Resident Stories

We are blessed to be caring for and supporting the greatest generation of American pioneers and heroes. Please enjoy the resident stories we have below and then reach out to us to schedule a personal tour of our award-winning community.

Mary Lankford - 1 Bad Year

Mary Lankford grew up in in North Texas which means that, among other things, she’s as blunt as a blue norther coming through Dallas in the dead of night.

‘I grew up in Denton and married a man who was in the Air Force and we lived all over the world,” she answers when asked about her early life. “He joined American Airlines and we lived in the Dallas area, but I got tired of answering phone calls from his girlfriends so I divorced him.”
That’s Texas truth right there, ya’ll.

Life has never been boring for Lankford, who has had experiences as diverse as the geography and culture of her Lone Star State. She’s been a librarian, an educational administrator, a wife, a mother, and a published author in her 84 years.

And that honesty doesn’t go away when she’s talking about pain and suffering, which is what a lot of 2016 was for her.

“Last year was pretty horrendous,” Lankford says. “I lost my husband, I lost my house, and I lost my puppies.” Lankford’s husband John, who she had lived in Lakeway with, passed away. Her children were concerned about her living alone and asked her to consider a retirement community; they also took the steps towards the painful decision to give her dogs away for fear she would trip on them and get hurt in her new place.

“I felt like my whole life was going down the tubes,” she said. “Everyone except me was deciding where I should be living.”

But being blunt also means admitting to one’s mistakes, and that’s exactly what Lankford does when she talks about her first nine months at the Conservatory at Alden Bridge.

“I got here last May, and I’ve really loved it,” she beams. “It’s wonderful to be taken care of. Everyone on the staff here has been splendid. I like my apartment, I’ve got maid service once a week, and the food is really outstanding. I’m not a gourmet, but I was a good cook and I’m very happy with the food.”

After leaving Captain Girlfriend behind, Lankford got into the education business as a librarian in a school district outside of Dallas.

‘They didn’t even have a school library when I got there,” she reflects. ‘I worked for 30 years there and loved every minute of it. I eventually became the director of library services for the Texas Education Agency (TEA) but they didn’t like me much because I was very critical of how they did things. I was setting up libraries in other schools but they didn’t want to give me any funding for it.”

So taken with books was Lankford that she began writing them for children in the 1990s. She had several published showcasing the way children around the world celebrate holidays and play games in different ways.

The books provided Lankford a marvelous outlet from her library years and a great way to give something back to the kids who had meant so much to her during her time in education.

When Lankford moved into the Conservatory at Alden Bridge, she had her early struggles like most people, but soon found her preconceived notions of the community were keeping her from enjoying it.

“When I moved in, i was like most people and tried to bring too many things. I thought it would be like living in a nursing facility, but it’s not...it’s wonderful,” she says. “The tone of this place is very positive. They know your name, and they make everything very convenient for you. There’s a beauty shop on site, it’s right around the corner from a shopping area, and my doctor and the bank are over there too. I still drive my car and there’s not a thing I need that’s not here or isn’t with two minutes away.”

Lanford asked for a two-bedroom apartment so she could make one room an office and keep on writing. But she confesses that the abundance of activities have given her a touch of the good kind of writer’s block.

“I have a couple of friends who I have lunch with and I do aerobic swimming, I’ve been doing it for years,”she says with a smile. “I’ve just been lazy.”

For newcomers facing the same daunting process that she went through a year ago, Lankford has some sage wisdom about adjusting to a new home.

“If you’re living this long and you want to be happy in your later years, know that this place could not be doing a better job. It’s a positive place to be.”

 

 

Ben Rosen - A New Design

Deep in the heart of Texas lies  the Conservatory at Alden Bridge.

On the second floor of the Conservatory is an apartment like none other; where the second bedroom has been transformed into an art studio.

In the art studio on an easel is a painting of a woman; a fellow resident of the artist who is bringing a photo of her to life.

The colors are so vibrant, the detail so spot on, she looks ready to spring to life at a moment’s notice.

The artist who is painting her is named Ben Rosen, and he is 96 years old.

Rosen is most famous for two books that probably 96% of the world is unaware of, but which have been the gold standard of the design industry for the past four decades.

As a renown commercial artist on the East Coast, he developed a reputation for his intimate knowledge of type and typography. So much so that he wrote a book of that very title that showcased the differences among them to an entire industry of artists, designers, students, and more. It was like an encyclopedia for an entire sector of advertising and stayed in publication for 33 years.

His first book carried the unwieldy title of “Corporate Search for Visual Identity: A Study of Fifteen Outstanding Corporate Design Programs.” It became a staple for students across the country as well as the Exxon Corporation in the early 1970s.

“The design committee at Exxon got ahold of my book just as they were doing their big change from Esso to Exxon,” Rosen recalls. “They called me and asked for my opinion on the design. I wound up doing a lot of work for Exxon for 5-6 years largely as a consultant.”

