“Life is about ideas, opportunity and family." Mark Silzer was born in Chicago and grew up in Blue Island, Illinois. Mark attended Concordia University in Chicago where he met his future wife Barbara. They were immediately smitten. Both were passionate about music, education and their Lutheran faith. They graduated from Concordia in 1969, Mark with a degree in education and Barbara with a degree in music and education.
After graduation Mark and Barbara left for a 60-day world tour with their concert choir from Concordia. They performed throughout Asia, India, Japan, the Holy Land and Europe. Five days after they returned to the States, they married and moved to Schaumburg, Illinois, where they began their teaching careers at St. Peter’s Lutheran School.
When Mark was offered the position of director of instructional media at Hong Kong International School, they moved to China. Two years later, Mark was promoted to junior high principal where he served for four years. After living in Hong Kong for several years, the family relocated to their home state of Illinois. The new family of four, Mark, Barbara and their two daughters, Stephanie and Alison, moved to Champaign, Illinois, where Mark pursued his Ph.D. in education from the University of Illinois.
After finishing, Mark was offered another professional opportunity from the Lutheran Church to oversee the opening of Valley Lutheran High School in Phoenix, Arizona. After the arrival of their third daughter, Ashley, in Phoenix, the family moved to Honolulu, Hawaii, where Mark took the position of principal of Our Redeemer Lutheran School.
After more than 20 years in education, Mark pursued a new career in computer education software. In the ‘90’s, Mark’s career brought the family to Pleasanton, California. Through numerous jobs in computer software, Mark had the opportunity to travel around the world. He even joined the million-mile club on United Airlines. His career in education added aided with consulting positions in Princeton, NJ, and Australia.
Mark’s secret to a life well lived: “Create situations in your life in which opportunities occur.” Mark also loves to travel, sail and sing. He and Barbara have always been involved in their church choir, and their home has always been filled with music and song. Mark loves singing religious hymns, but he also enjoys composing and singing playful lyrical songs that bring a smile to Barbara’s face.
In 2008 Mark was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. He and Barbara said that the diagnosis was an unexpected complication in their life, but they have learned to adapt to the changes and were determined to continue living their lives. For five years after the diagnosis they continued to travel, but things progressively became more difficult.
Mark’s ability to read, a lifelong passion, became challenging and his tremors started impacting his mobility. It was decided that Mark would move to Eskaton Village Roseville to ensure additional support, so Mark and Barbara could focus on their relationship and spend time with family.
Mark’s assisted living apartment is equipped with a smart voice-controlled device, Alexa. Alexa adjusts lighting and thermostat via voice commands, so he can control his environment easily. This accessibility device, along with his wheelchair, enables Mark to live well despite challenges. Barbara lives four short blocks away and spends most of the day with Mark. Barbara feels blessed to be so close and to be able to spend this time together.
Though the diagnosis has brought complications, they believe it has also brought them closer as family. They moved to Roseville to be closer to their two daughters and 8-of-10 grandchildren; daughter Alison and family live in Washington DC. Barbara credits Mark for teaching their grandchildren about empathy and compassion. Mark taught them how to embrace differences and to truly see the person. The wisdom he shared with his daughters was: “Love the Lord, marry a good man, learn to swim and play the piano.”
As a lifelong learner, Mark strives to continue to grow and gain knowledge. Now, instead of gaining new technical skills or learning a new software program, Mark is eager to learn “to better understand people and what they are going through.” At the age of 72, Mark proves it is never too late to develop new skills.
Mark and Barbara feel blessed for their 50-year long marriage and for the life they have shared together. They look forward to continuing to live in the moment and enjoy time with their family.
Yen Lu Wong grew up in Hong Kong, China. She attributes her longevity to her genes, lifestyle, mindset and connection to Buddha. Yen Lu is a movement artist, dancer and choreographer.
Yen Lu’s stage life began at a young age. She was a performer with the Chinese Peking Opera, a performance stage art that includes acrobatics, martial arts and music. In addition to traditional Chinese performance art, Yen Lu also practiced ballet as a young child in Hong Kong.
When she was growing up, Hong Kong was a British colony and traditions such as afternoon tea and ballet were commonplace. The first time she saw Margaret O’Brien perform on screen in “The Unfinished Dance,” Yen Lu was inspired to learn ballet. Through her studies, teachings and collaborations, she created her own dance expression that continues to inspire her today.
Yen Lu lives her life as a fluid movement. Her definition of a life well lived is, “Take one day at a time and when life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” She believes happiness is a mindset and a choice. “Don’t do anything that doesn’t make you happy,” she says.
