Jud and Peggy Ross’s Story
After living in nearby Ada for over 40 years, Jud and Peggy Ross moved into the new C-Wing of Beacon Hill at Eastgate in November of 2016. This fun, outgoing couple remains active in the broader community while joining in numerous activities here at Beacon Hill. We chatted about their background, their selection of Beacon Hill at Eastgate as their retirement residence, and their experience of the community here. The delightful and wide-ranging conversation, presented in part below, was full of laughter, finishing of each other’s sentences, and a recurring theme: friendships with residents and staff at Beacon Hill.
“I’m originally from Alexandria, Virginia—right outside of Washington D.C.,” Peggy explains. “I’m the oldest from a family of four girls. I went to Michigan State University and met Jud my freshman year. It was a blind date. In fact, my roommate originally was going to be your date,” she said, turning to Jud, “and she got sick. So, I was a stand-in.”
“The original date must have looked me up in the yearbook or something and saw my picture!” jokes Jud.
“No, she did not! She was truly sick!” Peggy replies, laughing.
The Challenge of Balancing Work Life and Family Life Didn’t Start with Millennials
After Michigan State, Jud worked with Carson Pirie Scott, a department store chain in downtown Chicago, and Peggy became a teacher.
“I started as a management trainee,” Jud recalls, “and then did human resources work. After eight or nine years, I became the HR Director for a subsidiary that had all the food and beverage concessions at O’Hare Airport. Then I started to hanker to make some changes, and I accepted a position at a store in Denver, Colorado. I worked out there for a year, but it didn’t turn out.”
“You know, seven days a week was not a good thing with three young girls,” remembers Peggy.
“I would go several days without seeing the girls awake! And that—life is just too short,” says Jud. “I got a call from an executive search firm located in Dallas, Texas, asking me very apologetically if I would ever consider working in Grand Rapids, Michigan! And we came in March of 1975, and have been here ever since…and really like it here!”
“It was a great move,” agrees Peggy.
Meanwhile, Peggy “taught kindergarten for two years and then “retired” and had my own kindergarten with the three girls. And then, when we moved here, I taught preschool about a block down the street at Eastminster Preschool. I taught there 26 years.”
“We used to attend that church as well,” Jud chimes in, “so we were very familiar with the neighborhood. Drove by the—”
“—Old Metropolitan Hospital—”
“—that became Beacon Hill. So, we’ve seen it from the beginning… from the mid-70’s.”
Then and Now
“We lived in Ada, so we didn’t move very far when we moved here,” says Peggy. “We still keep those friendships and activities.”
“Yes. Yes. We want to keep that,” echoes Jud, “keep active with that as long as we possibly can.”
“We still have car keys!”
Jud is active with several community service clubs, including YMCA Y’s Men’s Club, a YMCA booster club that raises money for Camp Manitou-Lin, and with the Golden K Kiwanis Club.
“I’ve been a member of the Y Service Club since 1975,” he explains. “And we’re really good at fund-raising for the YMCA Camp Manitou-Lin. We have a big white elephant sale every year and we also have a race. It’s called ‘Run Through the Rapids.’ I’m still involved. Not as a runner—I’m the ‘trailer’ of the 10K run. So, I get on my bicycle and follow the last runner. And I have my telephone with me so I can call for help if somebody’s gasping for air, whatever, or having a problem.”
Life and Friends at Beacon Hill
The duo is also active in many aspects of Beacon Hill at Eastgate’s community life.
“I’m involved with the ‘We the People’ class,” says Jud. “It’s great, great fun. I just find it very stimulating to talk about the Constitution, current events and political points of view. It’s run by a former political science instructor—so she teaches it just like in a regular classroom.”
“Better be there on time!” exclaims Peggy.
“Better be on time or you’re going to be in trouble!” agrees Jud.
“But she’s a very, very nice person,” Jud continues, “and very intelligent and knowledgeable, particularly of the Constitution. We bring a copy of the Constitution with us every week to class, we read chapters out of the book, and she has topics for us to discuss…and questions. So, we get different points of view, which I find very stimulating and interesting.”
“We have made friends here, too,” Peggy points out.
“Yes, besides the friends that are staff people here,” Jud says. “We’ve made a lot of friends just by the mixing at dinnertime. And I’ve been able to go out and play golf with some of them, which has been nice.”
“In fact, one of the things we like,” Jud continues, “is the whole social aspect of being able to mix with people; and the program that they have in our dining area where they mix the people each night for dinner is very nice. We get acquainted with everybody that way, and we like it. It’s not as cliquey. And I think older people can be just as cliquey as—”
“Teenagers!” says Peggy.
“—as junior high kids can be. They just get crankier than junior high kids. But the mixing—we like that very much.”
“That’s special,” Peggy agrees.
“We looked at other retirement communities, and some of those are just fine places. We just liked this one better. It’s a smaller community. And better chance to—
“—get to know people and be an individual instead of just another body,” concludes Jud.
Fun Foreign Food
They like the cuisine, as well.
“It’s really nice when we can eat outside in the garden café,” says Peggy. “They’re also doing an international night once a week, which is really fun. This week is going to be Indian food, so we’re being exposed to some really new and delicious foods.”
