Why We Live Here:
Well-Spring, A Life Plan Community in Greensboro, NC, offers a lifestyle without the worries as well as engaging activities with friends and neighbors – you can find it all here.
U.S. record-setter and Well-Spring resident Dot Sowerby embraces an impressive ‘keep going’ philosophy
By Laureen Haviland
She appears in our ads. She’s the real deal. And with her impressive continuing commitment to physical activity at 90 years young, she’s an inspiration to so many.
Dot Sowerby was born in White Plains, N.Y., in 1933, but she has spent the better part of her life in Greensboro. The Well-Spring resident says she loved playing football in her neighborhood as a child with her two older brothers. She always had a tremendous amount of energy and remembers there being no running events for girls, not even in college where she studied Sociology at Hollins University in Virginia. However, while there she played tennis, basketball and golf before later moving to Greensboro where she worked in adoption and foster services.
Dot – now an amazingly active 90-year-old – was always moving. She said her husband, due to his height and long steps, contributed to her being a brisk walker before her running days began. After Dot had kids of her own, it became obvious that they inherited her energy. Her daughter, in particular, has taken an interest in running, and Dot and her granddaughter ran a race together, with both winning in their category.
Dot started her first race at age 50. She competes in about 20 races every year. In July, Dot participated in the National Senior Games in Pittsburgh, Penn. In her age group of 90-94, Dot brought home five gold medals in running. She won in the 50-, 100-, 200-, 400- and 800-meter run. She also brought home a gold medal in the shot put. A few weeks later, Dot went on to participate in the USA Masters held at A & T Stadium in Greensboro. In her age group, she won silver in the 100-meter run and gold in the 400-, 800- and 1500-meter runs. In addition, she took gold in shot put and the running long jump. Dot set an American record for women 90-94 in the 400-meter run and went on to set a World record in the 1,500-meter run.
Many of her friends discouraged her from running once she got to age 70 as it was seen as “unsafe” as you age. However, her orthopedist disagreed and told her to keep running! She now knows that we are never too old to try new adventures – keep going no matter what. We all get caught up in being complacent yet there is so much to do, see and experience. When asked about the switch that we often need to get up out of bed and make things happen, she explains that waking up to a run as the very first activity is the only way for her. “Then I have coffee– that is my reward!” Dot says.
Right around her first run in the 1980s, Dot was diagnosed with Spasmodic Dysphonia, a neurological voice disorder. She was a charter board member of National Spasmodic Dysphonia Association Board and has served as President of NSDA. Dot is also an author of a book and ambassador to this worthy organization. She says running has always been freeing for her especially as she experienced a gradual change in your voice. Physical exercise is simply what works in feeling good overall.
“Keep going!” Dot says, with her typical enthusiasm.
New resident chose Well-Spring site unseen – from California
Nancy Ramm stepped into North Carolina knowing no one. She lived out west for most of her life, from her birth in Santa Monica to settling in the northern end of Monterey Bay. She was a California gal from the start. After Nancy attended UCLA, she stayed in her home state and married a real estate developer.
California was always her home. Until spring 2022.
Something about living in the southeastern region appealed to Nancy. She and her family knew there would be some shifting after her husband, Steven, died in 2021. Nancy had ancestry in North Carolina, rooting back to her great-grandparents in the 1700s, and this history began to surface. She seemed sure of one thing – her next chapter would be in the South.
It may seem a bit risky to move to a new home across the country, site unseen. But Nancy spent no time wallowing in uncertainty about resettling far away. When she and her son browsed Well-Spring’s website for the first time, she said she was sold! Once she made the call to a Well-Spring sales associate, she had a gut feeling without even visiting the life plan community.
Nancy simply knew what to do.
At the time, Nancy had health issues, and she recalls Well-Spring having space in Assisted Living, which was not the norm in most retirement communities, including Well-Spring. In the spring of last year, Nancy was able to secure an Assisted Living apartment and arrived on campus. Soon after, she got a call from her doctor and was very pleased to be given a clean bill of health. Nancy is currently awaiting her next exciting move to Independent Living at Well-Spring.
