Newlyweds with a New Life: Continuing Care Communities

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old couple in loveWhen you meet Bill and Helen Hogeland in their attractively furnished cottage at Tel Hai Retirement Community, you would think they have been married for fifty or sixty years. They anticipate each other; one starts a sentence and the other one finishes it.

Nevertheless, they are practically newlyweds in the grand scheme of things, having married in 1993. The catch is, however, that they have known each other for most of their lives. Bill’s wife Esther was Helen’s best friend growing up. Helen’s husband Bob was Bill’s best friend. Both of their spouses died of cancer later in life and their friendship became a courtship and eventually a second marriage.

Bill was born on a ranch in Montana and as a youngster rode his horse to school. After his mother died, the four children went to live with their grandparents in Bucks County, PA, and he grew up on the family farm there. He graduated from Upper Southampton High School and then the University of Pennsylvania. He and his wife, Esther, settled in the area and had two children.

Bill went to work for American Viscose and was there for 36 years. After a company reorganization, he was left with the difficult prospect of finding new employment at 56; however, it did not take him long. He quickly found work with the Roy F. Weston Company, where he stayed for 15 years.

Helen was born and raised in Chester, PA, a town that has fallen on hard times in recent years but one she described as “a lovely place to grow up; they had a great school and teachers who cared,” she remembered.

This inspired Helen to attend West Chester State Teachers College. After graduating, she got a job at the Franklin Grammar School in Chester. She married Bob McMichael in 1944 when he was serving in the Navy and they had two children. Helen taught music in Ridley Park Schools and music and fourth grade in Caln Schools before retiring in 1979.

When Bob passed away in 1989, Helen’s children urged her to look into a retirement community. “Bob had told our kids that I should check out a variety of retirement facilities before choosing one, but I came to Tel Hai and visited and something mystical happened; I knew that I had come home,” she says.

She quickly settled in and became an active member of the community. After Bill’s wife died, he and Helen began having “Dutch treat” dinner dates. As their relationship grew stronger, they knew they needed to decide on where they were going to live. Helen was so happy at Tel Hai that she urged him to join her there, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Bill has turned the annual flea market into the monthly flea market and has raised over $28,700 as chairman since the market’s inception just five years ago. Helen is the Cottage Covered Dish Fellowship program chairperson, orchestrating ten dinners with speakers each year.

Both volunteer in the mailroom and elsewhere as needed. The couple also remains active in their churches and the greater community. Of life since the move, Helen relates, “We are awfully happy here.” Bill adds, “If Heaven is like this it must be a wonderful place.”

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