Resident Spotlights

After a search for the right CCRC, a couple – and Bingo! – find their perfect home.

Jackie and Dick Shulman are used to the beauty of Brevard where waterfalls and cultural activities are prevalent, and the town they called home for 15 years. The two met in upstate New York and each had full careers; Dick owned a real estate company, and Jackie was a CPA who spent most of her career at New York State Electric & Gas Corp. Their family consists of two adult sons and three grandchildren. In 2014, they moved to western North Carolina full-time.

A few years later, it seemed like a good idea – and a considerate one – to start seeking a continuing care retirement community (CCRC) as their long-term living plan for their later years.

 “This would be a great gift to give our children so they could live their own lives and not have to worry about taking care of their parents,” recalls Dick.

From Asheville to Burlington, the search was on to find just the right community for the Shulmans.

One feature that became a must in the couple’s search was a house with a garage – not for a car but for Dick’s creative outlet, woodworking. Dick is not just a part-time hobbyist; he is an artist who builds birdhouses out of trees.

“The birds love them because they are five-star resorts,” Dick says. This pastime has worked its way into producing hundreds of pieces that showcase his unique approach and skill honed over several years. Dick doesn’t advertise his craft. Rather, his creations sell themselves at various art shows and word of mouth.

“Having a husband with a hobby is a good thing,” Jackie jokes.

After being on a few CCRC wait lists for several years, they received word from a friend of an expansion taking place at The Village of Brookwood in Burlington. When it came time to visit, the Shulmans were thoroughly impressed.

“The sales team, Betsy and Clark, did an amazing job in welcoming us into the Village and showing us the new homes on Duncan Circle, where we currently live,” Dick says.

Different aspects of The Village resounded positively with each of them. They were more than delighted by the raised-bed gardens, dog park and smiles from Dining team members. Jackie noticed that Dining servers are young, vibrant, hard workers who deliver delicious meals to the residents. Dick was struck by the care and beautification that went into landscaping. Simply put, the whole Village at Brookwood property was beautifully maintained inside and out.

Tellingly, this was not always the case at other communities they visited, they pointed out.

In addition, the Shulmans also appreciated the Burlington area, itself, home to quality shopping, parks, a growing downtown and nearby universities filled with diversity and culture.

There was one more Shulman who also played a very important role in this decision – Bingo, a 7-year-old miniature Golden Doodle equipped with a national therapy certification and is a member of the Alliance of Therapy Dogs. Now settled in, Bingo can use his skill set, as he is certified to work in health care facilities. He and Dick often visit campus health services, such as Memory Support and Skilled Care, bringing joy wherever they go. Having Bingo visit residents is something all parties enjoy – especially his impressive tricks! The certified duo can leave with a full heart while residents get a full dose of unconditional love.

“This is the best decision we’ve made,” Dick happily confirms.

Patty & Scott Riddile

New to NC but ready for the adventure.

Patty & Scott Riddile are making a new start in North Carolina soon. They now live in Lakewood Ranch, Florida but have just signed up for a new Garden Home at The Village at Brookwood.

Married for 30 years, Patty and Scott essentially grew up in Florida. Patty, a retired business analyst, was born in Charlotte, NC but moved to Florida when she was two. Originally from the Midwest, Scott is retired from Junior Achievement and has been in Florida for over 40 years. They like Florida but are ready for a new adventure.

Before the pandemic, they started thinking about their next steps and where they wanted to live. They visited a couple of continuing care retirement communities (CCRCs) in Florida but were disappointed by what they saw. They felt they couldn’t identify with the residents. Quizzically, they thought to themselves, “This is for our parents- a bunch of old people live here!” So they decided to think about it for three more years. Then they saw a neighbor’s health decline and how that neighbor’s decision to age in place had detrimental effects. A life-plan community was their best option. However, they realized their needs would not be met locally, so they started looking around.

Why North Carolina?

Scott did tons of research. They visited 10-12 CCRCs in Florida, eastern Tennessee and North Carolina, but North Carolina made the most sense. One reason was that they wanted to be in the south, which they felt was a friendlier and easier place to make friends. But the main reason was that North Carolina regulates all the CCRCs. Scott could look at all the CCRC’s financial information and benefits on one website provided by the state of North Carolina. He liked the transparency and how he could easily do his due diligence.