Nancy could not be happier about her life here. In fact, she was giddy with joy about her experience from the very first phone call to JulieMorris, Well-Spring’s sales associate. She got to know all the staff in AL, along with finding a new and dear friend, Margaret Willard. She taught Nancy in just a short time about aging gracefully and how to overcome obstacles as we age.
When asked about her favorite part about living here, Nancy found it hard to pick just one or two. She says her days are filled with superb dining and endless activities. The staff is always polite and involved. Having such a robust wellness/fitness program is also very impressive to Nancy. In addition to the facilities, she cannot say enough about the residents.
“So many are musical, artistic, accomplished and funny! Very funny!” Nancy says. “I belly laugh at least three times a day here. We all have stories – good ones!”
Along the way, Nancy met new friends with whom she grew close and who helped introduce her to others. Nancy is amazed and appreciative of the backgrounds and talents that surround her here.
This new chapter has already exceeded Nancy’s expectations after just one year. It could be that listening to her heart allowed her the freedom to an unregretful path in living joyfully.
Having rubbed shoulders with many stars, Mike Clark finds he still has a place on stage at Well-Spring
By Laureen Haviland
Mike Clark has long had stars in his eyes. Movie and TV stars, that is. And living at Well-Spring, A Life Plan Community in Greensboro, N.C., has afforded him continued opportunities to put his considerable skills to use.
Born in Houston, Mike parlayed a great voice, knowledge and looks into a career that ranged from modeling to movie reviews and even acting, himself. He has regaled his friends and neighbors at Well-Spring with stories about his unique experiences.
Mike graduated from The University of Texas at Austin and completed graduate work at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. He then moved to Omaha, Neb., to teach English and filmmaking at the world-famous Fr. Flanagan’s Boys Town. After eight years there, he ran a professional theatre, producing more than 50 Actors’ Equity Association plays.
Mike’s distinctive voice and articulate delivery were a perfect fit for the next steps in his career. In the mid- to late-1980s, Mike joined the on-air news team of KMTV3, the CBS affiliate in Omaha, as “critic-at-large,” the entertainment-news anchor providing movie, theatre and restaurant reviews. If you search hard enough, you might even find some old footage of Mike’s interviews with celebrities!
He says he didn’t imagine he would be called to do some acting. However, after college Mike had a modeling gig and appeared in a mattress commercial. He must have made an impression, as he was later called to play an emergency-room doctor on the soap opera The Guiding Light!
During Mike’s exciting career he has met a long list of celebrities. When asked about his favorites, two came up quickly for him: Sophia Loren and Carol Burnett. Loren, he says, still in awe, was the only celebrity among the many he’s met who actually made him nervous. Even so, he didn’t just meet these luminaries but also developed friendships with them, as well.
With bemusement, Mike recalls the time Paramount Studios was ready to pull the trigger on booking him to help promote a new movie called Top Gun with an up-and-coming actor, Tom Cruise. However, his then-news director did not think this new actor would amount to anything … and, as a result, Mike didn’t end up participating.
During this time, Mike started questioning his value and purpose in his line of work. He and his wife, Elizabeth, were living on a farm, riding horses and tending to black angus cattle. One day, he says, after blowing snow for hours, he had a bit of an epiphany. Moving out of Nebraska could be possible – but now he was leaning toward relocating eastbound rather than west. So, he and Elizabeth made a chart that tracked the pros and cons of Omaha vs. Raleigh, N.C. The Raleigh list included fresh shrimp, barbecue and trees. (Apparently, Omaha did have one tree, but it was not doing well!)
Mike knew getting another job in a different city or state would not be a problem given his reputation and network. And having Oprah Winfrey as a reference on your resume can surely open a few doors, if needed.
So, in 1986 North Carolina became their new home. Mike worked for North Carolina Public Television and later switched roles yet again to corporate communications in Research Triangle Park. In the late ’90s, the couple made it to Greensboro, where Mike served as Chief Public Information Officer for Greensboro College until retirement in 2006.
“Teaching – being able to recognize the talents and abilities in youth,” Mike says, when asked to name his favorite role throughout his career, adding that for him, success “is making things better.”
Then came Well-Spring.
