanded troops during difficult missions. During that time, he stayed true to who his father raised him to be—a moral man who treats others as he would like to be treated. He also worked with integrity, as he was taught that it’s important to do the work even when no one is looking. As a part of the Green Beret Special Forces for 25 years, his commitment to integrity never wavered. He has always been an incredible leader who needed to handle troops, their families and any problems along the way. During his time in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia, he gained the trust of the natives, using the things they use and learning their way of life. It was a humbling experience for him, but he knew it was his destiny. In the 70s, he lived in Nicaragua; he was a major assigned as a training officer to the US MILGP in Managua, Nicaragua, attaché to the US Embassy. A true military man with unwavering faith and respect for all people, he won many awards for his service. In order of importance of merit, he has received the Legion of Merit, four Bronze Stars, the Meritorious Service Medal, six Air Medals, the Joint Service Commendation Medal, three Army Commendation Medals, the Army Good Conduct Medal and the Vietnam Cross of Gallantry with Palm for valor in combat in 1971. Additional badges and tabs obtained were the Combat Infantryman Badge “CIB” (awarded during the 1965 invasion to the Dominican Republic as Recon Platoon Leader) and the 2nd Battalion 325th Infantry 82nd Airborne Division as ordered By President Lyndon B. Johnson in honor of a successful mission in freeing the Dominicans from Cuban-Communist Oppression. He was also awarded US Master Parachutist Wings (with total jumps over 100 while a part of the “Centurion 82nd Airborne Division, All American” from Fort Bragg, NC, 1965-1968 (where he earned several jump wings), Vietnamese Special Forces, Vietnamese Special Forces Master Parachute Wing (Vietnam 1971), Bolivian Special Forces Master Parachute Wing, Cochabamba (Cite) Bolivia 1971, the Spain Master Halo Parachute Wing, the Halo Jump Record for High Altitude Low Opening 28,500′ (at Valladolid, Spain 1978), the Parachute Rigger Wings (Ft Lee, Va. 1965), the Pathfinder Badge (Ft. Benning, Ga. 1966), the US “Ranger” Tab (Ft. Benning, Ga. 1964) and US Special Forces, “Green Beret” (Ft, Bragg, Nc.. 1970). In addition to his many medals, badges and tabs, he graduated from the U.S. Armed Forces Staff College in 1978 and the U.S. Army Command & General Staff College in 1979. A visitor to his home will see a mini museum filled with war memorabilia, photos of him with various politicians and his many awards. Juan is now retired. He and his wife live in a beautiful lakefront home in Miami, where he enjoys kayaking and taking it easy. As an 84-year old disabled combat veteran, he keeps looking forward, strong in his faith and sure of his purpose in life. Juan does not let his disability keep him down; he is determined to live to see 100 years of age! Even after everything he has been through, Juan states “being a Ranger and having to be in a sleeping bag in negative 75-degree weather brought me the perspective to know what life is all about”. He believes “people complain about so many trivial things, but [we] need to understand how good it is to be living in the United States in freedom, justice and prosperity.” Juan’s life exemplifies courage. It illustrates that even though we go through bad things, it is important to overcome and persevere like an obstacle in combat and to bypass it, however possible, while praying to God.
At first chat with Joe Ferchak, you might think he was a typical Northeasterner who decided to retire to Florida to get away from the cold weather. While Florida’s sunshine was a factor, it doesn’t compare to the magical world that really drove him and his family to move to Central Florida. Joe grew up in Jersey City, NJ, but visits to his family’s summer cabin in the country cemented his love of nature and wildlife. He moved to a small town in Northern New Jersey during his first marriage, and raised two daughters in an idyllic wooded setting. At home, he was a loving father who tended to his family and his 58 acres of land with horses and a variety of rescue animals. Joe was also a police officer, specializing in narcotics and undercover work, a career that followed him to upstate New York after his first divorce and second marriage. His love of nature and animals followed him too—his home in upstate New York was on 58 acres, where he and his second wife raised horses. Upon his retirement and second divorce, Joe found himself in Central Florida, less than two hours from his daughters, with whom he is very close. Florida also brought new love to his life—his partner in life and business, Gloria, a retired nurse. Joe’s home has always been his sanctuary while his job was fit for someone who can stay calm in the face of danger. A narcotics cop for his entire career, Joe worked undercover busting drug dealers and making the streets of New Jersey and New York safer. “I was a chameleon,” he said. “I was a great actor that was able to do drug deals undetected and then leave those situations at work and come home to never speak about it.” Even though Joe witnessed situations you only see on television, he never let it get to him and he never took it home with him. His strength, loving family, rescue animals and hobbies were what kept him levelheaded. Being a cop is a difficult job no matter where you live or what time it is. For Joe, undercover deals could have easily gone wrong, or gangs could have placed a bounty on his head for putting valuable dealers in prison. He’s seen it happen to friends but throughout his 33 years, he never had an issue. He attributes it to his being respectful of people and always trying to calm a situation down before putting handcuffs on anyone. For the people he did put in prison, he always saw them as people who could turn their life around if they wanted to. A few of them would call him out of nowhere asking for a job after doing their time and changing for the better. Instead of ignoring the request or dismissing the call, he would vouch for them to help. He believes anyone can have a redemption story and if he can do anything to help, he will. Throughout his time as a narcotics cop and deputy sheriff, Joe stayed grounded with the help of his family and rescue animals. He has always had horses and now he now has two dogs, three cats and a peacock that all get along with each other. Rescuing animals and keeping them as pets has relaxed him and kept him disciplined. “If I’m even ten minutes late to feed the horses, they start mumbling and complaining, so it keeps me accountable,” said Joe. Living on a farm in the middle of Florida means there are chores every day, from mowing the lawn to keeping the fence intact and maintaining the property. This keeps Joe