Every morning, Yen Lu greets the day with Qigong, a series of coordinated body-posture and movement, breathing, and meditation used for the purposes of health, spirituality, and martial-arts training. Through Qigong, Yen Lu is able to connect her mind and body helping her focus on the day ahead.
“The secret to a happy life is people." Michael Catino, born in New York, attributes his longevity to living a happy life and having a healthy social life. Mike is the grandson of Italian immigrants and is 99 years old. His passions in life are his family, staying socially connected and baseball.
Mike picked up his first baseball bat at Sonoma Grammar School in Sonoma, CA. His position was covering second base. He also played while studying at Santa Rosa Junior College where he met his most influential coach. Coach Syfer taught him the importance of staying alert and planning his next move. Coach Syfer instilled more wisdom about baseball in that one semester than Mike had learned in his entire baseball career. After his first semester, his academics and college baseball journey were put on hold. He was drafted to serve in World War II. He became a Technical Sergeant for the Army Corps of Engineers but was determined to keep playing baseball even on the battlefield.
He and his crew created a baseball field in the middle of the South Pacific. On Sunday mornings they would go to church and afterwards play baseball. The sport brought him and the other soldiers a sense of peace and joy even amongst the chaos of war. His most influential game was on the eve of the invasion into Dutch New Guinea. Mike links his bravery and mental strength during the invasion the following day to the baseball game he played the night prior. He was later awarded the Bronze Star Medal for his achievement and courage on the battlefield to liberate New Guinea from Japan.
After the war, Mike completed college, went on to become a civil engineer and marry his wife Lois. Mike was later appointed as the Regional Director for the Bureau of Reclamation Builders of the Central Valley Project. Mike’s legacy includes his four children, five grandchildren and six great-grandchildren. He taught his family the value of the hard work that he learned on the baseball field
Sports continue to be an integral part of Mike's life. He is an avid baseball fan, and he continues to play golf at least a few times a month. As a Bay Area native Mike’s favorite baseball team is the San Francisco Giants. He keeps a close eye on the up-and-coming athletes on the Sacramento River Cats, since they are now Triple-A affiliate for the Giants. He loves going to Raley Field. When Mike steps into the Raley Field Stadium the nostalgia of going to a game comes flooding back. He reminisces about the feelings and simple joy that come with sitting in the stands drinking a beer and eating a hot dog. The wisdom of Coach Syfer replays in his ears. He taught Mike to learn from watching. Mike says, "There is nothing like watching baseball."
Mike’s secret to a life well lived is staying healthy and not doing anything that is bad for your health. "Do everything the doctor tells you to do" - Mike says. He continues to be an active member of the golf community and is a longtime member of the Northern California Golfers Association and the Sons in Retirement Club #23.
Eighty-eight year old Dr. Albert Kahane, one of the first physicians at Kaiser Morse Avenue, and his wife Millie, a nurse educator, are opening a business in Rocklin. “I didn’t think I’d be changing careers after 69 years in healthcare,” said Mrs. Kahane. The couple live at Eskaton Village Carmichael, a continuing care retirement community, where all of their needs are met from dining to socializing, exercising to entertainment and transportation. Dr. Kahane is also a board member of Eskaton Foundation. As a Korean War Veteran and a retired physician, he enjoys being able to offer his expertise and opinion by being on the board. And now at almost 90 years old the Kahanes are opening a new business in Rocklin called Bach to Rock, a music school for all ages. His advice to young entrepreneurs: "Expect the worst." He says, "Opening a business at any age takes guts and there is always a risk."
Carolyn, 104, loves technology. The iPad is her device of choice. “I had a computer in my apartment before moving to Eskaton.” Six years ago, Carolyn made her home at Eskaton Care Center Fair Oaks. She received an iPad as a gift when she turned 100. Carolyn said it wasn’t hard to learn at all, and if she needs help, she turns to her grandson. "My grandson is in the business, he knows all about these things. If I ever have a problem, he comes over and fixes it."
Carolyn uses her iPad for Skype, taking and sharing photos, and playing “Words with Friends”. She enjoys reading romance novels on it and is currently enthralled with “All You Need Is Love”.
She shared her most recent photograph, a beautiful purple orchid on the shelf in her room. Carolyn explained she just received it as a gift from her Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) Kimberly. Kimberly’s mom and Carolyn both have a love of orchids. "I am appreciative of my CNAs. They are careful and caring. They are really great at their jobs." Carolyn says it feels amazing to be over 100 years old, but she never put much thought into age. And that is her secret to aging. View video.