“We all have three ages – youth, middle age and ‘You’re looking well,’” Mike says. “And we need three things to be happy: Someone to love, something to do and something to look forward to. The warm and welcoming community of Well-Spring offers all three to the residents here. It truly is a life-enhancing and life-extending place to live.”
Recently, Mike launched a new program that puts his talents to work yet again. Utilizing Well-Spring’s 350-seat Virginia Somerville Sutton Theatre, each quarter Mike hosts “Well-Spring, Meet Well-Spring,” a discussion program that introduces Well-Spring residents and team members to each other through informative and entertaining conversations to help build connections and community.
Elizabeth and Mike say they are happy at Well-Spring.
“We like to tell new residents that at Well-Spring, the sidewalks are a little smoother, the neighborhoods are filled with love and the rains come only after dark,” Mike says. “And most of that is true.”
One of our residents, Rip Bernhardt, is shown with granddaughter English Bernhardt, who stars in the lead role of the Broadway touring company of “Mean Girls.” The show’s recent stop in Greensboro provided time for Rip and his pride and joy to catch up. For upcoming happenings at Well-Spring’s own theatre, click here.
The ties that bind:
Nearly 30 years after it opened its doors,
Well-Spring is home to son of very early resident
By Ann Davis-Rowe
As Well-Spring celebrates its 29th anniversary, it’s only natural that we are now welcoming the children of some of our earliest residents. One who recently moved in is the son of a woman who was among the very first group of 11 residents to arrive – back in 1993!
Elswick Smith isn’t just the son of one of the first Well-Spring residents, he’s also a child of central North Carolina. He was born in Raleigh, spent his early years in High Point and then lived in Hickory and Asheboro. His Duke University education was started and then paused for Elswick to serve four years in the U.S. Air Force.
After Elswick’s service, a friend back home in Asheboro introduced Elswick to his sister-in-law, Louise. She and Elswick were married in 1959, shortly after he graduated from Duke. The newlyweds then moved to Greensboro, where Elswick had taken a job with an accounting firm. Peat, Marwick, Mitchell & Co. is also where former Well-Spring resident Jack Dixon worked, as well Ken Tutterow, the father of Alan Tutterow, Well-Spring’s COO and Director of Philanthropy
Several years later, Elswick went to work for denim manufacturer Blue Bell, Inc., and he stayed there until its merger with VF in 1986, when he retired. A few years later, Elswick’s mother, Pauline, began considering the fledging organization that would become Well-Spring Retirement Community, opening its doors in 1993. Meanwhile, Elswick was enjoying his early retirement, exercising an hour a day, doing yardwork and playing golf.
When it came time to consider their own future living arrangements, Elswick and his wife, Louise, placed Well-Spring at the top of their list. Sadly, she has since passed away.
“We always had Well•Spring in mind,” Elswick says. “I’d been familiar with it for a long time, and without a doubt, it’s the best retirement facility in Greensboro, I don’t think there’s any question about that.”
Now that it’s his turn to live at Well-Spring, Elswick enjoys the peace of mind that comes from knowing his own children won’t have to worry about him as he ages.
“Well-Spring is an outstanding facility,” Elswick says. “They have everything you could want, and it’s well-kept, it looks nice. It’s just a very, very nice place in all respects.”
Basket-making provides ‘insight into a whole new world;’
Talented residents make unique use of art studios
By Ann Davis-Rowe
At Well-Spring, there’s no shortage of activities, from lectures and performances in our own theatre to art classes in two full-service art studios. And one of these art classes is basket-making.
Resident Barbara Boulton had a home in Florida, and a friend there got her into the art of weaving reeds. She found a teacher here in North Carolina who, in turn, led her to Peggy Adelman, who now currently coaches at Well-Spring.
“It’s a very addictive thing,” Barbara says.
Even before there were classes at Well-Spring, Barbara was sharing her favorite craft with fellow residents. “There are so many talented people here,” says Barbara, mentioning specifically Porter Halyburton, known for his ceramics and wooden boxes. His wife, Marty, was one of the first residents interested in joining Barbara in basket-making.
Over the years, Barbara estimates she has made hundreds of baskets, all of which have been given away. “Mother, it’s a hobby, you don’t charge for a hobby,” she quotes her daughter. Despite being a crafty art and pretty decorations, handmade baskets can be incredibly practical, from serving bread to carrying – and even chilling — wine. There are endless options and “when you see someone else doing something, you think you want to try it, too,” Barbara points out.
