Just John

May 4, 2020

It’s sometimes said that the best time to start thinking about your retirement is before the boss does. With that in mind, I will retire as Executive Director of Moosehaven on May 31.

Reflecting back to those early years, there was much to do and many hard changes were required. So much has changed since then. Where once stood old, dilapidated and abandoned buildings is now Brandon Place. Dementia services previously offered in a building poorly designed for such services are now provided in Katherine Smith Special Needs Hall. The new Katherine Smith Hall – yes, there was a previous Katherine Smith Hall – offers residential living in a family atmosphere to residents experiencing age-related confusion. Centennial Hall, which stands where there was once a rat infested caboose and a no longer necessary water tower, provides modern apartment style living and beautiful dining facilities to Moose Life congregate residents. Sidewalks and landscaping transformed Moosehaven’s campus into a beautiful, green and serene setting along the St. Johns River for residents to enjoy.

It hasn’t all been about buildings, though. Countless new processes enhance both the quality and efficiency of the services offered to residents. New programs, especially activities, were added throughout the years. The “Heart of the Community” program, which began life at Moosehaven, brings thousands of visitors to the campus every year.

Thanks to the hard work, support and patience of so many, Moosehaven today is a modern and beautiful retirement community. In addition to earning and maintaining a Five Star quality rating, Moosehaven is recognized as a Best of Clay County Senior Services, Center of Excellence and US News and World Report Best US Nursing Home.

While it’s great to reflect on the many successes and accolades of the past 13 years, my mind is also filled with other memories – some funny, some not so much. For example, there was the lightning strike that greeted visitors to the campus from the 2007 Tampa Convention and set Chancellors Halls on fire – not so funny. Oh, and what about the Moosehaven presentation at the 2010 Nashville convention when resident Isabella Meade decided to show off her “Hootchy Kootchy” dance at the end of her presentation? That was funny. But, the best was still to come as resident Julia Tucker literally took over the stage and the show by refusing to surrender the podium. I can still hear her say, “I’m not finished yet!” Bill, if you’re reading this please forgive me, but the look on your face when you turned to me and whispered “What is she doing?” That was truly hysterical.

Then there are the faces and names of so many residents. There was Ms. Lillie – always happy to pat any unwary man’s behind and Jordan Bean – man of a thousand jobs and a thousand stories to go with them. I can still picture Betty Kennedy, the former Rockette, proudly showing off her kick line skills whenever “New York New York” was played. And, of course, I will always remember Pilgrim Charley Bunn who gave Moosehaven, “another day in paradise.” Charley left his Pilgrim jacket with instruction for his wife Betty to give it to me when I earned the Pilgrim degree. Charley, I wear it with pride. There are so many friends who left their imprint on me and on Moosehaven – far too many to recite, but all remembered.

What a ride it’s been. What started as a job truly became a passion.

Please know that this was a difficult decision. But, as it says in Ecclesiastes 3:1 – “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven…” Moosehaven is at the beginning of a new decade, one that will be filled with new opportunities and challenges. It is the perfect time to make way for new leadership, new direction and new ideas.

Thanks to the foresight and might I add good judgement of that long ago search committee, I am blessed to have served the retired members of this great fraternity for the past 13 years. It has truly been a pleasure.

And so, at the end of my final Just John, I am reminded of the words of that immortal philosopher Winnie the Pooh; “How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.”

What will I do next? Well, “I don’t know.”

But, now and forever, I am… Just John