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Strawberry patch: Paula Danko, Rodney (with pet Maggie) and Sue Bookman, Donald Bigner, Marie Druhot

By Nancy Huth

A group of eleven garden-loving seniors at Casa Lucia Independent Living Apartments in Middlefield decided to beautify the back patio of the apartment complex with a flower garden. They made use of raised boxes to grow fruits and vegetables. Two large flower containers, artistically designed by resident Linda Cunningham, grace the front entrance. The gardeners range in age from 61 to 87 and all lovingly tend the soil. They didn’t know each other until they moved in and have become friends over their common interest. Their names are Marie Druhot, Paula Danko, Don Bigner, Marge Ellis, Martha Ammons, Rosie Redford, Ursula Bieniecki, Deborah Kowal, Rodney and Sue Bookman and Linda Cunningham.

Casa Lucia is now 4 years old and seems to be a well-kept secret. There are 34 senior one and two bedroom apartments for those 55 and over whose income must be capped at $30,000 a year. These are all independent living places with no assisted or nursing facilities. Pets are welcome for an extra rental fee. Casa Lucia’s on site property manager Holly Keasler is an energetic dedicated woman who tends to the seniors’ needs and arranges activities in the craft room, exercise room, library, and community room. She is so proud of her seniors’ gardens. “They amaze me every day with the kindness and care they have for each other. Since I have worked here I feel I have gained more than 20 grandmas,” said Keasler. To reach her for information about apartments, call 440-632-8015.

Gardens: Paula Danko, Rodney Bookman with pet Maggie, Don Bigner, Sue Bookman, Marie Druhot
Gardens: Paula Danko, Rodney Bookman with pet Maggie, Don Bigner, Sue Bookman, Marie Druhot

Although Casa Lucia is located next to St. Lucy’s church it is not connected with the church and seniors of any religious denomination are welcome to apply. Since the complex is relatively small the residents get to know each other and arrange get-togethers whenever they want – such as card games, a grill party or a coffee klatch. The center also works closely with the Geauga Department on Aging. The apartments are owned by Catholic Charities who build affordable housing for seniors. They hired the Wallick Company to manage the complex. Rent is paid on a monthly basis. Catholic Charities opened its first office in Cleveland in March 1912 and appointed a young diocesan priest Father Charles LeBlond as director. In the late 1800s the church had already established several orphanages and St. Vincent Charity Hospital (1865). As they began to study the welfare needs of the diocese, Catholic Charities opened homes for working girls and boys, an infant home, a home for dependent women and for the aged. By the time of their 100th anniversary in 2012 half a million people were being served. Casa Lucia is one of the affordable housing complexes for seniors. It’s ideal location close to the library, post office, stores and restaurants is an added plus for the residents. Nancy Huth grew up in Cleveland and graduated from Notre Dame College and Cleveland State University. After teaching English for a few years, she married and moved to Germany where she taught English as a second language for 30 years. In 2005 she and her German husband Dieter moved to Middlefield.

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