Barbara and Peggy both agree that basket-making is a great way to keep busy.
“It’s very therapeutic,” Peggy says. “I can’t imagine not doing it.”
Peggy and her husband moved a lot over the years, and when they settled in North Carolina, she signed up for a class at Guilford Technical Community College (GTCC), never dreaming doing so would propel another career. She was always crafty, has a degree in fashion merchandising, and soon became enamored with the art because “you can make something new, something different, and you always have something to show after it.”
The GTCC basket-making class runs regularly, and after a few cycles, Peggy found herself looking for more challenges. It was then that she discovered the North Carolina Basket Makers Association, and after a few more years of study, she was asked to take over the GTCC course. She’s been teaching there for over a decade, and she also teaches for regional and national events. To teach nationally, you have to submit your own designs, which include not just shape and color, but also whether you intend a specific use for the basket, or if it’s just to be an art piece. Basket designs include not just regularly repeating over/under designs but also “twill,” which means weaving in a way that makes a pattern, like a heart.
Barbara likes Peggy’s classes because Peggy can show her how to do different tricks and techniques. Peggy is also available to help if someone needs extra hand strength. In addition, she’s working on becoming certified in Craftband, bonded, recycled paper strings that can be woven into baskets or to make hanging art, just like reeds. Craftband requires glue, unlike her usual baskets, but is easier than bending reeds for those who may have less manual dexterity. This will be yet another wonderful addition to Well-Spring’s artistic offerings.
One of the things Barbara and Peggy like best about basket-making is that anyone can do it. Kits generally cost between $35 and $55, and you know you’re going to have a finished project in the end. Resident Florence Gatten is new to basket-making but has already gained a lot from these classes.
“It is always interesting to watch the other students‘ progress on their baskets from beginning to satisfying and beautiful end,” she says.
Basket-making has a lot to offer for both experienced crafters as well as those seeking a new hobby. No special skills or artistic eye are required, just the ability to follow directions. Fellow residents can provide inspiration, and you can rest assured you’ll always have a helpful teacher on hand.
“Peggy is a gifted teacher,” Florence adds. “She provides individualized instruction even in a class of eight with all of us working on different projects. Peggy’s original designs reflect her 30 years of teaching. I recommend the basket-making class for the fun and for the insight into a whole new world.”
An atypical move proves ‘the right thing to do’
By Ann Davis-Rowe
Making the choice to move to a life plan community is a big one. You want to be sure you find a home that’s the right size, in a community that feels like home. If COVID taught us a few things, one lesson is that many things can be done virtually – even preparing to move into a retirement community.
Just ask Carol Armbruster.
Carol was living in a townhouse community in Massachusetts. Her husband, Carl, whom she calls “the last of the renaissance men,” was in a memory support facility nearby. Sadly, he passed away a few months into the pandemic. Several months later, Carol had a fall and broke her leg. That was when her son, a gastroenterologist in Greensboro who already was encouraging her to move south, began to more strongly press the idea.
“I’m not ready for an old-age home,” Carol always replied to him. In her experience, retirement communities were all blocky, boring apartment buildings, devoid of energy, creativity – and, well, life. Her life in New England was very full; she was even the chair of the activities committee in her condo community. However, she agreed to consider the future more seriously.
Carol had already begun looking online at multiple continuing care retirement communities in the area and contacted them for marketing packets. Her son had several patients over the years who lived at Well-Spring and loved it, so it was a big frontrunner in his mind. He even came with his iPad to virtually “tour” his mother around before her fall.
But, of course, he wasn’t the one looking to move in.
Carol isn’t the sort of person who must plan everything two weeks in advance. Yet even she wasn’t quite prepared to be contacted by Well-Spring as quickly as she was for her garden home.
“It just goes to show that everyone’s move-in story is different,” recalls sales counselor Erin Hartwick. “No one should ever let their perceived notion of the waiting list deter them from joining it. This was an unusual situation, and it highlights that there are many factors at play when it comes to home availability. It’s good to have options, and sometimes the option is invaluable.”
