November 10, 2023
For 104 years, the U.S. has honored military veterans on November 11, the anniversary of the end of major hostilities in World War I. Beginning in 1919 it’s been celebrated each year, first as Armistice Day, then as Veterans Day since 1954.
With thousands of senior living communities across the nation housing countless veterans, Senior Living News honors and recognizes them all by spotlighting a few veterans and the communities who are honoring them.
Leon Parks, a resident at The Sky Bridge at Town Center in Upper Marlboro, Maryland, never wanted to join the military because when he was still a toddler his father died during World War II’s Battle of the Bulge. Parks, now 81, never had the chance to know his father and he became angry with the military. But his respect for those who have served began to grow when he was drafted and begrudgingly reported for duty on his 21st birthday.
These days, Parks dedicates his time helping other vets, including those in his retirement community. After retiring from the National Guard in 2003, Parks became a Veterans Service Officer to help other veterans access a range of benefits.
“Helping other veterans gives me a reason to wake up every day,” said Parks. “My granddaughter says I work harder now than when I was paid, but this is work I enjoy. A lot of vets don’t realize all the benefits they have access to, and I’m glad I can share my knowledge with them.”
Meanwhile, The Heights at Avery Heights in Hartford, Connecticut, honored decorated war hero Colonel Morton Katz with a Lifetime Achievement Award at their Veteran’s Day Breakfast. Like Veterans Day itself, Katz is 104.
Col. Katz’s military career began in WWII, and his service took him to Northern Africa, Italy, France, Germany, and to the Ardennes Forest between Belgium and Luxembourg, where he fought in the final major German offensive of WWII, the Battle of the Bulge (just as Leon Parks’ father had).
One of the highlights of Col. Katz’s military career was liberating Wöbbelin Concentration Camp near Ludwigslust, Germany, and forcing the Nazi commandant there to turn over his gun; Col. Katz still has that gun, and he intends to contribute it to a Holocaust Museum.
Katz later attended UCONN Law School and remained in service, working for 17 years at the 411th Civil Affair Company, eventually as a commanding officer. The Colonel also worked at the Pentagon with the Defense Intelligence Agency, and after practicing law until he was past the age of 100, he recently published From Paratrooper to Public Defender.
“In a community filled with persons who have led remarkable — sometimes extraordinary — lives, Morton stands out as the brightest of lights,” said Director of Avery Heights Assisted Living Bill Englehart in a press release. “We are so pleased to serve Morton at this juncture in his long journey. It has been my privilege to get to know this embodiment of the values of the Greatest Generation, and to honor him on November 10 at our Veteran’s Day Breakfast by presenting him with the Lifetime Service Award.”
In the Salt Lake City suburb of South Jordan, Utah, Sagewood at Daybreak resident and World War II veteran Wayne O. Ursenbach will be turning 100 in December, so as the nation honors him and all other veterans, Sagewood is also busy preparing not one, but two birthday celebrations (one for residents and one for family).
Like Leon Parks’ father and Col. Morton Katz, Ursenbach fought in the Battle of the Bulge; a member of the 289th Infantry Battalion, he was one of only 42 soldiers from his company (of 178) who survived the battle.
Ursenbach had been drafted into the Army in November of 1943, and when he was honorably discharged in May 1946, he returned to his wife, Bernice; they had been married just before he shipped off to Europe, and during their 77 years together they had seven children.
Thomas and Barbara Trimmer, residents at The Fountains at La Cholla in Tucson, Arizona, have been married for 61 years. Thomas spent 25 years in the Navy, including nine months on a destroyer off the coast of Vietnam during the Vietnam War. During those long months, Barbara raised their three daughters alone and struggled with loneliness. One day, she jotted down her thoughts and feelings, which turned into a hopeful poem about her struggles and the promise of a safe return and good days ahead. She called it “Promise,” and when Barbara recently joined The Fountains’ poetry group, she shared it with the other residents.
“I still get emotional when I read this,” Barbara said. “It takes me right back to the time I wrote it. I remember reading it to Tom when he came home from the war, and he cried. But it has all been worth it. I knew when I met him that he was the one, and we raised three beautiful daughters together.”
After hearing Barbara read her poem to the group, The Fountains at La Cholla’s Community Life Director Pat Moran asked her to read it again, this time at the community’s Veterans Day Salute.
“Every Veterans Day, we recognize and honor our residents who bravely served the country,” said Moran. “During the event, the veterans connect with each other and share experiences. There is a special camaraderie among our veterans, and Barbara’s heartfelt poem is something they all can relate to.”
In Gilbert, Arizona, 25 miles outside of Phoenix, veterans are being honored by their friends, family, and community during The Watermark at Morrison Ranch’s Veterans Day Celebration and Awards Ceremony. The celebration will feature a bagpiper, a flag presentation, and recognition of the community’s 21 residents who served in the military.
Lance Corporal Nevada Walter, a marine and Morrison Ranch resident, will participate in the flag presentation. Walter, 83, received the same military training as the men before serving as assistant to the general from 1957 to 1960; she also played on the All-Marine Women’s Basketball Team before going on to earn her doctorate degree in clinical physiology.
The Cardinal at North Hills in Raleigh, North Carolina, is hosting a ceremony to honor and recognize all veterans, past and present, who have lived there. Lieutenant Colonel Bob Grossman, a current resident who served in the Army for 21 years, will lead the ceremony and share his experiences, which include two tours in Vietnam and one in Korea; he spent his last eight years of service in Washington, D.C.
The Cardinal ceremony will include the presentation of the colors, recognition of veterans, remarks from Grossman, and much more.
Dan Chamberlin and his wife, Salli, live at The Commons in Lincoln, a CCRC in Lincoln, Massachusetts, 17 miles northwest of Boston. Chamberlin was a 22-year-old recent university graduate when he decided to enlist in the Navy during the Korean War.
As a cryptographer during the war, Chamberlin handled sensitive communications. One notable moment during his Naval career happened when he was on duty the night of June 23, 1954, “the precise moment of the signing of the Armistice in Panmunjom,” he said in a press release, “which effectively ended the shooting in the Korean War and that message came in and I decoded it.”
Dan and Salli have now been married for 70 years and they enjoy life at The Commons. His service inspired patriotism and a call to duty in his own family, and now his granddaughter is a captain in the Marines.