A Charmed Life–Harmony Hall
“That was a close shave I had,” recalled William (Bill) Thomas Applegate of his harrowing journey through thick fog in a plane running low on gas. It was a close call, but it wasn’t his only one.
Bill has lived what some would call a charmed life and readily admits his good fortune in avoiding or getting out of dangerous situations. He is also, at 93, vibrant and engaging. He may be charmed, but he is also enormously charming.
A resident of Harmony Hall, an assisted living community in Columbia, Md., owned by Lorien Health Systems, Bill is able to live an independent life with the security of knowing that assistance is available if he needs it. Bill moved to the community on a trial basis last year. After several months, he knew he had found his new home.
Harmony Hall offers delicious meals, exciting activities and fabulous amenities. For residents who need medical assistance, the facility has a variety of options, including in-house dialysis. The community also has an interest free home loan program that can make retirement living more affordable. Most importantly, Harmony Hall offers a caring and engaged staff; it is truly, “Where the heart is.”
“I knew this was where I should be,” Bill said. “I love all the things they offer here: side trips, entertainment options, and a Friday Happy Hour. I also love being close to my two grandsons and their families.”
Bill’s adventures began on his 21st birthday, when, without telling his mother, he and several friends headed down to the Naval Recruiting Office. “Four of us went down and took the physical, but they all flunked. I was the only one who passed,” Bill recalled. “Here I was thinking that I’m going off with my buddies, and now I’m going all alone.”
After enlisting for a six-year term, Bill boarded a boat and headed to basic training. “I ended up in Puerto Rico with a patrol squadron and eventually became part of an air crew as a radio and radar operator,” he said.
Bill spent a large portion of his service in the Caribbean. “Believe it or not, I saw more German submarines in the Caribbean than I did in Europe,” he noted.
He also experienced quite a few close calls. During one, a friend asked Bill to stand in for him on a scheduled trip to Rhode Island, so he could visit his family nearby. He agreed.
“Well, he flew up there, and they went out on patrol and disappeared. Vanished. Never found a trace of them. Now, I was supposed to be on that plane,” Bill said with wonder.
On another occasion, Bill again switched places with a fellow radioman. The plane crashed in a swamp in North Carolina, killing half the crew. “My friend survived, but he ended up in a full body cast,” he said. “Again, I thought, ‘I was supposed to be on that one.’”
The infamous journey through what he described as “pea soup” fog was yet another close call. The pilot was unable to see through the fog, the plane was running dangerously low on fuel, and Bill had already been told to put on his parachute, when they burst through the clouds and were able to land within minutes.
“After awhile, I began to think that I was like a cat with nine lives,” Bill said. “I was using them up awfully fast though!”
During his time in the military, Bill also had the good fortune to meet his wife. “I just had the feeling she was the right one,” he recalled. “That lasted for 52 years.”
After leaving the military, Bill pursued a much safer career: accounting. However, his good luck didn’t end when he entered banking. Thanks to a special retirement deal, he was able to leave his position as the Vice President of a bank at the age of 63 and live comfortably in retirement.
Bill and his wife moved to Florida after his retirement and lived there for several years before she passed away. After her passing, Bill continued to live alone in Florida, but his family grew increasingly worried about his safety. When his grandsons, Marc and Michael Applegate, found nearby Harmony Hall, they encouraged him to give it a try. Bill has never looked back.
“My grandsons have always had an important place in my life, and now I see them almost every weekend,” Bill said. “Last month, I went with Marc and his wife and kids to a Baltimore Orioles game. I hadn’t been to a baseball game in 40 years, so it’s wonderful to have these experiences with them.”
Marc couldn’t agree more. “We’ve always had a close relationship, and I love that he is close by now, and we can see him more frequently,” he said.
Marc and his brother also appreciate the peace of mind that comes from knowing that there is always someone looking out for Bill’s safety. “If there is ever any kind of emergency, we know that there is help nearby,” he explained.
In addition to bringing him closer to his family, the move to Harmony Hall has helped Bill build new friendships and pursue lifelong interests. He enjoys playing games and socializing with his fellow residents. He also plays the organ for his peers and now gets frequent requests for “concerts.”
“I am working on a new song now. They want another concert, so I’ve got to fulfill their wishes,” Bill said.
Bill doesn’t have many “close shaves” anymore, but he is still living a charmed life—and he’s just as charming as ever.