Sunday, September 20th, 2020

Willow Creek Gracious Retirement Living Story


WILLOW CREEK GRACIOUS RETIREMENT LIVING

A home designed for a vibrant, active lifestyle

by Rob Lauer


Residents Mydra Maier, Mary Penuel, Charles Walwyn and Barbara Blackmon

Residents Mydra Maier, Mary Penuel, Charles Walwyn and Barbara Blackmon

There are so many impressive things to share about the gracious retirement lifestyle found at Willow Creek, that it could be hard to select which one to highlight first. But given the current pandemic, one thing stands out about this beautiful building, with 125 apartments for seniors, is its live-in management team and their dedication to safety and successfully preventing the spread of COVID-19.

Residents have returned to many regular activities, and those are numerous. It is a challenge to single out one particular aspect of the daily life enjoyed by Willow Creek residents, but speaking to five of them brought out the best of the gracious retirement lifestyle to be found there. Day in and day out, residents realize what a wonderful decision they made in selecting Willow Creek as their home.

Mary Penuel has been living at Willow Creek since it opened. “Life here is wonderful!” she exclaims.  Knowing that there is always a manager onsite along with people who are ready to help when needed, is something that Mary finds very comforting. She points to the help she has received from the staff, even when it was not in their job description.  Along with handyman-kind-of-help, her apartment has a pull cord that will bring a response in minutes. Like other residents, she appreciates the housekeeping that comes with her apartment.

Mary loves the grand atmosphere of Willow Creek’s dining hall—with a ceiling two stories high and seating for over 100 people—as much as she does the food. “Besides being grateful to be eating ‘other people’s cooking,’” she laughs, “there are no assigned seats, so all of us get to know each other.”  She is amazed at the diversity of the residents, recalling, “We had a pharmacist living with us at one time. We used to call him our ‘resident doctor!’”

When she first moved to Willow Creek, Mary had her own car, which she drove until this summer.  Her car is now parked there so her family can take her for a drive when they visit.  Many community residents have their own vehicles, and Mary notes parking isn’t a problem.

After this spring’s quarantine, Willow Creek opened up from two to five each day for limited numbers of visitors. The residents were not totally isolated before, however, and a favorite special event was when visitors marched around the outside of building.  Residents sat outside to watch the visitors on both Mother’s Day and Father’s Day.  At another time, high school graduates marched around the building. Mary credits Meredith Pugh, Willow Creek’s vivacious activities coordinator, with creating these unforgettable events.



Valerie and Glenn Campbell love their lives as managers of Willow Creek.

Valerie and Glenn Campbell love their lives as managers of Willow Creek.


Mary loves the grand atmosphere of Willow Creek’s dining hall—with a ceiling two stories high and seating for over 100 people—as much as she does the food. “Besides being grateful to be eating ‘other people’s cooking,’” she laughs, “there are no assigned seats, so all of us get to know each other.”  She is amazed at the diversity of the residents, recalling, “We had a pharmacist living with us at one time. We used to call him our ‘resident doctor!’”

When she first moved to Willow Creek, Mary had her own car, which she drove until this summer.  Her car is now parked there so her family can take her for a drive when they visit.  Many community residents have their own vehicles, and Mary notes parking isn’t a problem.

After this spring’s quarantine, Willow Creek opened up from two to five each day for limited numbers of visitors. The residents were not totally isolated before, however, and a favorite special event was when visitors marched around the outside of building.  Residents sat outside to watch the visitors on both Mother’s Day and Father’s Day.  At another time, high school graduates marched around the building. Mary credits Meredith Pugh, Willow Creek’s vivacious activities coordinator, with creating these unforgettable events.

Jim Lucas is one Willow Creek resident who is beloved for his affability. He has “the biggest studio apartment,” which he says is just right for his needs. It also features a beautiful deck overlooking raised garden beds. It is here where his “relaxing-self” resides, and he enjoys the sunset every afternoon.

Jim is a very active resident who seems confident that the entire building is his home. He enjoys the 30-seat movie theatre with its two shows daily. It’s the perfect spot for movie buffs or those seeking a rainy-day activity. 

Resident Mydra Maier says Jim Lucas’ life is like being on a cruise: there is always something to do, and whatever it is, Jim is usually there, enjoying it all!

“They really feed us well here,” Jim laughs.  He put on nine pounds and then took them off by walking, and learning to eat fruit instead of cake or cobbler. 

Jim shares a delightful anecdote that captures the essence of Willow Creek’s environment. “Liz White loved playing bingo here before she had a heart attack a few months ago,” he begins. “When her birthday came, Activities Coordinator, Meredith Pugh, knowing what an avid bingo player Liz had been, set up a cell phone in this lady’s room.”

