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Exceptional Stories of Exceptional Seniors

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Recent blog posts

Allen Ziegler jumps from a plane to celebrate his 90th birthday.


Most of us celebrate birthdays with presents, parties and cakes. Country Meadows of York resident Allen Ziegler celebrated his 90th birthday by jumping out of a plane. “I thought to myself, ‘why not? What have I got to lose?’ he says.

Ziegler was inspired by Country Meadows co-worker Garrett Kistler, 25, director of Independent Living, after Kistler shared the video from his first skydive. Kistler recalls, “One day Allen asked to see my [skydiving] video again at happy hour and told me he was seriously thinking about doing it. Then he came to me and said, ‘I decided I want to go.’”

Ziegler adds, "I wanted to try something different and Garrett made it sound so doggone exciting.”

Recently Bob Meckley, 89, a resident at Country Meadows of York-South, was in his apartment reading the newspaper when the telephone rang. As he answered, a voice cried out,

 Bob Meckley
 Bob Meckley recalls a close call with scammers

“Dad, it’s Mike!” 

And just like that, Meckley was ensnared in a telephone scam.

Confused by the unfamiliar voice, Meckley asked which Mike, referring to his friend or his youngest son.

“It’s your son. My nose was broken in an automobile accident, and I’m in jail,” the voice replied.

The urgent, muffled voice hurriedly told Meckley to write down a case number saying he couldn’t stay on the line but his attorney would call. Within minutes a call came from a man with a calm, authoritative voice who said he was Jason Cooper, an attorney with the public defender’s office. He asked Meckley for the case number, and Meckley could hear typing as the “attorney” looked it up on his computer and provided more details about the case. Meckley was shocked to learn his son failed a breathalyzer test and would need to post bail. A third caller, a friendly “bail bondsman” ultimately took Meckley’s credit card number and some other personal information.

Bluma Shapiro considers herself blessed, and believes the fact that she is alive today a miracle.

And it is.

Bluma Shapiro

Born in 1923 in Poland, Shapiro last saw her family in 1943 when she was put on a train and sent to a series of German concentration camps.
You could have heard a pin drop as she recently shared her experiences with nearly 100 residents, family members and co-workers, who crammed into the campus chapel to listen at Country Meadows of Leader Heights south of York, Pa.

Shapiro grew up in the village of Bialystok, and remembers refugees from western Poland pouring into her town telling tales of German Nazi troops “liquidating” Jews from the surrounding cities. She says, “They told us that some of the Jews were hiding so they could survive. So our family made a bunker with a little food, a little water, just in case something would happen. Sure enough, in February of 1943, there was a proclamation that all the Jews were to be resettled into Germany.”

Volunteering has been a staple in Glenn Fitze’s life since a very young age.  

Glenn Fitze

A resident of Country Meadows of Hershey, Fitze, 61, started volunteering when he was just 15 years old. “A lot of my volunteering [was instilled] by my mother,” he says. “No matter where I go, what I do, [my mother] is watching me.”

His mother would be proud.


Standing before war veterans and their spouses, family and friends at Country Meadows of Bethlehem, Jack Weiner, 16, was moved by reactions to the ceremony he put together to honor veteran residents for their service. He will never forget watching the crowd rise to its feet, some members with great difficulty, to pay proper respect to the American flag as Taps played at the program’s conclusion.  

“Seeing veterans from all generations connecting with each other with handshakes, hugs, tears and laughter; that outpouring of emotions was the highlight for me,” says Weiner.

A sophomore at Moravian Academy in Bethlehem, Weiner planned the ceremony as part of his Eagle Scout service project. It was the culmination of his efforts to highlight and preserve service memories for veterans living at Country Meadows. Weiner’s project was inspired by his late grandfather, William Gleason, a veteran of World War II, and former Country Meadows resident, who taught him, “freedom isn’t free.”

“I don’t want anyone to forget the sacrifices our veterans and their spouses made for us,” says Weiner.

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Pathways program helps resident down the aisle

Pathways program helps resident down the aisle

Ann, a Country Meadows resident, accomplished a goal she’ll never forget. After much hard work and determination, she walked down the aisle at her granddaughter’s wedding. “It was one of the most satisfying moments of the day,” says her son, Tom. “The fact that she was able to achieve that just meant so much to me and our family.”