active and busy which is fundamental to who he is. While this may seem like more than enough work to do for a man and his wife, these all barely scratch the surface. Joe’s true passion lies within the world of antiques from the 1800s. He has collected hundreds of antiques throughout the years storing them in storage units and a warehouse to hold overflow. Every day, he preps an antique before sending it to Wren’s Nest, his and Gloria’s antique store in Micanopy, FL. Once he’s done with one, he pulls another from the warehouse to prep it. If he sees an authentic piece at an auction or estate sale, he’ll buy it and refurbish it enough to resell it to a nearby antique store. He makes sure they have dovetail drawers, wavy single pane glass and other features he has learned about over the course of more than 30 years. The best part for him is that he doesn’t do it alone—his forever partner, Gloria, is there by his side, keeping life and their relationship fun and interesting. Joe’s lighthearted personality and passion for a variety of things has made retirement enjoyable. “In my head, I’m 18 years old,” says Joe. “You’re only as good as a piece of paper.” His daughters keep life interesting as well. Both have followed in his footsteps in different ways. The older one has an online antique and vintage clothing shop, while the younger is a K-9 trainer and guard with a major theme park. Both have their own rescue animals as pets and can often be found rescuing injured and abandoned animals throughout Orlando. “My two daughters both love animals, domestic and wild, I’m proud and happy to say. They have cared and rescued many through the years.” Joe loves to meet people from all over the world like Switzerland and Great Britain through his antique business and he loves working with his wife. Living in the Ocala area has been a dream for him and his wife because they love the town and its history. As an antique destination with a famous reputation, they feel right at home. Joe’s active lifestyle, unique passion and long life full of respect and love are what we think makes Joe an Amazing Senior. Visit Joe and Gloria at Wren’s Nest, located at 302 NE Cholokka Blvd., Micanopy FL 32667. Do you know an Amazing Senior you would like to see in our next issue? Let us know! Email us at email@example.com.
Imagine being born in a country where your rights are limited and your freedom is non-existent. Maria was born in 1952 on the beautiful and colorful island of Cuba. She was raised by her dutiful grandmother, Magdalena Perez. By the time she was seven years old, dictator Fulgencio Batista had been overthrown by the young Cuban revolutionist, Fidel Castro. During the first few months of his reign as Prime Minister, the island seemed to be prospering. The people were happy and life on the island was finally looking up. But it didn’t take long for Castro’s reign of terror to spread. After a few weeks in office, Cuba’s new leader began his campaign of repression. Laws that hindered freedom of speech and fundamental rights were strictly enforced. There were surveillance teams in each pueblo, and military force was used to ensure compliance. The streets were littered with anxiety, fear, and snitches. No one spoke out or trusted anyone, not even long-time friends. As time pressed and life became worse, Maria’s grandmother sought a chance for a new life. Hope came knocking in 1968. Magdalena received an approval letter for her visa to the United States. The family rejoiced! Finally, someone had the chance to escape the nightmare they were living in. Since Magdalena was the primary caretaker of Maria and her older brother Orlando, they were also approved for visas. Both teenagers were thrilled at the chance of freedom. But then the military came looking for Orlando. Maria’s brother had turned 17 that year. According to Cuban law, once he reached the age of 17, he was automatically enlisted in the military. So, the day came when Castro’s troops arrived and took Orlando away. As sad as it was, Maria’s grandmother made the sacrifice of leaving Orlando and her family behind. She had to give Maria a chance for a new life. The pair left Cuba, arrived in the sunny ports of Miami and made their way to New York City. Maria enrolled at a local high school, and her grandmother began working right away. Maria focused on her studies while her grandmother did her best to make ends meet, but it wasn’t enough. Times were tough, and money was tight. So, Maria decided to leave school and help her grandma by getting not one, but two jobs! They worked side by side every day and helped each other in every way they could. During the day, the pair would work at a button making factory and at night they would clean offices. Throughout those early years, Maria worked several odd jobs. She worked as a third-shift security officer and even as a babysitter for her boss’ children. Maria kept this pace going for five years, sometimes working three jobs to survive! A few years later, she landed a better paying job at a makeup factory, met a military man and fell in love. In 1977, she had a beautiful baby boy named Erik. Erik was the apple of Maria’s eye. From the moment he was born, everything she did was for her sweet boy. She began to study English. Her studies helped her land a job in an American banknotes’ factory. After some time, Maria split from Erik’s father and took sole responsibility for raising her son. She worked hard, put him through private school and did her best to be a wonderful mother. When asked about her greatest achievement in life, she answered, “Being able to raise my son and watching him become an amazing man is my biggest achievement. I have no complaints about him. He is an incredible businessman and an outstanding father.” In 1995, Maria transferred her job in New York City down to Florida to be with her newly married son. As the years went on, she followed in her grandmother’s footsteps and raised two wonderful granddaughters as her own. After 30 years of service for the United States Post Office, she retired at 66. Today she is surrounded by her loving family and living a peaceful life in the sunshine state. Maria is a living example of the American Dream. She is a proud Cuban American with a heart of gold, who turned her disadvantages into fuel for a better life. Her life serves as a testimony for her family of what it means to work hard, carry yourself with honor and never give up. She is always there for the people she loves and is now extending the ladder to a new generation. When asked what advice she could give to others, she responded, “You have to fight to achieve what it is you want from life. If you want to live a good life tomorrow, you have to work for it today.” Our team is honored to have Maria Chaviano as this Summer’s Amazing Senior! Your story is inspiring and an amazing illustration of a life well-lived. What an Amazing Senior!