There was a flurry of Zoom meetings as Carol’s daughter-in-law met with Barbara Currie, Well-Spring’s move-in coordinator, to make her selections. Carol says that Barbara made the process easy. And Barbara recalls that despite less than desirable technical connections and sketchy colors from screen to screen, Carol kept a positive attitude as she continued her journey via the internet.
A positive attitude is one of Carol’s trademarks. “I’ve had a wonderful life and done a lot of things,” she says, including a career in education. So, one summer she and Carl took a five-week, nine-country European tour. They also traveled extensively closer to home, with trips to Alaska and the Canadian Rockies, along with some relaxing girls’ getaways for Carol, as well.
Thanks to the same technology that helped Carol move into Well-Spring without ever setting foot on campus, she is still able to keep in touch with all those friends back home, including participation in her book club and online games of bridge. And while she misses those friends, she is enjoying getting to spend more time in person with her grandsons, ages 6 and 9.
“I can now go to their athletic games,” she says, with a big smile. “Watching them from that viewpoint is very nice. I haven’t sat at a game like that since my own kids were that age.”
Carol retired from her position as a public high school director of guidance. She had been teaching at the college level and was at one point a director of financial aid. But she wanted to have the same schedule as her children. Now, they’re all together again as her other son just moved to the Raleigh area.
When not spending time with her family, Carol is adjusting to life at Well-Spring and in the greater community, including enjoying the warm autumn and the fall-blooming plants never seen in New England.
“Everybody has made it so easy to acclimate,” she says. While she hasn’t fully tapped into everything Well-Spring has to offer, she has joined some committees and is enjoying exercise classes, as well as playing mah jongg and going on out trips, such as one to Seagrove Pottery. Carol was even part of a team for Well-Spring’s resident cardboard boat regatta. She also loves the theater, and the cultural, music and art opportunities at her new home are, she points out, “phenomenal.”
Carol appreciates that many people reached out with dinner invitations immediately, as the dining area was the most intimidating part of the move. This was particularly true during the onset of COVID, when there weren’t a lot of other new residents arriving.
“Consistently, people have been so welcoming,” she says, adding she is very ecumenical in her own spirit and has been pleasantly surprised to find that at Well-Spring. “People are so open, very sharing. I like that aspect.”
“I always thought this wasn’t who I am,” says Carol, “someone who would move to a senior community. I never found anywhere to my liking.” While she never felt as if her active lifestyle would fit in with all older people she feels “in sync” at Well-Spring.
“It is impressing me that there is a lot of vitality here. I think it’s because everyone is so engaged with activities, and the social climate here, in general – it all helps people age in a healthy way.” While hers may not have been the most traditional of moves, she sums up: “Looking back, I know it was the right thing to do.”
Janice “Smack” Mack
FULL CIRCLE: One of Well-Spring’s first staff members now calls the retirement community her home
By Ann Davis-Rowe
After nearly 30 years, there’s not a lot of “firsts” that can happen at Well-Spring, A Life Plan Community. But here’s one – for the first time, a former team member calls Well-Spring home!
Janice “Smack” Mack moved into Well-Spring’s Greenway Villas this past summer, but her history with Well-Spring began before there even was a Well-Spring. As the founding Board of Trustees worked to create its idea of a continuing care retirement community, Smack was living in South Carolina and looking to move back to the Old North State. Her father, Ed, was on the board, so he knew the future Well-Spring was looking for a marketing director. He suggested she apply. She replied, “You just stay out of it.”
But sometimes, father knows best.
Since Well-Spring was getting established, marketing was critical. The new community had to have a 70-percent reservation rate to even break ground. This was a particular challenge because another attempted CCRC hadn’t come to fruition around that time.
“We had nothing to show anyone,” Smack recalls. “We had land and a fantastic board of trustees.” Current resident Clyde Collins was one of the founding board members. “Talk about a saint on earth,” Smack says. These early Board members had a lot of stature in the community, and the work they did helped market the new project they believed in so strongly. Clyde and the other board members’ names “gave us the credibility we needed.”
