By Rick Banas of Gardant Management Solutions
With Heritage Woods of Freeport in the midst of a redecorating project, two residents of the affordable assisted living community located in Stephenson County, Illinois, came up with an idea for adding a special touch.
They wanted to brighten up the Activity Room by painting a mural on one the walls.
The residents – Sara Lynn, 82, and Betty Ray, 93, – became good friends at Heritage Woods because of their common love of art.
Sara Lynn had moved into the last available apartment at Heritage Woods when it opened for occupancy ten years ago. She was looking at downsizing from her home in Roscoe, Illinois, after being diagnosed with cancer. While she was able to get her cancer under control, she was also coping with other health care concerns. Heritage Woods fit her needs.
Betty Ray and her husband, J.C., lived at Knollwood Estates, a community of manufactured homes in Freeport. J.C. had mild dementia and moved in first. Betty Ray had heart issues and soon followed him. She has been a resident of the community for the past six years.
Betty, who paints folk art, had managed a bowling alley and taught blind bowlers how to bowl. She was honored by the Rockford Chamber of Commerce for her community service. She is the mother of two and proud of her 72-year marriage to J.C.
Sara Lynn’s father taught her the basics of portraiture at an early age. She painted her first portrait in 1956, capturing the likeness of Elvis Presley. In her forties, she took art lessons and mastered general design skills, folk art, and Rose maling. She has sold many of her paintings to collectors, participated in numerous art and craft shows, and published two books and her paintings are illustrated in many books. You can also find Sara Lynn on Pinterest.
Over the years, she painted hundreds of murals and backgrounds for photographers. The Professional Photographers of America bestowed her with master of photography and master of arts degrees.
Both residents say they enjoy the pleasant lifestyle that is available at Heritage Woods and appreciate living in a community that is active. They say the apartments are a nice size, and the staff is wonderful.
Sara Lynn has three children and shares her apartment with her cat, Monkey Business.
For the mural, the two residents felt the canvas blocks that were on the wall lent themselves to a graphic design of black, white and shades of grey. Rather than their original idea of a pastoral scene, they decided on a forest of trees given they were living at Heritage Woods.
As the two painted, Elvis gospel music played in the background
Sprinkled among the forest of trees are birds, bees, and woodland creatures. Other residents joined the fun by painting their initials or their names on leaves found within the mural.
A bright red cardinal is perched above the door to Randy Duchow’s office. Randy is the community’s Resident Services Coordinator. He is responsible for the social, recreational, educational, and wellness programs at Heritage Woods. The cardinal, the two women say, symbolizes that angels are near.