Mirta Ramos has experienced love, pain, fear, separation and a reunion. She grew up as an only child in Havana, a vibrant city filled with culture, music, nightlife and tight-knit neighborhoods, one that went from a democracy to communism in her lifetime. Her father traveled to the United States regularly for business and came home with stories about the country located just 90 miles across the Florida straits. Although she had never been there, it was a place she wanted to see. She deeply loved her homeland. But that changed dramatically in 1959, when Mirta was only 23 years old. Fidel Castro took power after a military coup, and life was never the same. Her father lost his restaurant to the regime. Mirta’s closest friendship ended when her best friend became a government “snitch.” Food dwindled. Meat became a rare commodity and life as she knew it was lost forever. “The first year Fidel Castro was in power, he denied he was a communist,” the now 84-year-old Floridian said. “The first thing he did was get rid of Christmas. He said it was the era of America. Americans were bad.” It was not long until businesses and homes were taken, banks were guarded by the military and people’s funds were confiscated, all for the so-called good of the government. Mirta saw grocery stores disappear, replaced strict food rationing. Basic toiletries were non-existent. Waiting in line for life’s necessities were the new normal. Things became even more tense in 1962, when the Russians came to build missile bases. Her family, like hundreds of others in Cuba, lived in constant fear as Castro’s power as a dictator grew unchecked. At night, with the curtains drawn, Mirta’s father would turn on the radio to hear Voice of America. The family huddled around the speaker; the volume had to be kept as low as possible because if anyone knew, Mirta and her family would be thrown in jail. Families began to be separated, a memory that still sparks anger in Mirta. That, she says, was the tipping point—she knew her family, which now included her husband and two daughters, had to get out of Cuba. Getting out took eight years, even with visas from several countries. Mirta vividly remembers the day they left. She had one outfit in a bag as she boarded the plane. She told her mother to look down at Cuba as they took off, “because she would never see it again.” “My husband and two daughters, nine and 11, went to Miami, and my mother, Maria, and I went to Spain,” she says. “We had no money, no food, no freedom and no future. I told him to take the girls with him for a better life.” Mirta and her mother spent eight months living in a single room in Madrid. Mirta had a Cuban visa and could not work in Spain, so they depended on money sent by her husband. Finally, Mirta and her mother made it to the United States and were reunited with the rest of the family. Four years after arriving in America, Mirta was a divorced single mother working as a maid in a hotel in Miami Beach. But her strength and determination never diminished. In 1978, she took the oath to become an American citizen. She finally found a place she could call home. Today, Mirta lives in Ormond Beach with her eldest daughter, Ileana Cantillo. She has four grandchildren and three greatgrandchildren, and she enjoys reading and keeping up with current events. “She is truly a role model,” says Ileana. “She’s so brave. She let us go with my father not knowing if she would ever see us again. That’s unbelievable. I don’t know if I could have done that.” Mirta also works to educate others on the dangers of socialism and communism, including making sure her family never forgets what happened to their homeland. She has never returned to Havana. “I miss my country,” she admits. But she does not miss the regime or the people who created it. “Once I left Cuba that day on my way to Spain, I knew [my Cuba] was gone forever.” To those who are lucky to know Mirta, she is an amazing woman. She is strong, focused on making a better life for those she loves. She did not allow the actions of a dictator change her. She is a proud Cuban American, a mother and mother-in-law, grandmother and great-grandmother, and a true friend to many. Mirta Ramos is not just an Amazing Senior—she is truly an amazing human being! OurSeniors.net Magazine would like to thank Sandra Bush for her assistance with this article.
Stories from veterans are some of our favorites at OurSeniors.net, as each story is unique from others and all experiences are one of a kind. That’s why our Amazing Senior for this issue is Jerome (Jerry) Krueger, along with his wife Esther Krueger. They have been married for 72 years and moved to Daytona Beach to live closer to family in the area. These two have stayed active since they met in 1946, with a life full of extraordinary careers behind them and now, a busy schedule working with WISE (Wisdom In Senior Education) at Daytona State College. Jerry is also treasurer of Temple Israel in Ormond Beach. Jerry is a WW2 veteran who served in the Army Air Corps as a flight radio operator. He started in Miami, FL, for testing, flew to Sioux Falls, SD, for radio school, then to Long Beach, CA, to wait for assignment. He flew overseas to Australia for delivery of new aircraft. From there, he received orders for overseas assignment in Burma (now Myanmar), where his unit was responsible for flying fuel to China to supply the Flying Tigers and other aircraft to Kunming. His training and service earned him the Air Medal for flying 450 hours the Distinguished Flying Cross for flying more than 600 hours, as well as a medal from the Chinese government to honor his service. When the war ended in 1945, he had just two years of college under his belt. Through the GI Bill, he was able to attend Rutgers University Law School on an accelerated program that allowed him to obtain his law degree in two years. During this time, his aunt met the mother of his future wife Esther, who provided her number to him. Esther was a Cadet nurse who had trained to be a registered nurse during the war. A week later, Jerry’s brother had tickets to a Dinah Shore show in New York City but required Jerry to bring a date. He decided to call Esther to see if she would join him. She said she would only go if he met her in person, so he went to the hospital where she was working in New Jersey. They walked around the grounds during her break that day. This day marked the beginning of their seven-decade relationship. The two were married in 1947 and had their first child in 1948. After working in a law firm for two years, Jerry decided to start his own practice in Linden, NJ, with a close friend. Esther’s sister lived there, and he was able to buy a house under the GI Bill. The couple had two more children. During this time, Esther went back to school to get her BA degree and taught at Jersey City State college. She received her master’s at Montclair State College and doctorate at Columbia University. She taught at Kean University in New Jersey, later retiring in 1965. While working at his private practice, Jerry was asked to run for councilman of Linden, NJ; he won the position and served for two years. He was then elected as President of the City Council and later was elected to the State of New Jersey legislature for a year. With this experience, he became the city attorney for the city of Linden for almost 30 years while still maintaining his private practice. Jerry retired just three years ago at the age of 91. After retiring, this pair never stopped staying active in the community. Taking experience from working with Union College in New Jersey on the Learning is Forever program for seniors, the couple helped start WISE at Daytona State College, which meets every week with speakers discussing important topics. The group has more than 125 people who attend every week on Tuesdays. When the couple is not working on obtaining new speakers and meeting with the group, they are in contact with their three children, seven grandchildren, and six great-grandchildren. Although they do not travel much anymore, they spent time traveling all over the world for many years. On their 50th anniversary, they took the Semester at Sea voyage which traveled to South Africa, India, China, Vietnam, Malaysia, and Japan. The key to a healthy and happy life and marriage, Jerry says, is to “have love, mutual respect, encourage each other in whatever they want to do, meet new people, enjoy your relatives and friends, engage in meaningful activities and stay involved with your community.” Recently, Jerry was presented with an award for being one of the oldest surviving Jewish war veterans in the Daytona Beach area. All in attendance of the ceremony would agree that this moment was special, and that Jerry and Esther are an inspiration to all.