Why The Village At Brookwood?

“For us, you must feel comfortable. You need to find something that fits your requirements and personality,” Scott remarked. And The Village did just that.

They put a few deposits at a few communities but felt like they belonged at The Village. After meeting with Betsy Huneycutt, Director of Sales and Marketing, at The Village and Steve Fleming, President & CEO of its parent Well-Spring Group, they liked how Betsy and Steve were welcoming and were able to answer all their questions.

Plus, there are many other great reasons that sealed the deal for them. They liked all the medical options available in and around Burlington. The size of the region and The Village was ideal – they were not too big or too small. Patty commented, “You can find everything you need in the area, and when you are shopping – you really feel like you are out shopping.” Patty also loves The Village’s lifelong learning partnership with Elon University. And one last perk of living at The Village was how easy it was to explore the region and visit other states. It took hours for them to drive out of Florida, but they liked how you can make quick road trips to Virginia or South Carolina from The Village.

What’s next?

Scott and Patty are ready for their next big adventure in life. They are putting their home on the market in Florida and hope to be in a rental in Burlington by early spring while their Pine Garden Home is built. Then they will get acclimated to the area and make connections to find all the essential support they will need, like physicians, attorneys and hair stylists. What are they most excited about? Scott replied, “We look forward to forging new friendships and emerging ourselves in The Village’s many activities. And living out the rest of our lives carefree.”

Pam Barefoot and Jim Green

A new start just in time.

Pam Barefoot and Jim Green thought they had their retirement all figured out. They lived on an 8-acre saltwater peninsula on the Eastern Shore of Virginia. Jim recently retired and Pam had sold her specialty food business, Blue Crab Bay Co., in 2016. They spent their days teaching couples staying at their guest house to kayak, catch crabs and make crab cakes. It was the life they dreamed of.

Then, Jim began having multiple health problems, including heart surgery, an aortic aneurysm and multiple knee surgeries. They realized that their pristine location made it harder for them to live the comfortable life they wanted. They were 20 miles from the small, local hospital but an hour and a half from larger hospitals in Norfolk, so getting critical care felt out of reach.

After rearranging their living spaces to accommodate Jim’s recovery from an unexpected knee surgery, Pam broke her left arm and wrist. At that point the worries and the stress of traveling to get the medical care they needed came to a head. Pam realized an easier life would fit their new needs better.

“I was looking at the water, the guests in the cottage, and all the work I had to do, and I thought maybe we have too much on our plate. Maybe we need to make a change. Maybe we should sell the dream home we had built. We thought we would age gracefully here, but I can’t even prune or keep up with the bushes anymore,” Pam remembers thinking.

She shared her thoughts with Jim and how it wasn’t all about their new health challenges. It was also about how they needed to re-frame their retirement and make it easier. After Jim thought about it, he agreed that a change was in order.

Thus, they began their search for a new home, and they were open to moving anywhere. (Pam is originally from Four Oaks, NC, and her husband lived all over the place as a military kid. They met after attending VCU in Richmond.) In 2020, Pam called her cousin, who formerly owned A Southern Season in Chapel Hill, to ask about continuing care retirement communities (CCRCs) there. When she called around to different communities, they had 15-year waiting lists. She knew that was too long to wait. They needed a more realistic timing since she was 69 and he was 77.

They thought about houses in the Triangle, but again the maintenance was something they did not want to have to handle. Her cousin suggested they look at Burlington, and they did and were able to put their name on a waiting list for a retirement community there. They sold their house in 2021 and moved to Burlington. Then they waited for their name to come to the top of the list.

While they waited, they explored NC beaches and parks in their Mercedes Benz camper and Burlington’s many restaurants. However, they started to get anxious since they had not heard from the initial community in a while. Then, one day, someone asked if she had heard of ‘The Village at Brookwood.’ Pam immediately got in touch with Betsy at The Village to learn more. Betsy let her know a home would be available soon and could be theirs if they were interested.

