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.

Robert Johnson - Staying Together For So Long

 

If you’ve been married for any length of time, you know that each passing year of marriage brings with it the need for anniversary gift, particularly for those husbands among us.

Those first few years are simple to handle - thank goodness - the first year is paper, the second year is cotton, and the third year is leather.

By the time you reach a decade, you’re still only having to buy something out made from in or aluminum, but it starts getting pricey from there - lace at 13, crystal at 15, china at 20, and silver at 25.

From there, you’re in Big Boy Country - pearls at 30, rubies at 40, gold at 50, emerald at 55, and the biggest of them all - diamonds for your 60th wedding anniversary.

All of that instruction is well and good unless you’re Robert Johnson, a resident of Rittenhouse Village at Portage in Indiana.

You see, Robert has from now until November 2017 to figure out what to get your wife when you’ve been married a staggering 70 years.

What he lacks in original gift idea, Johnson makes up for in sage advice about how to make your marriage last as long as his has.

“Stay busy, both of you,” the 94-year-old Johnson says. “Do that, and don’t go to bed mad at one each other. I never put my hand up to her even one time, and we did what we could to keep our disagreeing to a minimum.”

Born in Jasper County, Indiana, on April 23, 1923, Johnson moved around Indiana with his family from Valparaiso to New Chicago to East Gary, Indiana, straight out of a Broadway musical.

He lived in East Gary from age to 12 to age 92, growing as the town grew, and grow it did. East Gary nearly doubled in size between 1920 and 1930 and the population rose every decade from then on into the 1970s.

Like a lot of other young men in the city, Johnson went to work for US Steel at the Gary Works Plant on the shores of Lake Michigan. At the time, it was the largest steel mill in the world, and Johnson worked as an armature winder - finding broken parts inside the machinery and repairing or replacing them.

He didn’t just contribute to the local economy, he gave back to the community.

“I was a volunteer fireman and I also drove an ambulance,” Johnson recalls. “I did those things for 43 years.”

It took Johnson only nine months way back in 1947 to figure out he wanted to marry his wife. The pair had four children and three grandsons. One of their daughters lived in nearby Portage and encouraged them to move that way when their health began to deteriorate a bit as they entered their 90s.

“We’ve been here three years, my daughter didn’t want us livin alone anymore,” Johnson said. “I sold our house and we moved over here. I don’t have to mow the grass any more or plant the flowers, which is nice. We can do what we want to do every day, and that’s a blessing.”

Mona Matson - Born to Sing

When we’re very young, we often have dreams of what our lives will be like someday. For Mona Matson, the reality was even sweeter than any of her dreams.

“All I ever wanted to do was sing,” Matson, a resident of Rittenhouse Village at Portage, says. “I started in church when I was young, and the organist introduced me to some agents in Chicago. That’s how I got started.”

Born in East Chicago, Indiana, Matson had no idea what the world had in store for her.

“One of my first jobs was in Portland, Oregon, and I met a man and fell in love,” she says. “We were both booked in London, so we got married in London, honeymooned in Paris, and toured Germany and Italy together.”

A whirlwind tour of romance and singing was followed by the birth of the couple’s daughter. She was so popular with the American troops stationed overseas, particularly those in the Air Force, that troops nicknamed her “Miss Jet Propulsion”.

Having moved back to Chicago, and with their daughter now part of home life, the singer and the piano/accordion/trumpet player put together an act and set out to charm the Chicago nightlife.

“We were Matson and McCall,” she remembers - McCall being a stage name for the wife of the house. “Chicago was the hub for conventions and we worked practically every hotel in Chicago. We went to Indianapolis and Louisville and St. Louis, and we did the World’s Fair in New York.”

With a voice suited best for musical comedy, Matson and her husband would play night clubs with 4-5 piece orchestras.

“People would go out for dinner and dancing and then to a show,” she recalls bittersweetly. “But when television came along, that dried out really quickly.”

Even into retirement, Matson continued to sing, until open-heart surgery in 2005 reduced her once powerful voice down from a 3-½ octave range to down to almost nothing. Singing has not been a passion ever since.

But she’s compensated with other, even after husband passed away in May of 2015.

“It was too much taking care of the house and the yard, it was just too much fo one person at my age,” she said. “MY daughter was living in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and she sold her house and came to live in Evanston, Indiana to be close to me.”

Proving the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, Matson’s daughter was formerly a professional dancer for 10 years in New York City, and also dabbled in acting.

Having realized just how much things like picking up after the yard were taking on her, Matson is very happy to be at Rittenhouse Village.

“I moved here about three months ago,” she says. “I have a proper little apartment, and I’m very happy again. I play penny poker, which is a lot of fun and nickel bingo. And I have a boom box, so I can go to the library and they have books on CD, and I like to rest and listen to books on tape.

“It’s a beautiful place, and they try really hard to keep us amused, active, and entertained.”