Cheryl Jenkins’ bubbly personality makes her one of those people who never meets a stranger. But it’s Cheryl’s reaction to adversity that makes her an Amazing Senior. When life presents an obstacle, she researches and takes action. Cheryl’s actions take the form of helping others in similar situations. She has done this through writing and through advocacy for a local non-profit. Cheryl grew up in Ohio and attended Youngstown State University. Her first career was in government security. She worked at Rockwell International for nearly 10 years, then went on to become an Administrator for Security and Export Control at United Space Alliance. Cheryl moved to Florida in the 1980s, and she has called Florida home ever since. Cheryl spent 23 years in aerospace, leaving the space program in 2011 when the shuttle was retired. She decided to go into real estate. Her outgoing personality is one of the qualities that make her the successful real estate consultant she is today. Winner of the “Pride in Profession” award, Cheryl has been a member of the Honor Society of the New Smyrna Beach Board of Realtors. She also served as the treasurer and is currently serving on the Board of Directors. Diabetes is a subject that is dear to Cheryl. At the age of 51, Cheryl was diagnosed with insulin-dependent type-1 diabetes (T1D). After dealing with the emotional and physical toll of such a diagnosis, Cheryl delved into research, learning all she could about the disease. After learning about Help a Diabetic Child Foundation, Cheryl set out to develop a division in Volusia county. There is a significant population of children diagnosed with T1D whose parents are unable to afford the costly supplies. This non-profit organization connects with families and physicians, purchasing insulin and other diabetic medical supplies for children in need of short-term assistance. Cheryl is the Director of Operations for Help a Diabetic Child Volusia County division. The organization sponsors fund-raising events and outreach programs throughout the year and is funded through donations. To learn more about the organization or to make a donation, visit https://helpadiabeticchild.org/volusia-county-division/ Just prior to being diagnosed with T1D, Cheryl found her life turned upside down. Her elderly mother—who still lived in Ohio—had fallen and needed major medical help. Cheryl immediately flew to Ohio to be with her mother. The injuries and general health were such that her mother would need a long hospital stay and rehabilitation. Medical professionals recommended that she would not be stable enough to live independently any longer. Cheryl began the daunting task of sorting her family’s lifelong belongings—not just her mother’s, but her father’s and also items belonging to her younger brother, both of whom previously passed away. The decision was made to move her mother from her home of 50 years. Over the course of 30 days and with Cheryl trying to keep a semblance of order in her own life, she was able to move her mother to Florida and sell the family home so she could be nearby for any needs. Cheryl’s way of dealing with this life challenge took an unexpected turn. While many people would feel overwhelmed, Cheryl took this as an opportunity to share her story and help others who find themselves in a similar situation. Cheryl wrote a book, entitled She Just Wanted To Dance Again, which chronicles her journey through caring for her elderly mother. The first part of the book reads like a memoir, where the reader is privy to some details about Cheryl’s younger life. But it doesn’t stop there. Cheryl included some practical advice in the book. There are lists and resources. She explains what she learned from her own experience. The book is available through Amazon https://www.amazon.com/She-Just-Wanted-DanceAgain/dp/1440107750. Cheryl’s reaction to adversity is what makes her an Amazing Senior. She is inspiring in the way she takes an obstacle in her life and turns it into an avenue to reach out and help others. OurSeniors.net Magazine and the OurSeniors.net organization are here to provide resources and serve the needs of seniors. Contact OurSeniors.net, or by calling 866-333-2657.
Many readers will remember Barbara Andersen from last year, when she was the Amazing Senior for the Spring 2018 Edition. We caught up with Barbara to find out what she has been up to since we last saw her. When Barbara was first featured in OurSeniors.net Magazine, readers learned that she showed tenacity from an early age. When plans for law school were thwarted by an injury that required an extended hospital stay as well as physical therapy, she began working on a new plan. Barbara took a position with a company in New Jersey. By the age of 24, Barbara had advanced to be the Corporate Executive Treasurer—the first female to advance to the corporate officer level at the firm and the youngest in the firm’s history to hold such a position. Barbara continued to be recognized for her accomplishments and leadership skills throughout a 20 year career with the company. Barbara decided on an early retirement from her first career so she could move to Florida with her husband. They came to Florida and settled in Palm Coast. Her first venture was at the Daytona Flea Market, where she marketed Fruit of the Loom products from several booths. Humorously, her biggest selling item in the Sunshine State was thermal underwear! Eventually, Barbara and her husband sold their flea market business and moved on to screen printing. While developing that business, she also began establishing herself as a licensed Realtor. When the screen-printing business was successful and was sold, she took the leap and became a full time Realtor, a career she continues in today. Barbara is currently a Broker-Associate at the Palm Coast office of Charles Umpenhour, Inc. This is Barbara’s 33rd year in real estate. Her success is due, in part, to her perseverance and hard work. But the real key to her success comes from the relationships she forms with her clients. Every client becomes a friend. Barbara always takes the extra step to help her clients. She puts herself in their place, and treats them just as she would like to be treated. Barbara’s sincerity in wanting to help people has created a large network of clients, but, just as important, many friendships. Besides being stellar in the business world, Barbara has always had a passion for cooking. She shares her love of cooking in a cookbook, Grandmom, Mom and Me – 3 Generations of Recipes. You can buy it directly from the author (and cook!) herself, and there’s good news—she is working on a supplement to the cookbook! Stay tuned to OurSeniors.net Magazine to find out when it becomes available. Barbara celebrated her 81st birthday on June 3, 2019. OurSeniors.net wishes her a very happy birthday and thanks her for being a role model and an inspiration. Barbara is proof that staying involved in life keeps us going strong at any age. To purchase Barbara’s cookbook, send a check or money order for $22.95 (that includes shipping) to B. Andersen, P.O. Box 350364, Palm Coast, Florida 32135. She can also be contacted by email: Bander@cfl.rr.com or via phone at 386-267-6884. OurSeniors.net Magazine and the OurSeniors.net organization are here to provide resources and serve the needs of seniors. Contact OurSeniors.net, or by calling 866-333-2657.