Bob Juniper moved to Pleasanton in 1944 and has since dedicated his life to work, family and contributing to his community. On June 11, 2015 at The Parkview Assisted Living Community, where Juniper lives today, Pleasanton Mayor Jerry Thorne, Pleasanton Fire Battalion Chief Joe Testa and a room of family and friends honored Juniper with a Lifetime Achievement award.
Two major accomplishments include his 18 years with the Pleasanton Volunteer Fire Department in the 1950s and 1960s, and his tenure as Post Commander of the VFW, where he raised funds to build local parks and the Pleasanton Senior Center. “Bob played an integral role in the design and build of the senior center, which opened in 1993 and today serves more than 1,000 seniors per week,” said Pam Deaton, recreations supervisor. Juniper trained Deaton when she joined the center more than 19 years ago.
Mayor Thorne shared the history of the Pleasanton Fire Department and thanked Juniper for his contributions to the community. Chief Testa presented the 92-year-old with the Lifetime Achievement Award. The chief spoke of the vintage photographs displayed on the walls of the fire station when he joined 20 years ago — some of which include snapshots of Juniper himself.
Juniper grew up in Nelsonville, Ohio, and enlisted in the U.S. Navy when World War II broke out. As a pilot, he trained flying tactics and instruments at the flight school in Pensacola, Fla. After 14 years in the military, he decided to move west with his wife.
Only 2,700 people lived in Pleasanton when Juniper first arrived more than 70 years ago. He first worked at a toy factory on Rose Avenue, but eventually took a job at a local grocery store and retired after 30 years.
“Bob led such an interesting life and has always given back to his community,” said Sylvia Zaininger, executive director of The Parkview. “We are so grateful to everyone who attended the award ceremony and a special thanks goes to City of Pleasanton Mayor and Battalion Chief for taking time to honor such an accomplished man.”
Beziers is rich with history, being one of the oldest cities in southern France. Near the Mediterranean, Beziers was occupied by the Germans during WWII. In 1944, as the American troops marched in to liberate France, the citizens came out and danced in the streets. That’s when Ginette met Albert. They were 17 and 19 years old.
A year later, they had a modest wedding. “We were so poor. So for the wedding my father and his father got food from the black market. My grandmother fixed the whole thing. I borrowed a dress,” reminisced Ginette as if telling a story out of a fairytale. After the wedding, they rented a room. But within a few hours, Ginette was sick, so Albert took her home. Her grandmother asked what he had done to her. But it was a case of food poisoning. She sent Albert home to his mother. “What’s wrong, she asked. “She doesn’t want you?”
After 70 years of marriage, Albert and Ginette have endless stories and dozens of photo albums to share. The most interesting story from their seven decades together sounds like a scene from Les Miserables, but with a happy ending.
On March 11, 1954, Albert immigrated to Quebec, Canada, leaving behind Ginette and their two sons, ages two and eight. Once he found a job as an airplane mechanic, he sent money for ship passage. When Ginette received the money on August 20, she grabbed her luggage and she and the boys headed to the port, forgetting to let Albert know when she would arrive. He spent days going to each arriving ship from France. “He was so mad,” said Ginette. “But when he saw us, he wasn’t mad anymore.”
They lived in Quebec for four years before boarding a train to the United States. “It was the most beautiful train ride from Quebec to Chicago to Los Angeles,” said Ginette. They could only afford coach seats and the train food was expensive, so they only ate at the stops.
Once settled in California, they worked hard to achieve the American dream. Albert patented inventions and founded his own business, which afforded them a beautiful home on the river in Springville and the ability to travel the world. When asked what makes their relationship so successful, Albert said, “In France, the mayor is the one that marries you. When we say yes, we mean yes. We were so much in love when we got married. When we say we love each other, we love each other.” They say “I love you” multiple times a day, even now after 70 years of marriage. Ginette and Albert live in Eskaton Village Grass Valley, California.
Simone has a giving heart. Every Christmas the Red Cross delivers a poinsettia to Simone for her kind donations. She knits helmet liners for the Daughters of the Revolution to send soldiers. At six years old, she learned to knit at school in France. “I’ve knitted all my life,” says 100 year old Simone, “If I had all the sweaters I made in my life, I’d have quite a pile.”
Every few weeks her friend takes her to a yarn store in Nevada City to drop off the liners and pick up new yarn. Simone stopped driving at 97, donated her old Toyota to the Eskaton Foundation and moved into Eskaton Village Grass Valley.
