Russ & Dorothy Watkins Story
Russ and Dorothy Watkins have been residents at Beacon Hill’s campus for only six years, but Russ’s 43-year membership on the Board of Directors and the couple’s 20 years of volunteer service here given them a unique perspective. They know the facility, the staff, and the leadership team. And, as volunteers and now as residents, they know the steadfast commitment of Beacon Hill to its mission—to provide compassionate care for all residents.
Married Sixty-Seven Years and Counting
Russ and Dorothy are Grand Rapids natives. They met on a blind date when she was 19 and he was 20. Each of them says the other was “an answer to prayer.”
“After our first date, our blind date, I never dated another girl,” says Russ. “She was ‘it’ for me! She was just a wonderful person to be around. And it didn’t take me long to realize that she would make a very good wife! So, the night I graduated from high school, I asked her to marry me, and she said ‘yes.’ We were married 16 months after we met.”
A two-year stint in the Army, Judge Advocate section, followed. A week after his discharge, Dorothy gave birth to their first child. Three more children followed, including one adoption. They are now proud and grateful parents of four, with 14 grandchildren and 14 great-grandchildren.
While Dorothy was at home caring for the children, Russ was working at Meijer. “I helped open the first Meijer store in Grand Rapids in 1948,” he recalls. “I was a stocker. I worked my way up to store management. ‘Thrifty Acres’ they called it then. They surely treated me well. And I still shop there!” declares Russ.
A theme that runs throughout Russ and Dorothy’s conversation is gratefulness for God’s provision—work…jobs…homes…wonderful children…funds for the kids’ educations. “I don’t know how the money stretched,” muses Russ, “but He provided for us. We never missed a meal, never missed a payment.”
In the apartment, one of Russ’ favorite places is his study area. He looks up from his desk where he’s been reading his new Scofield Study Bible. “There’s a name for God in the Old Testament—Jehovah Jireh. It’s used in the story of Abraham and Isaac. And it means, ‘God will provide.’ Well, he certainly has!”
Living at Beacon Hill
Asked to reflect on life at Beacon Hill, Russ mentions, “The care that the help shows is exceptional. They are just so compassionate and so concerned that your needs are met. The activity program is good. Maintenance is good. Wonderful people. The food is beyond wonderful.”
“The waitresses and waiters are gracious,” adds Dorothy.
“They make you feel safe and secure here,” says Russ. “It’s a nice feeling to know that, if something is wrong, there’s going to be somebody there to help you.”
Reflecting on making the transition to Assisted Living, Russ jokes: “After moving here, Dorothy didn’t have to suffer through my cooking anymore.”
On the serious side, “There are changes you have to make. You have to get rid of a lot of things. First of all, you think about your furniture,” says Dorothy. “And giving up the garage,” adds Russ.
“But whatever you ask and need, the help is right there. If you get a dietary directive from your doctor, they give the cook and the dietician the instructions. If we are late for a meal, they are at the door to check on us, and they have keys to get in if we don’t answer.”
“It’s also comforting to know that if you need nursing care, it is available right here. And if one of us has to be in the skilled nursing wing, the other is not far away.
Secure in What’s Next
Through it all, Russ and Dorothy see the faithfulness of God, providing everything they’ve needed each step of the way in their lives—from marriage to children to Assisted Living and whatever is next.
And they have confidence in Beacon Hill. Russ comments as a former board member, “You don’t have to worry about this place going away. It’s solid. The Lord raised it up and The Lord provided through all of these years. And now, He’s given more buildings, and more opportunities to care for more people.”
Including Russ and Dorothy.
Jehovah Jireh—The Lord Provides.