Pam and Jim jumped at the chance even though the house needed to be refurbished. They worked with Betsy to pick out countertops, paint, flooring, cabinetry, hardware and more. They made additional above-and-beyond updates, like closing in their carport for a two-car garage where Jim can work on his model boats. They also turned their screened-in porch into a sunroom, which they love. “It is our favorite room in the house,” Pam says.

They moved in at the beginning of August and are already reaping the benefits of being close to great medical care options in Burlington as well as the surrounding area. Shortly after their move, Pam ruptured a disc and later had back surgery. Then, Jim had a heart issue where the neighbors, nurses, staff and rescue squad were all there to lend help. (Jim underwent another knee surgery after moving in as well.)

They are both doing rehabilitation at The Village and are happy it is just down the road. They hope to enjoy more of The Village, including riding their electric trikes and walking its trail, Pine Tree Lane, after recovery.

Pam and Jim were able to make a new start at the right time and have really enjoyed how everyone has been there for them from the beginning at The Village. They have quickly gotten settled and so has Bella, their standard poodle. They have dog walkers who take her out daily, and everyone in the community knows Bella. Pam states, “We feel so fortunate to be here.”

Bella on a walk at The Village
Julia Child with Pam, when she owned
Blue Crab Bay Co.
On the water in one of the boats Jim builds
Sunroom before
Sunroom after
Camping with Bella

Barry Canner and Bob Travers

From northern hospitality to southern hospitality:

Longtime Maine innkeepers find ideal retirement community

Talk to Barry Canner and Bob Travers for just a moment, and it’s clear they were in the hospitality business. It wasn’t always that way. Bob worked in a more traditional sales job, and Barry was a city planner just outside of Boston.

Barry had already bought some land in Maine, so they walked into the office of the Realtor he’d worked with in Gouldsboro, asking what they could buy for $50,000-60,000 on the water.

First, the broker laughed. Then she showed them a large house just 5 miles off the water that would make a great bed and breakfast.

And Black Duck Inn was born.

Barry and Bob operated their BnB for nearly three decades. The inn had four guest rooms, and they eventually added two cottages. Their breakfast specialties included their own benedict, orange French toast with almonds, and pancakes and muffins that took advantage of Maine’s extra special blueberries.

Despite the 5 a.m. start times, their years as innkeepers were full of good times and happy memories. “We met a lot of really wonderful people who became friends,” Barry says, adding many people would come back year after year. They knew the place almost as well as the couple – asking, “What happened to that painting” or noticing when furniture had been rearranged. Some of their earliest regulars are now in their 90s, and they saw kids grow up over the years. One couple who eloped at the inn now has grandchildren.

The inn had an “over 10” policy for children, but they once granted an exception – who visited so regularly with her family that she had to bring her first serious boyfriend to get Bob and Barry’s approval.

They say it was an honor to be part of the vacations that these guests so looked forward to.

Many of their guests loved visiting the inn so much, they wanted their own piece of Maine heaven. After recommending the first few folks to his Realtor, Bob went to work for her. And so, the Black Duck Inn became the Black Duck Inn and Properties. While Bob was busy selling homes, Barry worked on managing them. At one point, they, with the help of a cleaning team, oversaw 25 rentals.

Over a decade ago, Barry and Bob started easing out of their various businesses and built a house on the land surrounding the inn. You’ll now find them there during the hot North Carolina summers. This is a reverse of when the inn was open from Memorial Day to Columbus Day, and in the winter, the snowbirds headed to Key West. After having a condo for several years, they eventually renovated a farmhouse from the 1800s. It had a lovely Tuscan feel with old stone walls and a pool. 

While Key West is a great place to visit, they knew it wasn’t where they wanted to retire full-time. The pair visited about 20 continuing-care retirement communities on a trip from Virginia to Georgia, ideally looking for somewhere with a first-floor apartment for the convenience of walking their rescue pup, Iona.

And that’s how they found The Village at Brookwood in Burlington, N.C.