“I was calling bingo that day,” he recalls, obviously impressed with Meredith’s thoughtfulness. Ten people played that day, including Liz on the phone in her room.  And everyone sang happy birthday to her.  “Liz passed away last week,” Jim says gently.

It was no accident that this wonderful lady won at bingo that day.  Jim Lucas will always remember that day when everything was as it should be.


Willow Creek’s Activities Director, Meredith Pugh

Willow Creek’s Activities Director, Meredith Pugh

As of this month, Mydra Maier, otherwise known as Mikey, has lived at Willow Creek for four years. “I didn’t know such a place existed,” she states. “When my husband passed, I lived alone in a ten-room house for four years until my daughter told me about this place.” Mydra’s three sons lived in Maryland, but her daughter lives in Hampton Roads. When she saw Willow Creek, she urged her mother to move there. “I did not know what to expect,” Mickey admits.

Any anxiety Mickey may have initially felt did not last long. She was pleasantly surprised when seeing what would become her new home. Now she could be a spokesperson for the advantages and fun of life at Willow Creek!

One of “those fun things to do,” led to her winning a nationwide competition. Mikey thrilled to have moved here. It was a project—“The perfect project,” she believes. Mikey admits to being a project person, but in this case, she had an accomplice—Jim Lucas. The project was to design a gingerbread for the holidays. She credits Jim with helping her by constructing a model for her design. She loved creating the gingerbread house but was absolutely thrilled when her finished product won a national competition sponsored by the Hawthorne Company, which owns 70 apartment complexes across the country.
Jim’s model for Mikey was made first out of foam, and then balsa wood. “He is a craftsman,” Mikey explains.  “That is his creative outlet. Having a passion, such as in my case, makes all the difference.”  After creating that first gingerbread house, she was hooked and now looks forward to each year’s competition.
Other projects include growing flowers in the small gardens on the property so as to have fresh floral arrangements. During any season of the year, games keep residents involved in community life.  Bingo, bridge, and Nintendo’s wii computerized bowling are a few of the residents’ favorites.  Reading enthusiasts enjoy Willow Creek’s library and book clubs. “This is even better than retirement!” Mickey says.
On Wednesdays, a bus takes residents out to lunch or on field trips to historical sites, or perhaps to watch dolphins.  Mondays and Fridays are set aside for shopping trips on the bus. On two other days, the bus is reserved for taking residents to doctors’ appointments.











Charles Walwyn had been a professor in upstate New York before a stroke caused him to retire.  His dad is a widower who, at age 95, lives independently in Hampton Roads. This, along with Charles need for assistance after his stroke, made moving to Willow Creek an excellent choice for him.
“I can’t think of a better place to be,” the transplanted New Yorker insists. He has found everyone “welcoming, friendly.”  He notes that Willow Creek’s ambiance and the less-hurried pace makes it a good fit for him at this stage of his life.  “Here we can do what we want to do, and folks are so accommodating,” Charles observes. “My apartment even has room for my 50-inch TV.  Willow Creek is fantastic!”
As with residents to whom we spoke, Charles sincerely values Willow Creek’s managers and assistant managers. Valerie Campbell and her husband, Glen, have been with Hawthorn (the community’s parent company) for 10 years. Over four years ago, they moved to Chesapeake to assist in opening Willow Creek. Grateful for residents’ sincere appreciation, Valerie is modest and quick to share credit with Willow Creek’s entire staff.

Barbara Blackmon moved from Port Warwick into Willow Creek on Thanksgiving. As so often happens, it was Barbara’s daughter who visited Willow Creek and, knowing her mother had always been independent, was impressed with what she saw.

“She had looked at other communities, but Willow Creek stood out,” Barbara remembers. ““I knew nothing about Chesapeake and was, frankly, concerned. I had always been very independent and still am. While I had been nervous at first, I actually became comfortable on my first day and night here.”

Now Barbara enjoys having her own three-by-nine-foot gardening space. Willow Creek has a dozen such gardens reserved just for residents. Others are for gardening pros to be kept up for the delight of those who may not have a green thumb.

Another delight for Barbara was to find other bridge players at her new home. An additional unexpected advantage of Willow Creek’s location is that it is a three-minute walk from Barbara’s doctor in Chesapeake’s Sentara building.

“But what changed my mind on my first day here was realizing that Willow Creek is like one big family,” Barbara says with a smile. “People have been so welcoming here, and the management is the best. Any reservations I had at first are long-gone, and I haven’t looked back. Living here at Willow Creek has been a blessing!”




Willow Creek

516 Great Bridge Blvd
Chesapeake, VA 23320

757-547-7876
http://www.seniorlivingstyle.com/