Meet Christwood Residents
Resident since 2017
Originating from the southside of Chicago, Ruth Bienvenu relocated to New Orleans in the ‘70s while working for American Airlines. Once here in Louisiana, Ruth and her husband, Gary, became active in the volunteer circle in the community. Gary volunteered at a food bank, and she volunteered at a thrift shop. Her husband also introduced her to Restore for Habitat for Humanity, where he regularly volunteered until he passed away. She loved the group and decided to join the volunteer team as well.Read More
In 2017, Ruth made the move to Christwood, where she made her own friends and community within the greater Christwood community. She joined the Christwood Singers, a singing group that performs for holidays and special events. The members also perform for Longleaf Memory Care residents and other Christwood residents.
In addition to singing, Ruth stretches her creative mind through a pen pal program with Christ Episcopal Church. She writes letters to a 3rd-grade pen pal to help teach cursive. Ruth also spends time as a library aid at Christwood to ensure books are kept organized and put back on the shelves.
During her time at Christwood, Ruth has valued the maintenance-free, worry-free lifestyle. “The people who work here are really excellent,” Ruth says. “They answer your every need. All I have to do is call and they fix it. I think I made the right move.”
Resident since 2016
As a life-long New Orleanian, Susan Milling has been a staple in the community since the ‘80s, where she lived in Old Covington for over twenty years. In 2016, Susan and her husband, David, moved to Christwood, where she continues her years of service to the community.Read More
Prior to moving, Susan volunteered for years with the Junior League of New Orleans and served on a number of boards. She especially enjoyed working at the Hermann-Grima Historic House in the French Quarter. She also helped with various activities with the New Orleans Town Gardeners, such as raking and weeding around Popp’s Fountain in City Park, and co-chaired the first Art in Bloom at NOMA.
While at Christwood, Susan enjoys exploring both new and old hobbies. As an avid reader, she joined the Library Committee because she “loves poking around books.” Regarding community living, Susan says, “We love the ‘country’ setting and facilities at Christwood, enjoy meeting new people and are thrilled to join old and new friends at the dinner table!”
Resident since 2020
Karen Place and her husband, Morris, lived 8 miles from Christwood in Mandeville, Louisiana, where her husband planned to spend the rest of his life at home. Karen, on the other hand, had friends at Christwood and researched the community extensively before convincing Morris to embrace the community lifestyle.
His decision to move to Christwood “was the sweetest thing he did for me,” Karen says. Their house sold in 5 days, and they swiftly moved into a beautiful 3-bedroom cottage with lots of windows and natural light.Read More
Before joining the Christwood community, Karen was an active member of the Northshore community. She worked for 43 years as a registered nurse and was committed to helping people. Even in her retirement, Karen volunteers once a week at Hospice of St. Tammany. It’s a great way to stay involved in the field that she loves, Karen says.
Even after her move to Christwood in 2020, Karen was as active in volunteering as ever. She joined the Paper Posse, a daily paper route where members fold the daily paper and put it in the cubbies or on the doorsteps of neighbors who aren’t able to get out much. Karen says she “looks forward to every afternoon” with her new girlfriends on the Paper Posse. The gals have a lot of fun together and often grab cocktails and share many laughs.
During the coronavirus pandemic, Karen eagerly stepped up to help the community stay healthy by joining The Mask Force. “I said I could help make some masks. The next morning when I went out to get my paper, there was a sewing machine on my doorstep.” The Mask Force sewed more than 2,000 masks for residents and staff.
When reflecting on her time as a Christwood resident, Karen mentions a time when her choir group performed music of the ’50s. They even embodied the decade and dressed up in poodle skirts!
“[I’m] on cloud nine being here. I love the fact that I am going to be in this lovely place until I pass on. It’s comforting to know the people I am becoming friends with. We’ll be together forevermore,” Karen says.
Resident since 2018
Walking the halls of Christwood Retirement Community, one sees dogs on leashes, an occasional cat in a buggy and sometimes – rarely – a pet bird nestled in a female resident’s hair. But when Richard Kilgore decided to enter the community in September 2018, he made a request that was without precedent. He wasn’t asking to bring a dog or cat, or even a bird. He wanted to bring his honey bees – some 20,000 of them.