This issue’s Amazing Senior has been amazing audiences for decades, and she doesn’t let age stop her. Melanie LaJoie, director of A Magi Belly Dance in Orlando, is a truly amazing example of living life to the fullest. Melanie started dancing as a child in the Boston area, and she found belly dance through that. “I had been taking different styles of world dance as a young child, including doing folk dances from Lithuania at my elementary school, plus my father taught me Island dancing from his visits to those countries in World War II,” she explains. “Plus I had Tap & Jazz training. I saw a course offered in ‘Oriental Dance.’ It sounded intriguing. I was 17 [at the time] and signed up for that and martial arts, thinking they were somehow related. As I stepped into my first class in this genre, I knew it was as a part of my DNA, which it is, and have been hooked since then—47 years later!” Years of dance training turned into a very successful career for Melanie, who has performed all over the world—Morocco, the Caribbean, Europe and Egypt, to name just a few. She has danced for the rich and famous: Steven Spielberg, Paul Newman, Patrick Swayze, Rosie O’Donnell, Alice Cooper and Deepak Chopra. In addition, she assists other dancers in bookings at theme parks, for parties and more. She is a producer and choreographer, as well as a dancer. Twenty-five years ago, Melanie decided to make an even bigger mark in Orlando and encourage more people to try belly dance. She opened A Magi Belly Dance, now one of the most respected dance studios in the area. At A Magi, students of all ages and skill levels are welcome, from children to seniors. In fact, belly dance can be especially beneficial for seniors, according to Melanie. “[Belly dance] is a natural form of dance exercise that works on toning/strengthening all muscles plus it’s a cardio workout. Anyone of any age can do it!” she says. “Dance is a creative outlet and a great way to exercise for health and fitness for all ages: young and old. As I teach Belly Dance as a Physical Education course at Valencia College, over these years I have explored how to teach where there is no joint pain and developed leg positions/stances and proper posture with joint alignment that utilizes the supportive muscles for ease of movement. When everyone is in the proper position, there are no joint issues or pain. I have seen some of my older students do just as well as the younger students!” Melanie also loves the social aspects of belly dance, having made many close friends over the years through the dance community. She believes that to be another wonderful aspect of this art form. “People of all ages do belly dance in the Middle East, especially at weddings and other festive occasions. Because of its worldwide popularity, many people love to join in with the belly dance to do joyful shimmies at parties, young and old!” Reaching the Golden Years has changed some things for Melanie, which she understands. But rather than letting that get her down, she has found ways to continue her own journey while passing knowledge and opportunities to others. She teaches at Valencia College and does all she can to help fellow dancers and students. “I excuse myself from some shows, especially theme park and corporate events because the clients expect youthful dancers,” she explains. “Since I train some dancers to become professional, I book them for those type of events but feel like I’m helping other dancers realize their dreams and goals, like watching a butterfly emerge from the cocoon. It’s quite an uplifting feeling!” As if that wasn’t enough, Melanie is also an avid martial arts enthusiast, another pastime she found through dance. “I wanted to learn Chinese Dance, but found Kung Fu instead,” she says. “I have been training the last 17 years at Wahlum Kung Fu [in Orlando].” Her dedication has paid off wonderfully—Melanie has four gold medals from the International Chinese Martial Arts Tournaments. We are proud to feature Melanie as our Amazing Senior. She is proof that age doesn’t have to slow you down. We are excited to see more incredible things from Melanie and all of her students. Keep on dancing! If you wish to learn more about bellydancing, visit www.amagibellydance.com.