Many people may take it for granted but walking down the aisle was no easy feat. Ann worked diligently to strengthen her body and credits Country Meadows’ approach to restorative care—the Pathways program. “Country Meadows has developed its own philosophy and has taken it to the next level with the whole-person approach,” explains Rebecca Williams, Pathways manager-Country Meadows of Leader Heights. “The whole-person approach addresses other health needs besides just physical ones like emotional, mental and spiritual needs.”

Paratrooper recalls WWII missions with 11th Airborne Angels

Frank Levandowski, a resident at Country Meadows of Wyomissing, likes jumping out of airplanes.

 Frank Levandowski
 Frank Levandowski looks and his medals and commendations from his World War II service as a paratrooper. Levandowski was a member of the Army’s 11th Airborne Division. 

Born and raised in Reading, Pa., Levandowski attended flight school as part of his high school education. He hoped to use his air training during his military service.
“When they wanted to put me into the Army, I thought I was going to be a ‘doughboy’ and walk the rest of my life…I wasn't getting into the air,” he says. “I saw a poster that said ‘join the paratroopers and earn an extra $50 a month.’ In 1944, $50 was a lot of extra money so I joined the paratroopers; I wanted to get into the air.” What started as a way to earn a larger paycheck turned into a heroic military career.

Peeling lima beans. It’s a tedious chore, but as an 11-year-old girl helping her father sell vegetables and flowers at the Easton Farmer’s Market in the early 1930s, Agnes Herster, now a resident of Country Meadows of Bethlehem, was hardly in a position to say, ‘no.’ It was a standing order from her school teacher. So each week she dutifully peeled one pint of lima beans fresh from her family’s garden.

When Herster heard that Country Meadows was planning an outing to the Easton Farmer’s Market last year, she doubted it could be the same one from so long ago. A little research with Brenda Kennedy, Executive Director of Community Life Country Meadows, confirmed that it was. They also learned that the Easton Farmer’s Market, established in 1752, is the oldest continuous open air market in the United States.

On the day of the trip, Kennedy recalls that Herster was like a kid in a candy store. The market has changed considerably since she worked there 80 years ago, but Herster visited with the vendors, some representing families who had been at the market when she was a girl, and reveled in happy memories. 

Barbara Davis is seated at the lunch table in the Connections Neighborhood at Country Meadows in Mechanicsburg, Pa. She’s smartly dressed with a pretty scarf around her neck, and you can see her husband Bill’s face light up as he joins her. They have been married for 63 years, and Bill’s devotion to her is evident as they leave the table and walk hand in hand to the newly renovated garden room where Barbara likes to sit. On a warm day they might stroll outside among the flowers, sit in the swing or have an ice cream cone.
As they’re seated close together on the love seat, Bill patiently asks Barbara questions but he doesn’t expect any answers. Barbara has Alzheimer’s disease and can no longer communicate with words. Her beautiful smile lets Bill know she is content and happy to be with him.

Delma Rivera's family refers to her as "rice."

This stunning resident at Country Meadows of Leader Heights in York, Pa., is a native of Puerto Rico and a pioneer for Latino services and rights in Pennsylvania. To succeed, she was very busy.  

Anna Swope is enjoying retired life. As she speaks with a Pennsylvania Dutch accent still present from her childhood, she shares the story of her military service helping the people of South Korea.

“It changed me. People lived such desperate lives,” she recalls. “Every patient touched my heart.”

“How many 90 year-old ladies would jump at the chance to go down a water slide?” asked Myrtle Bowman, resident of Country Meadows of Leader Heights.

Well, she would!

All veterans deserve honor and thanks. For one Country Meadows of York resident, thanks came on the floor of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives.

Clifford Chronister, 88, flew more than 50 missions as a flight engineer on board a B-17 bomber aircraft. He was visibly moved when he attended a ceremony in 2012 at the Pennsylvania State Capitol to receive a citation marking his service. “The whole House, 200 people, stood up and applauded me. It was very remarkable,” he says.

Most of us vividly remember where we were when two planes struck the World Trade Towers on Sept. 11, 2001.

So does Joe Merola, 56, resident of Country Meadows of Bethlehem. He was working in the JP Morgan Chase building across the street.

It’s been said there’s no place like home…except the beach.

For the last three summers, some Country Meadows residents relaxed on the shores of Avalon, N.J., and Outer Banks, N. Car. The yearly trip is offered to Country Meadows residents, and provides lodging in a private beach house complete with meals, transportation and activities included.