A retired Shell Oil engineer, Richard took up beekeeping while living in the Beau Chene subdivision in Mandeville.Read More
“I had three citrus trees and they weren’t producing. So I did a little research and found out that honey bees, and only honey bees, would pollinate citrus trees. I pick up a new hobby about every ten years, so I looked into beekeeping,” Richard recalls. “I went out and bought Beekeeping For Dummies and went on YouTube, and pretty soon I had my first two hives.”
Over time, the two hives grew to six and Richard’s citrus trees flourished. He also began harvesting honey – gallons of it. “Beekeeping is hard work,” he explains. “Especially the harvesting. There’s a lot of heavy lifting involved, and I’m just not up to it anymore. “But I have a lot of help here at Christwood,” he adds with a smile. The help Richard refers to is the “Bee Team,” consisting of Ken Hamlin, Christwood’s director of I.T. Services, plus two members of his staff, brothers Paul and Lester Krobert. The trio contributes a lot of volunteer time to keep the bees alive and well, and to harvest their honey. The first harvest, in the late summer of 2019, yielded somewhere between five and eight gallons of raw honey, according to Ken.
“We set up shop in the Bee Hive Market,” Ken says, referring to an on-campus deli and convenience store for Christwood residents. “That’s where we spun the honey out of the frames and bottled it. Lots of residents stopped by to watch. There was a lot of interest in the operation, and when we were finished and had it all bottled, we sold every last jar. It was a big success.” And, as a bonus, the citrus trees on the Christwood campus are producing quite well.
In speaking about his beekeeping hobby, Richard reveals the confidence of a petroleum and chemical engineer who has managed complex refineries, and who has an insatiable appetite for the world that surrounds him. It turns out he and his wife Mary Ellen, and daughters Carol and Karla, went scuba diving in Micronesia, sailed tall ships in the Caribbean, toured China soon after it opened up to the West, went on safari in Kenya, spent Christmas Eve on Christmas Island and visited every state in our union, “including Hawaii and Alaska.”
That’s just a partial list, of course. Richard is a fly fisherman and has fished throughout the Northwest United States and Alaska. “It’s an old hobby,” he says. “One of my first.” So add fishing, sailing, scuba diving and traveling to beekeeping.
And there was work and life, of course. Shortly after graduating from the University of Washington, Richard was offered a job with the Shell Oil Company. He first worked at a Shell refinery in Anacortes WA, then at corporate headquarters in New York City. Later, when Shell moved its corporate offices to Houston, Richard and his family moved there. And some years later, the family moved again, when Richard was chosen to manage operations at the Norco refinery outside New Orleans.
Now, after the death of his wife of 56 years, Richard calls Christwood home. The sign outside his apartment door reads ‘Bee Calm and Buzz On’. And buzz on he does. He is a member of the Christwood singers, frequents the gym and the pool, goes out evenings to dinner and musical events with other residents and many days can be seen visiting fellow residents in the skilled nursing unit.
“Sometimes this place drives me crazy, with all these things to do” he says with a smile. “I never seem to have time to do it all.” But I love it here,” he concludes, “I’m convinced this the best place I can be at this time in my life.”
Which is saying a lot coming from a man who has tasted life in full all across the globe.
Bob and Jan Carr
Residents Since June 2018
If you watched New Orleans television in the sixties – an era many describe as the golden age – chances are very good you shared a cup of coffee with Bob and Jan Carr by the rooftop pool of the Royal Orleans Hotel.
The young couple’s morning show, Second Cup, on WDSU-TV, dominated its time slot as they interviewed newsmakers of the day and touted upcoming events and performances, hosting visiting celebrities such as Bob Hope, Ann Margaret, Jerry Lewis and Gina Lollobrigida.
“It was an exciting time to be on live television,” Bob remembers. “They gave us free rein, and we made it up as we went along.”
And now, as they approach 70 years of marriage, this couple is still making it up as they go along, treating life as the supreme adventure that it is and having a wonderful time.Read More
The Carrs met when both were students at Carnigie Tech, now Carnegie Mellon University, and they married while undergraduates.
“After two dates, I gave her my fraternity pin, then went looking for an engagement ring,” Bob remembers, looking up at his silent but smiling wife, who describes herself as a country girl when growing up in Martins Ferry, West Virginia. “I was 4-H and all that.”