If you were lucky enough to read the first edition of our senior lifestyle magazine, OurSeniors.net Magazine, you probably recall that issue’s Amazing Senior, Mr. Tom Yarbrough. If you missed it, you can still read “Mr. Tom Yarbrough, A True Young Senior.” When that article was written, Tom was a young 85, enjoying his life after two full careers, one in the United States Navy and a second at Daytona Beach Community College (now Daytona State College). He rode around town on his classic Ducati motorcycle, a machine that came all the way from Bologna, Italy. At 85, Tom was living proof of the old adage “You are only as old as you think you are!” He was showing the world that working hard, staying involved in the things that interest us, and being engaged with friends and family really does keep you young. And he was a great advertisement for the senior lifestyle we have in Florida, the state with the highest concentration of seniors in the United States! It was a senior living dream in our great state. Well, today things have changed. Tom no longer sports around town on his classic Italian Ducati. He traded it in for a new machine, an Indian motorcycle made right here in the USA. He’s had one more birthday, making him a young 86 now, but he’s still the same active, healthy, engaged senior today as he was in the winter of last year. Most days, he enjoys his healthy hike across the Granada Bridge, greeting fellow walkers and friends. But between then and now, Tom has had his share of ups and some downs, too! He had some real ups and downs during his time in the Navy. He was a crew member on a Douglas A-3 Skywarrior, the largest aircraft to ever fly from the deck of a carrier and an important piece of America’s defense strategy for years. The Skywarrior plane allowed for a bombing technique called “toss bombing,” in which the plane pulled sharply upward in order to “toss” its bomb load toward the target. It was an effective technique, but not something for the faint of heart. This amazing senior was one of the crewmembers who developed the impressive move. But that daredevil past was not as “heart-stopping” as a more recent event in Tom’s life. Shortly after appearing in the first edition of OurSeniors.net Magazine, the pacemaker that kept his heart in regular rhythm was no longer doing the job properly. As a result, Tom began to feel weak and breathless, and it seemed that his days of long walks and motorcycle rides might be coming to an end. Tom was hospitalized four different times over just a few months, including a bout with pneumonia. Things were looking very serious, but then one of modern medicine’s miraculous new inventions changed things. Tom was given a biventricular pacemaker, a small device that made a big difference in restoring normal rhythm to Tom’s ailing heart. And what a difference it made! Today, Tom is back to outpacing younger people, walking the bridge and the beach, and cruising the streets on his Indian. OurSeniors.net salutes Tom for his “can do, still young” attitude. At 86, Tom Yarbrough should be an inspiration to us all. He has shown us once again that we can stay young by getting good care, remaining involved in life and doing the things we love. That is what OurSeniors.net hopes to do for all seniors: help them keep that “can do, still young” outlook. Ride on, Tom!
Ourseniors.net Magazine has featured some truly “Amazing Seniors” in every one of its editions. Those great people have included men like Tom Yarbrough, an “eighty-something-” year old youngster who has retired from two careers and now rides around Daytona on his new Indian Motorcycle, and women like Barbara Anderson and Phyllis Lozeau, seniors who have had varied callings in their work and family lives, and still continue to be amazing in their Golden Years. This edition of Ourseniors.net Magazine features a dynamic duo of Amazing Seniors, John and Sue Natoli. The Natoli’s have a truly storied past in music and show business as performers, producers, entertainers and entrepreneurs, including working for decades with some of the top acts in show business. They’ve performed with Engelbert Humperdinck, Al Martino, Tony Bennett, Jay Leno, Billy Crystal and others. They have appeared in famous showplaces like Madison Square Garden, the Sahara Hotel, the Waldorf Astoria, Caesar’s Palace and the Playboy Club. These Amazing Seniors have a rich background in the music that seniors know, love and remember. They spent years as regulars in first-class venues, working with bands and vocal groups, several of which they organized. Susan is a great singer and John has a talent for arranging and producing music. He was a member of the house band for Waldorf Astoria for five years, performing every Friday and Saturday. This creative, wonderful life went on for decades, as they produced and performed over 4,000 shows throughout the world. When they decided to retire and move to Florida, they chose the central Florida community of Winter Garden, a growing suburb of Orlando. Many retired couples would be content to simply enjoy Florida’s happy senior lifestyle, but the Natoli’s are Amazing Seniors—they are always thinking of the future. And what a future it has turned out to be! John did some work at places like the Walt Disney World Dolphin Hotel, the Rosen Plaza and the Tupperware Convention Center, and then a two-year production stint at the Mount Dora Community Center. Then they decided on a really big leap, a new enterprise for the Natolis and a boon to seniors. That enterprise took shape in early 2017 when they purchased a Winter Garden event hall and began its transformation into a supper club and entertainment venue. John immediately recognized the potential of their new location. Located on Highway 50 near the Central Florida Expressway and the Florida Turnpike, this establishment was just a few miles from downtown Orlando, I-Drive and Walt Disney World. It was the perfect geography, but now John and Sue Natoli had to develop their dream, which they would call “Showcase WG,” a true entertainment showcase for Winter Garden. They got right to work, refurbishing the facility with crystal chandeliers, upgrading the kitchen and bar area, putting in a $50,000 sound system and reworking the stage. John’s intent was to create a facility that was not merely a fantastic setting for weddings and other events, but to fashion a home for Broadway-caliber shows by Just Us Orlando Productions, the Natoli’s own production company. He wanted to bring back the “Rainbow Room” and “Copacabana” type of entertainment that will be so familiar to our seniors. Now, the couple have Showcase WG, a beautifully decorated facility with the best in lighting and sound systems and a large dance floor. It truly brings “Affordable Elegance” and world class performers to the metro Orlando area. John is especially proud of applying his digital music talents to Showcase WG. He has been in the digital music business for more than 20 years and states, “There are maybe 200 people in this country who can do what I do. With digital music, it sounds like 60 people, but there are just three!” He can take all the parts of an orchestra and electronically put them together, creating the sound of a room full of musicians. If the audience wants Big Band, John and his digital magic can make it happen. If they want “oldies,” he can bring the sixties back to life (he had years of experience with Dick Clark Productions). Do you want a Last Tango? It’s no problem. The Showcase WG is a treasure for all of Florida’s seniors, so check it out at www.showcasewg.com. Besides the regular dining and dancing, you will see coming events like tributes to past greats, such as the Beatles and Elvis, and the Showcase WG Cirque-E-Musica. Ourseniors.net salutes John and Sue Natoli for their look-tothe-future attitude. They are an inspiration to us all, showing us how to stay young and involved in life, doing the things we love. That is what Ourseniors.net hopes to do for all seniors: help them always look to the future, keeping that “can do” outlook. Want to visit Showcase WG? Give them a call at 407-598-8014. Our senior living magazine, OurSeniors.net Magazine and the OurSeniors.net organization exist to serve the needs of seniors in all areas. That includes the world of opportunities open to seniors, as well as the challenges like finding in home senior care, senior assisted living, senior home care or active senior communities. You can contact Ourseniors.net by clicking on the link, or view an online version of our senior living magazine, OurSeniors.net Magazine. As always, you may contact our office and professional staff by phoning OurSeniors.net at 866-333-2657 or by using our Contact Page.
