Mary Kuieck Story
101 Years on the Path
101 years seems like a long time ago in many people’s minds. They can barely imagine what it would be like. But that’s when I was born in the Texas countryside. The days were hot and I remember sweltering. (That’s why I’m not a very good Texan. I can’t take the heat!) Well, after The Great Depression, it was hard for my dad to find work. So when I was 12, my dad said, “We’re going to move up North and get rich.”
Move we did. We moved up to Flint, Michigan, then to Detroit, to Lansing, and finally, we found our place here in Grand Rapids. I settled in to Burton School and made friends—which was nice, but it was hard always being the “new kid,” trying to break into friendships long-formed.
I went on to graduate from South High School, and took a secretarial course at Davenport Business School. Afterward, I was hired downtown as a receptionist at Bishop Furniture. That led to an even better office job at Jarecki Machine and Tool Company. Life was good, but I felt something was missing.
When I was about 19, my girlfriend invited me to her church at Wealthy Street Baptist where Dr. Fuller was the pastor. That night, a woman came right up along the aisle during the service and asked if I’d ever accepted Christ into my life. She was the first person who had made it personal. I said, “No.” She then asked if I’d like to go down and talk to the pastor after the service. My girlfriend and I both went to his office, where we kneeled down and I prayed, asking Jesus to forgive my sins and come into my life. And so began my Christian walk. I want you to know that nothing’s been the same since then—I know where I’m headed on life’s path and I have real joy in my heart on the way, no matter life’s troubles.
Well, soon after, I met my husband through a separate church function – a roller skating party. My husband, when he would tell it, says, “I skated up to this young lady and asked if she would skate and she said, ‘Oh, I guess so.’” I was just playing hard-to-get. In conversation, I told him I was going to be baptized the next Sunday. I didn’t know it at first, but he was there…and that’s when we really started dating. He was a good man, and we fell in love and were eventually married. We raised three children, two boys and a girl. Gradually, our kids got married and left the home. They’re still youngsters—73, 70, and 66! Thankfully, they still live here in Grand Rapids so I can see them.
When Beacon Hill First Beckoned
After retirement, my husband and I both started working again—right here at Beacon Hill. The director presented the positions to us as more of a ministry than a job. My role was to help new people get settled in here. My husband was a custodian.
We both worked here happily for almost 8 years…until my husband passed away from Parkinson’s disease one month before our 56th wedding anniversary.
I had been battling arthritis in my back and eventually needed surgery. Afterward, I told my kids I wanted to go live at Beacon Hill. I explained to them, “I can’t do much of anything here at the house. I can’t even go downstairs to do laundry.” We all knew how well Beacon Hill takes care of their residents from their dad and I working here so long, and I wouldn’t think of going anywhere else…so it was an easy decision. That was five years ago.
Life Keeps Getting Better
What do I like most about living here? So many things. The staff are genuinely caring people. Everybody is just so kind. Plus, there is something going on all the time. They really want us to stay active and enjoy life. They even have their own bus to take us to various outings, like the zoo and museum.
I really don’t know how they do it, but they just keep getting better. Recently, they added an auditorium and a beautiful new restaurant. Outside, on the back property, we also have lovely gardens. Everyone who lives here can plant something if they want to. I have some apple trees. You’d expect all of this to cost a lot, but it’s a very good value. As someone who went through the Depression, I can tell you…it’s worth every penny.
I have made some really wonderful friends here, too. At first I was the new kid on the block again, but Lavonne (we call her Vonnie) befriended me and we’ve become such good friends. We now have quite a reputation around here because we love to walk every day. People always comment on how they see us walking outside here and there. The grounds are lovely and our campus is very safe, so we take advantage of it.
101 And Counting
When people find out that I’m 101, they usually ask my secret. I give the good Lord 95% of the credit, and attribute the other 5% to exercise. I’ve exercised my whole life. I used to exercise with Jack LaLanne on TV – remember him? I also took long walks with my husband, and now Vonnie and I walk together. Plus, I take regular exercise classes here. I love the yoga and music and movement classes. You can do all the exercises sitting down, so it doesn’t hurt my back.
That’s Beacon Hill for you—creating fun classes just to make sure I stay active and in shape. I am truly blessed to be here. I’m enjoying the very best of life at Beacon Hill. You should try it, too. If I don’t see you on my walks, maybe I’ll bump into you in the garden and can share an apple with you. You know what they say, an apple a day…