But Jan Carr had shed that image by the time she was in college. Recently married, and having completed the school year, she decided she wanted to be a Rockette – a member of the storied dance troupe that performs in Radio City Music Hall. After all, she had studied dance when younger and had been featured in a tap-dancing performance at the Capital Theater in Wheeling, West Virginia. So she convinced her mother to accompany her to New York City for an audition. And, in the end, she was one of the few candidates selected to perform in the summer program.
“It was hard work, believe me. We would rehearse from the time we got up until it was time to go to bed,” Jan remembers. “I loved it, but I began to realize that I already had my hands full as a wife and a student.” So she returned to college in Pittsburgh, but brought back with her the knowledge that she was good enough to be a Rockette.
After graduation, Jan found herself back in New York, along with her husband.
“We figured if we were going to be famous, New York was the place to be,” Bob says with a twinkle in his eyes.
In the city, Bob worked in the mailroom of Kidder Peabody, a large investment firm at the time, moonlighting as a model, scoring roles in print ads for Zippo lighters (“She Gave Me a Zippo!”) and Coca-Cola, among others, while Jan worked in the CBS casting office, steering jobs Bob’s way when she could.
After deciding New York wasn’t fulfilling their dreams they returned to West Virginia, to a Wheeling television station, where they learned the trade in the then-emerging industry. After a brief stint with a stained glass manufacturer selling windows to churches – “a real job that paid well,” the couple accepted positions in the late fifties with WWL Radio in New Orleans.
“We weren’t sure about this one,” Bob admits, “We really wanted television and we had reservations about moving to the Deep South. We wanted California, but a friend who offered us the job wowed us with talk of ‘fifty-thousand watts, reaching across America,’ so we decided this would be a stop along the way to the coast. Maybe a stepping stone.”
“But It turned out to be a great job for us,” Jan adds. The Bob & Jan Radio Show broadcast out of the Roosevelt Hotel, and they interviewed all the acts that were playing in the Blue Room at the time – celebrities like Patti Page, Mel Torme, Carol Channing and Roberta Sherwood.
They quickly settled into the job and into the city, and as they did, they fell in love with New Orleans. Bob chronicled this time in his book, Raising Our Children on Bourbon.
To quote from the dust jacket of the book:
“This is the story of Bob and Jan Carr, who escaped the mundane life of mid-America and moved to the heart of the infamous French Quarter to raise their children (four in all) among the ‘Quarter eccentrics’ while pursuing spectacular careers in radio and television. Join them as they renovate and restore a Bourbon Street mansion, passing through one crisis after another; their Ku Klux Klan encounter; sunbathing strippers next door; integration of the Desire bus line; and school problem solutions, all interspersed with the bizarre and myriad characters of the ‘Quarter’.
“Laugh with them as they relate anecdotes of encounters with celebrities: Bette Davis, Joan Crawford, Brenda Lee, Bishop Fulton Sheen, Al Hirt, Pete Fountain, Clay Shaw, Ruthie the Duck Girl and more than a score of the famous and infamous.”
During their French Quarter era, beginning in 1960 and lasting into the seventies, Bob and Jan were offered the kind of television shows they had always wanted: The morning show Second Cup, Midday, the Sunday Showcase of Homes and Bob & Jan from The Al Hirt Club.
“It was a blur,” says Jan, “raising four kids at a time our careers were blossoming, but I wouldn’t have traded it for anything.”
Then in 1973, after an ownership change at WDSU, things quieted down, and an opportunity sent Bob in an entirely different direction. He went to work with the International House, the predecessor of the New Orleans World Trade Center, where he later became the managing director, and continued in that role for twenty years.
“A little bit of this, and a little bit of that,” he says with a smile, “and a whole lot of happiness.” Jan nods in agreement.
Today, after settling into Christwood, the couple still runs at a fast pace. Bob is President of the Christwood Men’s Club, which takes up much of his time, and serves as a volunteer for the Health Center Task Force. Together they take theater trips to New Orleans, attend lectures by visiting speakers and participate in numerous social events. They also travel frequently, having taken nine European river cruises.
Resident Since 2019
Karen Depp has moved more than a dozen times in her life, but never before has she thought of relocation as “liberating”. “Moving to a Christwood Lane Cottage is the best thing I could have done,” she says. “I feel liberated here. I have everything I want except the maintenance responsibilities of my former one-and-a-half acres, pool and pond. “I love this place, and I’ve enjoyed making it my own. I couldn’t say no to the place because Christwood said yes to every change I asked for.”Read More
Other than the usual new paint job, Karen installed custom ceramic tile throughout, added a fireplace, redesigned her kitchen, added a pantry and turned her entire back yard into a large patio. “The kitchen is important to me because I love to cook, and also because I test recipes for Leite’s Culinaria (www.leitesculinaria.com). It’s just something I enjoy doing.”
