It’s a Wonderful Life for This Senior Living Resident

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senior living resident“I have had a wonderful life,” said Jody McGowan Gardner. “And I was spoiled right from the start.” Jody’s lifelong commitment to serving her community and the country says otherwise. Jody was born in Dover, Mass. and attended Bryn Mawr College, graduating right before WWII started.

“I went straight to Washington, D.C. to help save the world,” she said. It was during this time in the District that she also met her first husband, Carl McGowan. Although they settled in Chicago where Carl taught at Northwestern University Law School, they soon moved to southern Illinois to help his friend, Governor Adlai Stevenson, run for President. After Stevenson’s unsuccessful bids for election, however, the couple returned to Chicago where Carl worked in a law firm until he was appointed by President Kennedy in 1963 to be a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. As a result, they moved back to the nation’s capitol where Carl eventually passed in 1987.

Jody recounts fondly the friendship between Carl and his law partner, Walter Gardner, “Carl and Walter had a tennis court reserved to play every Wednesday morning,” she said. “When Carl couldn’t play, I would play with Walter, and when Walter couldn’t play, I would play with Carl.” Jody and Walter maintained their friendship over the years and eventually married.

Concerned about their future and whether their health or independent lifestyles would change, Jody and Walter began to consider a transition to a community that could meet their potential needs. “We had our eye on Grand Oaks as it was under construction,” said Jody.

An assisted living community, Grand Oaks is conveniently located on the campus of Sibley Hospital, near the couple’s Spring Valley home at the time. Jody was also very familiar with the community as she had been a volunteer at Sibley for nearly 30 years. Having made their decision while the community was still under construction, she said they were able to choose the “best apartment.”

“It was an easy transition; we were very close to our old neighborhood and our apartment was beautiful,” said Jody.

There was no specific health problem or crisis that motivated the couple to be among the first residents to move into Grand Oaks; it was simply a desire to create an environment and lifestyle that would be comfortable for the future no matter what happened to them. It turned out to be a very wise decision for Jody, who was surrounded by a caring community following Walter’s passing.

Jody continues to find fulfillment at Grand Oaks. A gardener at heart, she was able to begin managing a garden plot on the campus shortly after making the move. Thanks to the numerous opportunities to remain active and socially engaged in the community, Jody continues to thrive, surrounded by cultivated individuals.

“This is a friendly place, everyone is wonderful here,” she said.

Whether it is enjoying a meal in the lovely dining room or participating in the wide variety of daily activities, Jody and her fellow residents have the option of engaging in different pursuits or relaxing as they please. Most importantly, Jody enjoys the peace of mind and security that Walter had intended for her. She has both good company and excellent care provided by the staff at Grand Oaks. Given her experience thus far, Jody would say that Walter planned well for them both.

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