That fantastic board had a marketing committee. Current resident Florence Gatten, a founding Trustee, served on this committee. It was chaired by future resident and founding Trustee Ann Lineweaver. In addition, there were four sales staff members – including the move-in coordinator, Wanda Poole, who today is also on Well-Spring’s waiting list. They also hired an outside marketing company to consult and a very creative person to help with advertising.
“He made a very effective campaign out of couples saying a simple reason as to why they had reserved a home at Well-Spring,” Smack says. The board marketing committee and staff also launched a weekly newsletter called Currents. “We basically did a variety of traditional marketing activities to get to that 70 percent,” she adds, then quickly acknowledging the entire team, including the board, for their help in selling homes before they even existed.
“We not only had to get people to sign up but also keep them interested,” Smack remembers. One way was by creating a Charter Club, a group for early reservation holders. They had social events to help the to-be-residents get to know each other and provide updates to keep everyone interested. In addition, the sales office had a big board of the reservation holders’ names and photos. Future residents helped bring in others.
Finally, the magic 70-percent reservation goal was achieved.
“Groundbreaking was a very happy day,” Smack says with a smile. “I knew then that Well-Spring would be in my future. I could picture myself here even at that earlier age.”
But Smack was beaten to a home at Well-Spring by her own parents! Her mother, Lorraine, moved into a villa before her father was ready. “It was a joke in town that my parents were separated,” she jokes. Another relative – Smack’s Aunt Madeline – was also an early resident.
Family dinners with all the Mack siblings were common in Well-Spring’s dining room. “I saw how my mother, especially, thrived here,” Smack says. “And the care my dad received in the health center, the way care meetings were handled — we were all invited.” Lorraine lived in all levels of care, moving from a villa to an apartment, then to Assisted Living and Skilled Care. “Wherever my parents lived, I was always impressed with everything from the staff, the care, the food, their quality of life and the physical environment. Both tangible and intangible features were always impressive, and it made me a very grateful daughter for what Well-Spring did for my parents.”
Smack worked for Well-Spring for three years through the groundbreaking. After working for The Presbyterian Homes, Inc., she returned to her first career love, teaching. Upon retirement in June 2015, she reached out to get on Well-Spring’s waiting list. “As luck would have it, my timing and an available villa coincided, and here I am.”
It’s hard for Smack to pinpoint just one thing that makes her happiest about living at Well-Spring. One of her favorite aspects of life here is that single-level homes – and their lack of stairs – make it easy to stay independent. The available healthy food and physical activities, including safe areas for walking, also are appreciated.
“The Aquatic & Fitness Center and other events and activities with their built-in socialization are there for you to take advantage of as much as you like,” Smack points out, adding the Hospitality Committee and its new resident sponsors have been a pleasant surprise. “While no one is required to participate, it’s a great way to get plugged into dining and activities and meeting people, in general.”
“I’m just overwhelmed with how every team member I have seen, even with a mask on … I can tell they’re smiling. Everyone is just so helpful and so enthusiastic about Well-Spring. It really adds to the joy of being here.”
When she visited her parents and her aunt, Smack admits that she didn’t pay that much attention to the dining staff. But now, as a resident, she enjoys finding out all about their schoolwork and their lives. “It’s so impressive, these young adults, with their maturity levels and the fact that they really enjoy their part-time jobs. It’s a highlight for me to be able to talk to them. They bring an energy to the dining rooms that add to the fun atmosphere.”
Another thing Smack says she didn’t realize as a family member is how impressive it is that there is resident representation on the board and that the Resident Council is so engaged. “This proves that the caliber and commitment of the current board are just as high as it was with the original board.”
Smack has only been at Well-Spring a short time, but she already knows that her choice is one of the best decisions she’s ever made.
“I used to tell people to move here before they needed to. Now I truly understand that statement, and part of me wishes I had come sooner. The biggest problem is that the food is too delicious, and the dining areas so lovely, you just want to be there with other people! Instead of feeling like I left my home, I feel like I’m at home here are Well-Spring.”
Take a Tour of Well-Spring!
If you are interested in living in one of our senior living residences in Greensboro, we encourage you to visit and take a tour of a space that meets your needs. Call (336) 545-5400 to schedule an in-person tour of our luxury independent senior living apartments, villas and garden homes. You can even stay as an overnight guest through our “Try It, You’ll Like It” program!