And that just scratches the surface on his list of clients that over the years included IBM, McGraw-Hill, Philip Morris, as well as a memorial to President Kennedy and the UN’s 20th anniversary book.

Born in Detroit, Michigan, Rosen headed to New York to try his hand at the Pratt Institute. He had been in the workforce for no time at all when he got drafted, spending 3-½ years stationed in the UK during World War II.

“I came back in 1945 and began a career in commercial art,” Rosen says. “I worked in that field until I retired; I closed my office in 1975 and worked out of my home as a consultant until 1991. I got lucky and developed a reputation and some excellent accounts.”

Drawing and painting had been his first loves, and he returned to them when he retired completely to New Jersey with his wife after the 1990s. He began painting again; first restoring old paintings, then creating new ones. His daughter, who lived in Brooklyn, became an artist like her dad, and “far oustrips me in talent” according to Rosen.

In 2012, his wife passed away, and suddenly Rosen realized just how big his house was.

“I wound up here like everyone else,” he says somberly. “You lose someone. I had a 3-bedroom house on an acre and realized my wife did everything; I never realized how much she did.”

His daughter was in Brooklyn; his son in Houston. Texas made more sense and in August of 2012, this East Coast lifer was introduced to the Lone Star State.

“Texas is like anything else, it has a good side and it has it’s difficulties,” Rosen says with his delightful wit. “It’s wonderful weather, everyone is very friendly, and if you get in an argument, they shoot you and then you can discuss it later.”

Rosen will hit his five-year anniversary at the Conservatory in August 2017. He describes himself as a “loner” given his penchant for painting in the morning, but his gallery of paintings suggest otherwise. In one, the Conservatory at Alden Springs’ Senior Lifestyle Counselor Lorraine Mondragon wears a dual look of joy and stress as she looks skyward for advice (the original version is hanging up in her office downstairs); in another, a teenaged Conservatory staffer practically bursts out of the canvas with her beaming smile.

Rosen sums up his life now as a lot more simple, “a lot less stuff to mess around with here, and more time to do stuff you like.”

“I’ve done 5-6 paintings in the 4-½ years I’ve been here,” he says with a twinkle in his eye. “That keeps me out of any serious mischief.”

 

Robert Creekbaum - The Missing Glacier

It’s not uncommon for senior citizens to view moving to a retirement community like flying blindly into a hostile environment: You don’t know what’s coming, what to expect, if you’re prepared, or if anyone there is going to be able to really help you.

Robert Creekbaum knows all about that feeling. He experienced it first hand nearly 50 years ago at the bottom of the world.

Creekbaum joined the US Navy in 1955 and served 21 years as a pilot. After an extensive tour of duty in Vietnam, he was trained with polar flights, visiting the North Pole, in preparation for missions to Antarctica.

“On my first trip to Antarctica, we crashed,” the 79-year-old Creekbaum recalls. “We were the first plane in for the season and the runway was on a glacier. The glacier had moved during the rest of the year and we couldn’t find it.

“The other pilot did five passes looking for it, and I told him, ‘You’re not making it six, we’re out of fuel, we’re going to land whether you want to or not.”

The plane put down roughly on the runway with 82 civilian construction workers on board, most of whom were never so happy in all their lives as to walk off into the blizzard-like conditions.

“When the airplane came to a stop, one of these big, husky construction workers stood up and snapped the seatbelt,” Creekbaum recalls. “These seat belts were tested to withstand 1,250 PSI and he snapped it like a twig.”

Not surprisingly, the US Navy shut down communication for a while after the mishap. When Creekbaum finally got a phone line to his wife, her concern seemed a bit off. “I finally talked to my wife on the phone and instead of asking how I was, her first question was ‘Did I have to pay for the airplane?’” he says with a laugh.

After an adventure like that, moving from Tennessee to just outside Houston, Texas, to retire has seemed like a day at the beach.

“My youngest daughter lives here in The woodlands, and that’s one of the reasons we came down, here,” Creekbaum, who lives at the Conservatory at Alden Bridge with his wife, says. “We were in poor health, and my daughter was a nurse, so she suggested it. As far as having to live in a place other than our home in Tennessee, we couldn’t have picked a better place. It’s only three miles from my daughter’s house.”

Moving has been pretty close to a constant in Creekbaum’s life. Born in Oklahoma, he grew up moving from California to Oregon to Alaska as his dad was in the logging industry.

He entered the Navy at the tail end of the Korean War and began training as a pilot. After he retired, he went back to college and wound up teaching electronics at the Nashville Technical Institute. When Nissan opened a plant in Memphis, he moved to join the automaker and worked there for 20 years. He and his wife have three daughters and five grandchildren.

While he’s not crash landing on ice caps or rescuing injured soldiers anymore, Creekbaum has managed to stay busy with hobbies.

“I crochet and I also make pens to write with,” he says. “They are hobbies that I’ve had a long time that I’m able to continue doing here in in the art center. That’s something I really like about being here.”