Mary Grant—Grand Rapids Girl Comes Home

Beacon Hill at Eastgate—Mary’s Extended Family

When you talk with Beacon Hill resident Mary Grant, family comes up a lot: Her sisters, her late husband, her 3 children, 5 grandchildren, and 8 great grandchildren.

But it’s not just her biological family she talks about. Beacon Hill is her family, too, she says. “It’s a place where you can just sit and chat with others about nothing important. But I’ve also shared with people I regularly have dinner with what’s going on in my life…and they listen…and they care. What makes it a community is that people care about each other. It’s family.”

In fact, for Mary, it seems everyone is family! “I believe that every person is a beloved child of God,” she says, “…every single person. And I pray every day that that’s how I will see every person.”

Grand Rapids—Coming Full Circle

Mary was born in Grand Rapids and raised partly in Michigan, but her family moved several times, as her Naval officer father was stationed in various places around the country. Mary returned to Michigan for high school and college, majoring in mathematics at the University of Michigan, and earning a masters degree at Western Michigan University—both of which were unusual for a woman in that era. “I was the only girl in my calculus class,” Mary recalls. Her husband Guy also majored in business at Western. After his graduation, they moved to Minnesota, where they raised their two boys and a girl. While Guy worked for 3M, Mary taught math in junior high school, then switched into the corporate insurance world.

After their children were grown and had moved away, the couple thought they’d live in Minnesota the rest of their lives. “But then Guy developed Alzheimer’s,” Mary explains, “and I had what I call a spiritual moment…a holy moment. I woke up right in the middle of the night. ‘You need to move near one of your kids.’ It was out of the blue. I hadn’t considered it.” Mary talked with her Guy’s neurologist, who thought it was a good idea. “So, I called my oldest son in Dayton, Ohio, and I said, ‘Hi, Mike. I think we’re moving to Dayton.’ And we did.”

“I lived there 8½ years until Guy passed away—he was in a nursing home 4 years.” By then, her son Mike had moved due to work changes, “so there I was with no family. Alone. And where did I go? My two sisters, Barb and Janice, lived here in Grand Rapids…and we always had a ball when we got together. So, I came back to Grand Rapids.”

Beacon Hill Tops the List

“I knew I wanted to move into a retirement community of some kind,” Mary explains, “and my sisters made a list of places to look. This was the best by far, I thought. It just seemed like the ideal location—Barb and Janice were living over by Calvin College…just a skip and jump away. And the services they offered here and the meal plan…it all just fit what I was looking for. And they were building this brand-new wing—it really attracted me to be moving into a brand-new place—and I loved the layout. I wanted two bedrooms and two baths so my kids could come and visit. And I love it! I just have never regretted it.”

Mary was a bit intimidated by Beacon Hill on her first visit, she admits. “I walked in the front door and I thought, ‘This isn’t me. This is elegant, and I’m not elegant.’ One of the first questions I asked was, ‘Can I wear jeans to dinner?’ They assured me I could.”

And so, she does just that, and she feels right at home, because it’s the people who truly make Beacon Hill home. After more than three years here, Mary says, “I love the friendliness of the community. I love the way Beacon Hill mixes us up so we meet different people, and everyone I meet is wonderful. And there are opportunities to be involved as you want to be.”

That’s What Sisters Do

Mary is used to being “involved”! Before returning to Grand Rapids, she was a very active volunteer. She worked with a Guardian ad Litem program, representing children in the court system. She was president of her condo homeowner’s association, and she served as a “Stephen’s Minister” as part of a nationwide, church-based program that cares for people going through tough times. She misses all that. “I’m a caregiver by nature,” she observes.

It was her sisters, Barb and Janice, who drew Mary back to Grand Rapids—and they are the center of her life here. “They are incredibly important to me,” Mary says. “I am the oldest. One is three years younger, and one is three years younger than that. And the youngest one now has Alzheimer’s, and I am grateful to be here, to be of assistance. A couple of weeks ago, she fell and broke her arm. So, bless her heart, she needs even more help. I’m just glad I’m here to help her. That’s what sisters do.”

Helping her sister requires independence, which Mary maintains by keeping her car. “My son keeps telling me, ‘Mom, get rid of your car and just do Uber.’ But there’s too many times when you want—just spur of the moment—you want to go someplace, and you need a car.”

Other than her sisters and a nearby nephew, Mary doesn’t know many people in Grand Rapids outside of Beacon Hill itself. “That was one of the difficult parts of moving back. I don’t have a community outside. I attend church, but it’s a large church that you can easily get lost in. So, Beacon Hill is my community.”

And Mary is Involved!

Mary balances out her life with active involvement here. “I’m in three bridge groups, plus teaching a bridge group,” she explains. “I volunteered to teach the bridge group because—my goodness, if somebody wants to learn bridge, I’m going to make sure they learn!”

“And I attend the ‘We the People’ class, which is a politics class with an incredible instructor who taught government all her life and knows her Constitution backwards and forwards. (Being a math student, I avoided that kind of subject at all costs! That was not my thing.) She’s become a good friend of mine, and just laughs at what I know and don’t know. She really challenges us, and it’s a great class.”

Mary also belongs to the book group and attends an Alzheimer’s support group.

In quiet moments in her own apartment, Mary is a quilter and cross stitch enthusiast. “I grew up in a family that wasn’t particularly wealthy,” she explains. “I wore homemade clothes through most of high school and learned to sew. A natural step from that was moving into quilting and cross stitch. As you sit and watch TV in the evening, you can cross stitch.” Several of her own beautiful quilts and cross stitch pictures adorn her apartment.

The Beacon Hill Community

For Mary, it’s not just Beacon Hill residents who are family to her. It’s also Beacon Hill staff.

“I love Maira,” she says. “I know she hasn’t been here very long, but she jumped in with both feet. And she always has a cheerful look and a greeting.” “And, honestly,” she adds, “I liked Lori when she was selling me on the place!”

And who else stands out? “Well, Jeff, our fearless leader! I know I’ve gone into his office and talked to him a couple of times. We’ve prayed together. You know, I feel comfortable going and talking to him. And that’s important to me.”

“And staff is right here if you need something. My TV gave out, you know? They were here. I went and bought the TV and, of course, at Best Buy, they put it in the car for me. And then the staff here got it out of the car and got it up here and hooked it all up for me and showed me how to use the new remote. I mean, they’re here to help.”

“It’s Family Here”

Anyone who knows Beacon Hill knows that meal times here are important for residents and guests alike. Mary’s sisters, Barb and Janice, occasionally come for meals and special events. So do her nephew and his family. The comradery impresses them, too. “They don’t want to sit just with me alone,” Mary says. “They love coming and sitting at a table with other people from Beacon Hill.”

Once, when one of Mary’s sisters was here for a meal, she and Mary stopped by a table to talk to one of Mary’s friends, whose son had just gotten out of the hospital and was also visiting. “I talked to them, and he shared how he was doing,” Mary recalls. “As we left, my sister said to me, ‘I get it. It’s family here.’ That was a powerful observation for me.”

One day, Mary ran into Jeff in the hall, “and he said, ‘Mary, you might like this,’ and he gave me a book to read on leadership, Leadership and Self-Deception – Arbinger Institute. And I read it, and the whole book boiled down to teaching one employee in the book that every person he treats is a child of God, but remembering also that he, himself, is a child of God. You can’t forget that part of it either.”

“I haven’t found anybody at Beacon Hill that I don’t like, you know,” Mary continues. “And maybe that’s part of that outlook, that they’re a beloved child. But at the same time, it’s just good people living here. And I love it. It’s very comfortable to live here feeling that way too. It feels very safe.”



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