Raising a family and maintaining a successful marriage is an accomplishment in and of itself. This month’s Amazing Senior, Phyllis Lozeau, managed both for an astonishing 61 years—that’s 61 years of marriage, six children, nine grandchildren, and seven great-grandchildren—despite a heavy burden of challenges. Phyllis and Robert met when they were teenagers. “I was 16 years old; he was 17,” she says. “He and his friend were watching the skaters at the roller skating rink when he [saw me and said], ‘I am going to marry that girl!’” And indeed, he did, just one week after Phyllis graduated with her RN in nursing. Phyllis was trained as a registered nurse, specializing in obstetrics. But most of the first part of her married life was spent caring for her home and children, and assisting Robert in his pool business near their home in New Hampshire. Unfortunately, hard times hit. “Robert was building close to 100 swimming pools a year,” she explains. “[Then] in the 1980s, our production went from 100 pools down to seven in one season.” After 28 years in business, bankruptcy was the only option. “Our horses were given away to good homes, our furniture placed in storage, our business location and all the equipment and contents of the stores were sold at auction,” she says. They lost their home as well, so the heartbroken family decided to move south. “We arrived in Florida with our clothes and a paid-for auto. [Robert] had to drive back to get our German shepherd because [the dog] kept running back home,” she says. The family started over. Phyllis took on her own new challenges too. “I studied for real estate and sold homes for Century 21. I was licensed for sale of annuities, life and health insurance, mortgages, and securities (mutual funds) with Primerica Financial Services,” she says. “I held seven different licenses in the state of Florida and simultaneously taught agents the required continuing education for insurance.” She also worked two to three days a week at a local hospital. Later, when Robert quit the pool business for good, Phyllis returned to being a full-time nurse, eventually becoming charge nurse. In 2012, things took a difficult turn. Robert had open-heart surgery, and soon Phyllis noticed changes in his personality. “[There was] increased shortness with grandchildren, but I dismissed it and commented to him that he was beginning to act like a ‘grumpy old man’, which was unlike him,” she says. The personality changes didn’t stop, however, and it soon became too much to ignore. Phyllis insisted on a visit to a neurologist. “When he failed all [the doctor’s] questions, my heart sank.” Robert had Alzheimer’s Disease. Phyllis took on this new challenge with the same dedication she gave to every aspect of her life. When she grew dissatisfied with standard medications, she researched alternative ways to enhance his treatment and do what she could to improve things. It was not easy. Alzheimer’s is a progressive debilitating disease that is difficult to live with for both patient and caretaker. “My only goal was to prevent confinement to a nursing home which we could not afford nor would he tolerate well,” she says. “Change is not good for [Alzheimer’s] patients.” Over the months and years, small victories kept hope alive. “He never forgot who I was,” she says. “I still can hear him calling [my name]. It still brings the deluge of tears.” Robert passed away in November of 2016, but not before one final victory “[It was] May 7, 2016,” Phyllis recalls. “He gave [our] daughter away [at her wedding]. I cried watching him come down the aisle in his tuxedo, so proud. That was a memorable day.” Phyllis’ experiences eventually led her to write a book that she hopes will help others. She self-published Married to a Stranger: An Alternative Approach to Simply Coping with Alzheimer’s Disease in January 2016, while she was still helping her husband and family cope. “One of our daughters knew I was logging what I was giving him and how he reacted. She commented, ‘Mom, you should write a book.’” And so Phyllis, never afraid of a new challenge, did. The book is now available on Amazon, a wonderful resource to help others in that difficult situation feel less alone. OurSeniors.net is proud to feature Phyllis this month. Her determination and faith is an inspiration, an amazing example of how to triumph over adversity, even when it breaks your heart. Phyllis took on every challenge and never gave up, and she continues to live her best life. “I guess you could say my passion is learning whatever tickles my fancy,” she says. “Now my hobbies [include] painting with oil paints, playing piano, sewing, reading, [and] knitting.”
Barbara Andersen would be an exceptional real estate professional and an outstanding person at any age, but she is those things and a very special senior too! Today, Barbara is an active, highly successful Broker Associate at Charles Umpenhour Realty in Palm Coast, Florida. However, this is only the tip of the iceberg in this remarkable woman’s career, spanning over four decades. After graduating from high school, Barbara worked for an attorney and real estate Broker while planning to attend law school. Those plans had to be put aside when she suffered an injury that required a long period of hospitalization and physical therapy. But you cannot keep a good woman down when they are determined to make a business career for themselves. Barbara was that type of “can do” person and in her early twenty’s, she went to work for a business firm in her home state of New Jersey. Two years later, Barbara was called into the corporate office and offered the position of Corporate Executive Treasurer. Impressive as this would be today, it was even more so at this time. At the age of 24, Barbara Andersen had become both the first female and the youngest corporate officer in this firm’s history. The people who believed in her were wise. During her twenty-year career with the company, Barbara distinguished herself repeatedly and her leadership and talents were recognized outside the firm as well. Barbara was included in Marquis Who’s Who in American Women 1975 -1978, as well as the Dictionary of International Biographies, and was a member of a NJ Bank Board of Directors. As a young woman, Barbara Andersen had already built an impressive resume in New Jersey’s business world, but after twenty years, she and her husband were hearing Florida call. She took an early retirement and moved to the little-known town of Palm Coast. Soon, Barbara found herself getting itchy to reenter the business world. Looking around, she found a nice little business in one of East Central Florida’s most beloved institutions, the Daytona Flea Market. That business came with a wholesale contract from Fruit of the Loom, America’s best-known maker of undergarments. Once again, Barbara succeeded. Fruit of the Loom sent two representatives down to Florida to find out how this southern outlet could be selling so much thermal underwear in the “Sunshine State.” Then, just as now, Barbara knew her customers and friends, and she sold them on the idea of buying thermals in Florida and shipping them back home to the north. A few years later, Barbara and her husband were offered a good price for the business and sold! Wanting to remain active, Barbara began to look around. She and her husband opened Graphic Impressions Screen Printing.