The Village happened to have a house available – not what they thought they were looking for, but it met all their physical needs. Besides the house, they found the community as a whole also fit their physical and emotional needs. So, in the middle of the pandemic, they moved in.

Besides walking Iona three to four miles a day, Barry and Bob enjoy visiting The Village’s fitness center and library, and they’ve gotten involved with a bicycling group. They’ve also taken advantage of a lot of what nearby Elon University has to offer Village residents.

“People have been so nice,” Bob says. “It’s the wave. Everyone waves when they see you. Very southern!”

He goes on to say that when they first arrived at The Village, “it was like going to college, when you don’t know anyone in the cafeteria. But right off the bat, people said, “You’re the new guys! Sit with us!”

From their fellow Village residents to the team members, Bob and Barry appreciate how welcoming everyone has been.

Be sure to say hello, share your favorite recent read, and give Iona a pat when you see them around.

Mary and Russ McNeal

‘We wouldn’t trade it for anything’

How one couple makes the most of life at The Village

By Ann Davis-Rowe

When asked why Mary and Russ McNeal should be profiled, Betsy Huneycutt, Director of Marketing at The Village at Brookwood, a continuing care retirement community in Burlington where the McNeals live, just laughed. “Talk to them for a minute, and they’ll tell you why,” she said.

Recently, Mary and Russ had just returned from a trip to Abington, Va, to see the changing autumn leaves – and to check out the bicycle trails. Russ is a regular cyclist and does nearly daily rides around The Village with a group of six or seven others. He’s hoping to gather everyone together for a trip to Abington.

Mary and Russ met in Greensboro. He was born there; she‘s from the Sandhills but went to Greensboro for college. In fact, she was one of the first students to receive a four-year bachelor’s degree in Nursing from UNCG. After graduation, she worked at The Moses Cone Memorial Hospital for about 15 years.

Russ served in the Army Air Defense Command – but was never stationed outside the United States (yes, it is possible to be stationed in Key West). After his service, Russ worked as an engineer for Southern Bell. Following the breakup of the Bell companies in the early ’80s, Russ’s job took him to New Jersey.

Meanwhile, Mary had been thinking of moving from nursing into chaplaincy. Conveniently, Russ’s new job brought them close to Princeton, where Mary received her master’s degree of Divinity. She then worked in small churches throughout Virginia and North Carolina for a while.

Russ was able to take an early retirement when Mary started in the ministry. “She followed me for the first 24 years of our marriage, and I followed her for the next 24,” he jokes. When the couple ended up back in Greensboro, he got back into the IT field at UNCG, and Mary served as the chaplain at a retirement community.

Because of Mary’s work and Russ’s parents being at yet another retirement community, the couple was very familiar with continuing care retirement communities, or “life plan communities.” Especially as a child-free couple, “we knew it was the way to complete our life experience,” Russ says. As such, they did a lot of research before choosing The Village at Brookwood, even making comparison charts of various options. When they visited the community, “it just felt like the one for us,” they recall. Even after being residents for a while, “it really is like a big, open family,” Russ points out.

The McNeals enjoy concerts and events at Elon University and participated in Life@ Elon, a lifelong learning program and another great opportunity for residents of The Village. “We love being able to learn about Burlington and do things around the town,” they say, appreciative of getting a broader perspective on life in central North Carolina. They’re also attend a variety of events at The Village, something they love and can do without having to worry about how to get there.

“One of the things we found so great here,” Mary says, “is the opportunity to improve our health, not just in the fitness center or with water aerobics but being able to go for walks around campus.” And, of course, there are the bike rides. “Living here is like living in a fairyland,” Russ adds. “It’s beautiful going through the neighborhoods.”

The couple says they moved to The Village a little earlier than others of their age because they saw its potential, and that the community was on the edge of growth. “We wanted to help it grow,” they say. The McNeals are responsible for at least five other move-ins and are quick to say that they’re “fascinated” by their fellow residents and getting to build relationships with others. “We wouldn’t trade it for anything,” Russ says.

The McNeals’ excitement for the community is one reason Huneycutt says, “They’re just one of those couples everyone wants on their campus.”

So when you see them, please say hi. They’d love to talk with you.