Editor’s Note: With Grandparents Day celebrated Sept. 13 this year, Wrangler News headed to Desert Marigold Senior Living of Tempe to catch up with an array of grandparents. The newly named facility, once known as Westchester Senior Living, is a longstanding fixture in the community.
Virginia Bresnehan remembers when the retirement community where she lives was first built 40 years ago. That’s when she lived half a mile away and become a regular volunteer. “I was here when it was Westchester and I started volunteering with a group from church. We put on the birthday parties over at the care center for over 30 years. I quit there just three years ago.”
The 92-year-old once worked for the Kyrene School District and is the mother of eight adult children. She’s also grandmother to 55 and offered sage advice to those new to the role of grandparent: “Just keep loving all of them. I don’t think anybody hates me and I think that’s very fortunate,” Bresnehan said with a grin.
Dave Dressel has two grandsons and two step-grandkids, a boy and a girl. He doesn’t get to see them as they live out of state, but he’s proud of them and says so, holding up a photo of one grandson’s Eagle Scout ceremony. “He’s 24 now and working on his doctorate at the University of Washington in cancer research.
Dresel’s best advice for being a grandparent? “Try to be a friend to them and create as many memories with them as you can. I remember taking them fishing on the Canyon River in Minnesota. This boy here,” Dresel says pointing to the framed photo, “caught a huge fish. It’s catch and release up there but we got a good photograph before we tossed it back.”
Lotti Hofsteter held up a photo of her two grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. She says she loves being a grandparent. “Everybody is so sweet and so good to me.” A resident of Desert Marigold for the last seven years, she says she doesn’t get to see her grandchildren very often since they live in Minnesota. Her advice for new grandparents is straightforward: “Just love the tar out of ‘em.”
Bobby Hoeck has two grandkids and great-grandchildren too, but they live in California. They connect with her via Facetime calls, including her in family celebrations. “They’ll call me so I can be with them to sing happy birthday and open presents. I can see their faces and I watched them look for eggs in their backyard at Easter.” The children are a joy, she says, adding that she lost her husband in January after 65 years of marriage.
“The funny thing is that I’m 88 now and I don’t have much energy. When I see these little girls, they are like Duracell bunnies, wandering around with just endless energy,”
Barbara Steinbeck is a grandmother to eight children and great-grandmother to several more. She doesn’t get to see the grandchildren and great-grandchildren often since they live in Oregon. She says she has special memories of the children as babies. Her best advice about grandparenting? “Just enjoy them,” she says with a knowing grin. “You know why grandparents and grandchildren get along so well? They share a common enemy!”
Wrangler News stalwart photographer, the eldest of a large family, considered Steinbeck’s theory and offered his take: “That may be true.”
Visitors limited due to COVID-19
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, visiting at Desert Marigold has some restrictions. Samantha Rector, Community Liaison Director, helped organize the early Grandparents Day celebration held outside in order to increase social distancing. Visiting is limited for residents of the memory care and assisted living units, she said. “In our independent living, however, family members have been able to visit while wearing face masks as long as they have no signs or symptoms,” Rector said.
Amador Ortega, Desert Marigold’s executive director, said there are changes ahead. “While we do offer three levels of care, we are excited to in the near future, expand our services and amenities to our residents.” Desert Marigold staff hopes to add additional services such as outpatient therapy.
“Our goal is grow our residents’ lifestyles and have them remain as independent as possible through the foreseeable future,” Ortega said.