She visited other independent living communities before making her selection. “I think it’s the best place locally,” says Simone. She has everything she needs in her lovely apartment. The housekeeper cleans it once a week, she takes the Eskaton transportation to the store, and she enjoys exercise classes every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. When asked what keeps her healthy, she joked about her genes, “I chose my parents very well,” but she’s led a healthy life and wouldn't miss an exercise class for anything.
Simone grew up on the countryside of France and moved to Paris during her teen years before attending college in Ohio. She taught French a couple years in upstate New York, but mostly raised a family and supported her husband who was a doctor in France during WWII. She and her husband Benjamin traveled extensively through Europe and enjoyed living a long and happy life together in Grass Valley, California. We celebrate Simone’s commitment to health and helping others.
Eskaton Kennedy Manor resident Betty can make a pillowcase dress in under 19 minutes. She's made over 15,000 dresses that are now worn by children in Kenya, Nigeria, Nairobi, the Philippines and many other poverty-stricken areas around the world -- 41 countries in total. As a Mess Hall Sergeant in the Marines, Betty served 3,200 meals twice a day at Camp Pendleton. It wasn't until 2011 that she learned to sew. Since then she has been making the dresses as fast as she can get her hands on pillowcases. Her label says Island Angel because, she says, an angel is watching over each child who wears one.
After seeing the reaction of a little girl who changed from her rags into a new dress, Betty said, “It’s a joy you could never express, putting the dress on a child. She believed I was an angel.”
In late spring 2014, Betty traded the views of the ocean from the Big Island of Hawaii for the views of the mountains surrounding Willows, California. Now Betty has encouraged many others to take the Pillowcase Challenge. More than 80,000 dresses have been delivered to children in need because Betty inspired them. She modestly says, “I just connect people.” Betty also makes aprons, wheelchair bags and bags for people who use walkers.
Ruth Duff, 99, illustrates what healthy aging is all about. She walks briskly with a purpose. Ruth is an artist. During the last two years living at Eskaton FoutainWood Lodge she painted more than 150 water colors. Ruth has worked with a variety of media including knitting, silk screening, etching on copper, bronze casting, and print making. She is a true life-long learner.
Over the years her skills were gleaned from the art professors at Portland State University, Sierra College, and University of California Davis.
Ruth uses gardening as a creative outlet. At FountainWood, her garden includes tomatoes, zucchini, and a variety of colorful flowers.
“When I look back, I had a great life,” said Ruth. One of her fondest memories is swimming on the Columbia River at Morgan’s Beach. She raised two children in Portland with her husband Tom before moving to Roseville, California, in 1987. She traveled extensively through Mexico and Europe -- western France and Rome being two of her favorite places.
Eskaton Village Carmichael resident Guy Throner has a wartime bio that reads like a screenplay -- filled with patriotism and heroic acts. Nearly 70 years after the end of World War II, the government of France recently honored him with a medal.
Throner, now 93, was in the first graduating class of the U.S. Navy’s underwater demolition school and was part of an elite unit that later became the Navy SEALS. During WWII, his duties included defusing mines and bombs.
“It was just a job, and we did it. We were so well trained – we didn’t worry about anything. We didn’t think about how dangerous it was,” said Throner.
We salute Mr. Throner for his commitment to saving lives during a time when the fate of the world depended on men of his particular kind of courage.
Marian Thompson sits in her armchair, tugging on a spool of yarn. Her needles work in harmony, stitching a baby cap. At 96, her hands ache with arthritis, but she rarely stops to rest.
She knits more baby caps than any member of the Kiddie Kaps knitting group at Eskaton Village Carmichael. Her personal count is 4,226 caps since she joined the Eskaton knitters in 2006. The group has donated over 20,000 baby caps since 2004, bringing comfort to newborns at Sacramento area hospitals.
“A lot of times, I say a little prayer when I’m knitting the cap,” says Thompson. “(I’m) thinking, ‘I hope this cap blesses a baby and keeps its little head warm.’”
Among 11,000 competitors from across the United States and 26 foreign countries, Eskaton Village Carmichael resident Benjamin O’Brien emerged a gold medalist in the Huntsman World Senior Games’ 5 kilometer road race for men ages 95-99. His time was two minutes faster than the previous year, when he also won gold.
Ben is a decorated veteran, state and federal judge, lawyer, husband, father and grandfather and still contributing at the of 96!
Eskaton is honored to have been selected as winner of the 2019 Hermes Golden Award for our "Age Is Beautiful" campaign. We are grateful to be recognized for our ongoing efforts to raise awareness of the positives of the aging process, thereby furthering our vision of transforming the aging experience.