Friendships are some of the most important relationships we will ever have in our lives. Since September is Friendship Month, we want to take a moment to share how friendships blossom and grow at Holly Hall Retirement Community. This month, we’re featuring three unique friendship stories from our residents–one that developed when residents worked together before coming to Holly Hall, one that grew out of family relationships over the years, and one between residents who met for the first time at Holly Hall.
Work Friends: Diana Bertrand and Ruth Moore
It was around 1968 when Holly Hall residents Diana and Ruth’s professional paths began to cross. Both women received their Bachelor’s degrees and worked as Medical Technologists. Diana, Ruth, their friend Patti Harrison, and other colleagues car-pooled to professional meetings across Texas. At various times, the friends served as local and state officers of the Medical Technology Society and were members of the Medical Center bowling league.
Their professional relationship gradually turned into a personal friendship. They both loved to travel and signed up for numerous adventures – northern Italy, a Baltic cruise, the St. Lawrence River, the Danube River, and even a cruise across the Atlantic from Barcelona to Galveston!
In 2013, after retiring, Diana moved to Holly Hall. She had no family to care for and wanted a safe and comfortable place where she could continue traveling. Patti Harrison joined her at Holly Hall in 2018 (sadly, she has since passed away). Ruth and Diana continued to see each other and travel together until finally, in 2021, Ruth decided that she, too, should move to Holly Hall. She had visited Diana and had attended an Open House before Covid shut those down.
Their last trip together was an Alaskan cruise in 2019, and they are not likely to take more, given their ages and the uncertainties of Covid. But the strong friendship that grew out of their shared profession continues at Holly Hall, where Diana and Ruth eat together, go to activities, and enjoy swapping tales about their trips and mutual friends.
Family Friends: Calista Schneidau and Anne Chatoney
Residents Calista Schneidau and Anne Chatoney became friends through their children around 1995 when Calista’s son Stephen began dating Anne’s daughter Mary. The large Schneidau family became so fond of Mary that they decided to ask her to marry them all if Stephen didn’t make a move soon! Stephen took the hint, and the couple married in 1997, much to the delight of both mothers. The combined families shared holidays, took beach vacations, celebrated birthdays and weddings, and attended cocktail gatherings. Anne says that Calista was always welcoming to her whole family.
In 2012, Anne’s husband became ill, and they both moved to Holly Hall Assisted Living, where he could receive palliative care. After he died, Anne left for a brief period but moved into Independent Living in 2013. In 2019, Calista also moved to Holly Hall, first into Independent Living and, more recently, into Assisted Living. She says it has been enormously helpful to have Anne here and assist her in adjusting to life at Holly Hall.
The Holly Hall connection extends further: resident Lucy Ruiz’s son Joseph is married to Calista’s daughter Lauri, so Lucy attends the same family functions as Calista and Anne. These relationships have led to multiple intertwining friendships among multiple generations of the Schneidau, Chatoney, and Ruiz families. How fortunate the many grandchildren and great-grandchildren are to be the beneficiaries of the love stories that came before them and to form friendships with aunts, uncles, and cousins!
New Friends: Sonia Townsend and Donna Coulson
Sonia Townsend moved to Holly Hall in 2016, briefly into healthcare after an accident, and now she resides in Independent Living. She didn’t know any residents but found it a friendly place. Sonia had led an eventful life – growing up in Austin, attending the University of Texas for a degree in fashion design, then to New York to the Parsons School of Design. She returned to Texas for a job at Houston’s new Sakowitz store, but she took a temporary position with Exxon and never gave fashion design another chance. Sonia had married “the boy next door,” whom she had known since they were eight. The couple adopted two at-risk infants. Sonia’s husband died when the boys were young, so she was a single working mother for years. By the time she retired, Sonia was administering a program that managed healthcare for 600 sailors on off-shore tankers and was ready for a quieter life when she moved to Holly Hall.
Meanwhile, Donna Coulson had led a relatively quiet life. She was brought up in Virginia in a large family of six children, then attended college in Florida to obtain a library science degree. In 2000, Donna moved to Houston to become the administrator of Houston Community College’s library systems. After retirement, many of her friends began to move away, and Donna realized that she would eventually need help as she aged. She had friends who had heard good things about Holly Hall, so she visited, saw an apartment, and thought it looked like home. Donna liked that it was not a high-rise, so she could look out her windows and see the trees and gardens. She moved into Independent Living in 2017.
Donna remembers meeting Sonia first at lunch, and Sonia remembers seeing Donna in their Independent Living cluster. Their schedules meshed, and they walked together to meals and activities. They gradually learned they liked many of the same things and had similar values, including a strong Christian faith. Donna says that her friendship with Sonia has been significant during this last year when three of Donna’s siblings died. Holly Hall brought Sonia and Donna together and enriched each other’s lives. But as Donna says, “Really, everybody at Holly Hall is a friend – that’s a benefit you don’t expect.”
Friendship month is a time to celebrate our friends and nurture the relationships important to our happiness and well-being. After all, studies have shown that close friendships can have several benefits, including improved mental health, increased life satisfaction, and even a longer lifespan. Schedule a tour for our Assisted Living or Independent Living to see just how friendships grow and add life to years at Holly Hall Retirement Community.