“Well, we had Louisiana cooking,” adds Jud. “We’ve had Italian, Greek, and Asian. So, we have different cuisines.“
“And it’s a treat for our kids when they come in here to eat too,” says Jud.
“You get an appetizer,” says Peggy. “You get an entrée, and you get dessert. So, there’s—“
“Something I didn’t get at home!” bemoans Jud.
“You did not,” says Peggy, unapologetically.
Hall, Hall, the Gang’s all Here
The cheerful couple also participates in hall parties. “We were the second people to move in on this C Wing ground floor,” says Peggy, “and so, we’ve seen people move in—and it is a really friendly group of people.”
“Yeah, the people on our floor…we’ve certainly gotten very well acquainted with them,” agrees Jud. “We’ve got buddies in the other wings too—and occasionally are asked to be ambassadors to help welcome new arrivals and show them around and answer their questions.”
“And Maira, the Resident Life & Volunteer Coordinator, does a wonderful job of getting great activities for us to do here,” says Peggy.
“Yes,” Jud agrees. “Besides being a great friend, which she is also, she and Sarah Johnson have brought a fresh perspective of different ideas of programs.”
“What was the one where—the monuments? National monuments. Like a quiz?” asks Peggy.
“She has programs, like contests, where you get your competitive juices going,” Jud replies. “But we also have walking groups where we’ll go out and walk in different community parks around the area. And we have the bus and the wonderful bus drivers that will drive us to different activities, too. We enjoy the Civic Theater and Circle Theater.”
“And the symphony,” adds Peggy. “That’s really nice. They pick us up here and drop us off there, and so you really don’t even need a heavy winter coat.”
“You could wear a spring jacket to go,” says Jud, “and then when you’re sitting down in the theater, you’re not all crammed in with a coat to deal with.
The Love-Hate Relationship with Football
Jud and Peggy are MSU football fans, too, “but not as intense,” says Jud.
“I don’t like sitting in the rain and the cold,” explains Peggy.
“And I don’t like listening to her complain about it!” smiles Jud.
“If you’re soaked from head to toe, it’s not fun.”
“…if it’s 35 degrees, and you’ve got an angry wife sitting there. And I would say, ‘We paid 60 dollars for this much space—and we’re going to sit here until the game’s over!’”
The duo laughs and Jud continues, “But at the Spartan basketball games—at least we know what the weather is going to be like inside!” We still haven’t convinced Beacon Hill to take us to our Michigan State basketball games. We’ve had season tickets for 30 years. We’d love to have—
“A bus full!” says Peggy.
Children and Schooling and Aging and Laundry
Of course, family life is important to the two proud parents, so conversation also turns to their children…and schooling…and aging…and laundry—in that order.
“We have three daughters,” Jud says. “Our oldest went to Michigan State for undergraduate and master’s degrees.”
“She’s a teacher in Lansing,” Peggy adds, “and I think she has almost 30 years in now.”
“It’s scary,” says Jud. “She’s—”
“She’s getting old!”
“She’s eligible for retirement. I’m so surprised that she has such young parents!”
“Our middle daughter, who is also a teacher, went to Western Michigan University where she graduated with a double major in Spanish and in Education. She got her master’s degree in English as a Second Language. Our youngest daughter graduated from the University of Michigan where she majored in Archeology. A part-time job she especially enjoyed was cleaning ancient coins for their museum. She now works as a human resources director.”
“So, we ended up supporting three state schools!” says Peggy.
“That was a real happy time,” recalls Jud. “There was one year where they were all in school at the same time when Thanksgiving break came, and I took a day off from work. It’s a 400-mile trip to go from Kalamazoo to Ann Arbor to Lansing and back to Grand Rapids.”
“And I couldn’t go,” Peggy laughs, “because there wasn’t enough room for me in the car with all of their dirty laundry!”
Making the Move
Moving to Beacon Hill started a new phase in their lives and, of course, the transition was challenging. But, they said, living here eases their minds.
“You don’t shop, you don’t cook, you don’t clean up,” says Peggy, “and that takes away a lot of the worry and busyness.”
Jud addresses a different aspect of the change: getting rid of junk. “It’s certainly nice to have things be more in order. We had a four-bedroom home. You accumulate a lot of junk that you just don’t want to—”
“Stuff,” says Peggy. “Stuff—”
“Stuff you don’t want to get rid of,” continues Jud. “And I had to part with some things I didn’t want to—didn’t want to give up.”
“You still have it,” Peggy counters. “All of it.”
“But—well—my ice skates and my hockey stick,” admits Jud.
“Your bowling ball,” says Peggy.
“And I did keep my baseball glove in case Beacon Hill gets a baseball team going. I kept that.”
Peggy, too, confesses downsizing was tough. “Fortunately, we had three girls that said, ‘You don’t need this. You don’t need that. You don’t need this.’”
Friends for the Making at Beacon Hill
What would they say to somebody who was looking at Beacon Hill at Eastgate, to convince them to move here? The couple is quick to agree.
“I think it’s the people that are here…” says Peggy.
“The people,” Jud echoes. “After we moved here, we realized that what we liked most about Beacon Hill were the residents who live here. We find very interesting, nice, congenial people that are very supportive of one another. There is a feeling of family and community.”
It’s abundantly clear from our conversation that Jud and Peggy are very much a part of creating that sense of community.