While still running this business, a good friend talked Barbara into getting a real estate license. Several years later, Barbara sold her second successful small business and took up the profession of real estate full-time. It was her fourth career and she was nowhere near finished! After working for Century 21 and several smaller local offices, she joined a Realtor friend, Charles Umpenhour, to become a Broker-Associate in his Palm Coast office. That’s where we find her today, happily pursuing her latest business career. Not simply a competent real estate expert, Barbara is a ‘people person.’ Her clients recall her by saying, “She is not only our Realtor in Florida, SHE IS OUR DEAR FRIEND “ or, “….it was like having a family member working for us.” But that is not all, folks! Barbara’s lifelong love of cooking has led her to write a cookbook titled, “Grandmom, Mom and Me – 3 Generations of Recipes.” You can buy a copy directly from Barbara by sending your order to: B. Andersen, P.O. Box 350364, Palm Coast, FL 32135 – The cost is $22.95 (including shipping). Barbara accepts payment with Checks, Money Orders, or Pay Pal. Her email address is Bander@cfl.rr.com. OurSeniors.net salutes Barbara for her “can do” attitude. She is an inspiration to us all, showing us how to stay young and involved in life, doing the things we love. That is what OurSeniors.net hopes to do for all seniors: help them keep that “can do” outlook. Our senior living magazine, OurSeniors.net Magazine and the OurSeniors.net organization exist to serve the needs of
seniors in all areas. That includes the world of opportunities open to seniors, as well as the challenges like finding in-home senior care, senior assisted living, senior home care or active senior communities. You can contact OurSeniors.net by clicking on the link, or view an online version of our senior living magazine, OurSeniors.net Magazine by clicking its link. As always, you may contact our office and professional staff by phoning OurSeniors.net at 866-333-2657 or by using our Contact Page.
Tom Yarbrough is not exactly your typical 85-year-old retiree. Tom still enjoys riding his classic Ducati motorcycle, a sleek machine that comes all the way from Bologna, Italy. When asked if he was still an active rider, Tom seemed amused by the question and replied, “I’m still young enough to ride!” Born 85 years ago in Gadsden Alabama, Tom attributes his continued youth, good health and ability to ride a motorcycle to a life time of hard work. At a young age, Tom moved to Coral Gables, Florida where he went to school. He had his first job at age 13, a paper delivery route for the Miami Herald. After school, he would help his uncle in a shoe store on Coral Gables’ famous Miracle Mile shopping strip. At the age of 18, he enlisted in the United States Navy where he spent 25 years in America’s service. During that career, he saw a lot of the world, including spending 3 years in the Philippines and a tour of duty at the old Sanford Naval Air Station, in near by Sanford, Florida. During his Navy career, Tom had a unique experience at the Naval Air Weapons Station (NAWS), known as “China Lake”, located in the Mojave Desert. America’s air forces, including the Navy’s aircraft carrier planes, were developing a bombing tactic called “toss bombing.” Also known by the official name of “Low Altitude Bombing System or LABS,” it was a method of bombing in which the attacking aircraft pulled upward when releasing its bomb load, giving the bomb a “toss” towards the intended target. The Navy used the tactic in its A3 Skywarrior, the largest aircraft to ever fly from the deck of a carrier and an important part of America’s defense strategy for years. It’s a tricky maneuver, intended to give the aircraft time to escape damage from the blast created by its own bomb load. It was effective, but not something for the faint-ofheart. Tom was a member of one of the air crews that developed it. After retiring from the Navy, Tom went back to school at Daytona Beach Community
College, now known as Daytona State College. He must have liked it, and the school must have liked him, because after graduation he stayed on as a full time employee until his second retirement. Employers know that military veterans like Tom are very likely to be loyal, dependable and talented workers. He had two satisfying careers, both jobs in which he served his country and fellow citizens. Tom is living proof of the old saying that, “You are only as old as you think you are”! He shows us that working hard, staying involved in the things that interest us and engaged with our friends and family keep you young. He also shows us that Florida is a wonderful place to retire, whether you are a veteran or not. Forget the stereotypes of forgetful, grumpy old guys. Most Americans age 50 and up say they feel younger than their age and that probably means that they feel pretty good. The next time you pass a yellow Ducati around Daytona or the Volusia area, wave! It may just be Tom Yarbrough out for a ride on his 86th birthday. Keep going, Tom! OurSeniors.net salutes Tom for his “can do, still young” attitude. Tom Yarbrough should be an inspiration to us all, especially our seniors and their loved ones. He shows us that we can stay young by remaining involved in life and doing the things we love. That is what OurSeniors.net hopes to do for all seniors: help them keep that “can do, still young” outlook. If you know of a senior who is an inspiration like Tom, let us know at OurSeniors.net. We want to tell the world about them! Our senior living magazine, OurSeniors.net Magazine might print their story, just as we are doing with Tom Yarbrough. OurSeniors.net exists to serve the needs of seniors and their loved ones in all areas. That includes the world of opportunities open to seniors as well as the challenges like finding in home senior care, senior assisted living, senior home care or
active senior communities. If you enjoyed this article, please share it with others, and consider giving us a review on Social Media. You can contact OurSeniors.net by clicking on the link, or view an online version of our senior living magazine, OurSeniors.net Magazine by clicking its link. As always, you may contact our office and professional staff by phoning OurSeniors.net at 866-333-2657 or by using our Contact Page.
Last A3 Skywarrior (largest aircraft to ever fly from a carrier) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e0DxAuidWI0Naval Air Weapons Station (NAWS) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o3l_D8vgJstibk