And she has converted one of her three bedrooms into a bright, airy art studio. Her paintings and some of her childrens’ art hangs throughout the house. “Yes, I feel comfortable here, and safe. The Christwood campus is a haven. When I run in the morning I know I have nothing to worry about. So safety is important, and I think the timing of the move is perfect for me.
“The right time to move into a community that offers you everything is when you can still fully take advantage of everything. So, saying yes to Christwood at this time in my life was one of the best decisions I’ve made.”
Resident Since 2015
Steve Gorin, a man of many talents and interests, likes to say his life’s work has been to put disparate parts together to solve problems. However, it is impossible to talk about Steve’s life without mention of his wife Abbye, who died in 2017. “So many things in my life started with my wife,” he readily acknowledges. Steve and Abbye met in 1946 at a U.S.O. function south of Austin, Texas. Abbye was a sophomore at the University of Texas, and Steve was a B-17 pilot in the Army Air Corps. “We hit it off pretty much right away, so I got her number, called and asked her for a date. After three dates, I asked her to marry me and she said yes, and that was the beginning of seventy wonderful years of marriage.”Read More
After being discharged from the service, Steve joined Abbye at U.T. and they both earned degrees; hers a B.F.A. in Communications and his in Engineering and Business. Some thirty years later, after selling a business they jointly operated, they went back to school at the University of New Orleans and received Master’s degrees in Urban Studies. And five years later they both got Ph.D. degrees in Environmental Design and Planning from Virginia Tech. Steve was sixty-four when he received his Ph.D.
“Well,” says Steve, “Abbye and I owned and operated a business called Plastic Engineered Products for twenty years. She was my business partner. She wanted to leave the business and get her Masters. And I didn’t want to be left behind so I decided to follow the same path.” And later, when the path led to Virginia Tech and a Ph.D., Steve followed. And this degree took him places he never imagined he would go.
Employing his engineering expertise, his interest in archeology, and his ability to join disparate parts to solve problems, he wrote his doctoral dissertation on the urban planning of the ancient Chimu Kingdom of Chan Chan, Peru, the largest pre-Columbian city in South America.
Using a wind tunnel, he helped solve the mysteries surrounding the city’s division into ten ‘citadels’ or ‘palaces.’ His research showed that the interior dividers and exterior walls around the palaces and sunken gardens were positioned to ameliorate the effect of strong coastal winds, sand and dust. His work has been embraced by many archeologists who have studied the Peruvian site.
Steve later used his unique blend of knowledge and focused determination in his work with the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation. Over a twenty-two year period, his efforts and the efforts of others at the Foundation resulted in a clean bill of health for what had formerly been a heavily polluted estuarial system. As Program Director and Director of Project Development at LPBF, he was instrumental in this important initiative to bring the basin back to a state of health.
“The lake was posted by the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals as unsafe for all forms of recreation because of its high bacteria count. The remediation work the Foundation did resulted in the removal of this posting. This is the only lake in the country to have this posting removed, and you can readily see that swimming, boating and fishing now flourish in its waters.
“And, fittingly, the last project I was involved with was the rebuilding and restoration of the Lake Pontchartrain lighthouse destroyed by Katrina – making it operational once again.”
Since becoming a Christwood resident in 2015, Steve has applied his talents in a number of ways, but none more unusual than his Old Time Radio Show. A lover of radio shows from the thirties and forties, Steve recreates them on stage, standing at a microphone, script in hand, accompanied by other Christwood residents who play music, create sound effects and portray various characters.
Steve has reconstructed the original broadcasts of Fibber McGee & Molly, The Lone Ranger and The Shadow, and brought them to life once again for the amusement of his fellow residents. His recreations are true to the last detail, including the commercials that ran in the original radio shows.
“At ninety-four, staying active and continuing to overcome challenges is important to me,” Steve says. “And having a good time helps too.
“I am at home here at Christwood,” he adds. “It’s a good place to be yourself. I really can’t think of a better place to be. Christwood was always there for Abbye and me, at all levels, when we needed help–and that means a lot.”