Resident Stories

We are blessed to be caring for and supporting the greatest generation of American pioneers and heroes. Please enjoy the resident stories we have below and then reach out to us to schedule a personal tour of our award-winning community.

Garland Gentry - WWII Vet

Operation Torch, the British-American invasion of French north Africa saw 500 Allied soldiers killed.

Operation Husky, the Allied Invasion of Sicily, saw 2,811 US servicemen killed in action, with another 686 missing in action.

Operation Neptune, known the world over as D-Day, saw more than 10,000 Allied casualties.

Operation Detachment, also known as the Battle of Iwo Jima, cost the US 6,821 lives.

And Operation Iceberg, the Battle of Okinawa, added up to 12,520 men killed in action, 20,195 Americans dead in total, 55,162 wounded, and 26,000 psychiatric casualties.

And somehow one man participated and survived all five of these grueling conflicts during the Second World War. His name is Garland Gentry, he’s 92 years old, and he lives at Discovery Village at the West End in Richmond, Virginia

In fact, were it not for his four years in the US Navy during World War II, Gentry would have lived his entire life in Richmond. But when Pearl Harbor happened, he was drafted into the Navy Amphibious Corps, and his first appointment was North Africa.

“We put them on the shore, but we were only there for a short period of time,” he recalls. “Then came the Invasion of Sicily, then d-Day, then the ship I was on got transferred to the Pacific. We were at Iwo Jima and Okinawa. They kept shooting at me, but they kept missing.”

More than 70 years later, Gentry can joke a bit about the experience. When he came home from the fighting, things were a lot more serious.

“When I came home I thought about getting a job on one of those cruise ships,” he recalls. “But I changed my mind after the way. Then I had an uncle who wanted me to join him as a fisherman; I went and tried that but didn’t like that either.”

After four long years of mission after mission, the stress of what he had been doing and how close death had come calling had finally caught up with Gentry. He did his best to avoid going on the water from then on out.

Instead he went back to college at a business school and wound up in wholesale distribution industry selling office supplies. He and his wife had two children together and between his wholesale business and his time in the Navy, Gentry was able to retire at 62.

Nobody expects to live 30 years past their retirement, but that’s exactly what Gentry has done. As he and his wife aged to the point that they thought they might need help, he and his two children began a thorough search for a new home.

“When we found this one, it was clear we liked it better than all the others,” Gentry said. “So my wife and I moved in four years ago on the day it opened.”

Unfortunately, Gentry’s wife passed away some 18 months ago from Alzheimer’s Disease, but he still believes the move was for the best.

“It’s been a fine transition. I’ve enjoyed having nothing to do but sit around doing jigsaw puzzles and playing bingo,” he says. “My son and my daughter and i eat lunch together every Sunday. I enjoy being with them and they enjoy being with me.”

Mr. and Mrs. Don and Meredith Kammerdiener - Growing Old Together

Want to hear about the most beautiful take on getting older that you’ll ever hear? Take a trip to Discovery Village at the West End in Richmond, Virginia, and ask to speak to Don Kammerdiener.

“We think of our life in chapters,” Kammerdiener says of he and his wife Meredith. “We’re Christian people and we don’t use the word happiness much, we use the word joy. Joy comes from within; happiness comes from outside circumstance. We don’t worry much about outside circumstances.”

High school sweethearts, the Kammerdieners have been a couple for 65 years and are coming up on 60 years of marriage.

And while they seem right at home in Richmond, they’re also world travelers, thanks to their life as Baptist missionaries.

Born in Oklahoma and raised in Kansas City, Missouri, Don Kammerdiener met his wife at church and became high school sweethearts.

“We went to Oklahoma Baptist University together, and then I immediately went to Baptist seminary,” Don says. “We spent the next 17 years in South America as missionaries.”

Two kids from the American Midwest wound up spending seven years in Colombia and another 10 in Buenos Aires, Argentina, before returning home to the United States.

“We came back because our mission board was headquartered here in Richmond and they invited me to take a position on the administrative staff,” Don says. “We finished our working time and careers in Richmond. We always thought about retiring back to Oklahoma or Missouri but all of our people there were gone, and our two daughters had really taken to Richmond.”

In 2014, Don and Meredith both started noticing her memory was beginning to lapse. Don had already begun having vision problems, and they made a very responsible decision that a majority of people struggle mightily with.

“Her memory was part of the reason we came,” Don says. “She couldn’t remember where she was going while driving, and I didn’t see well enough, so we didn’t have any business driving, so that really prompted us.”

The writing was on the wall when Meredith fell at home and broke her leg. After surgery to mend the bone, the couple made the move, which turned out to be a huge blessing.

“Not long after, I was in a routine doctor’s visit and suffered a heart situation,” Don says. “I ended up having triple bypass surgery, so I was mighty glad we had already made the decision. It was really comforting having somewhere to go back to where we were cared for.”

Having moved around during their missionary years, the transition to a senior retirement community went over well for the couple. And once they were settled in, they began to realize for all the time they had spent in Richmond, they didn’t really know it all that well.

“We participate in the scenic drives - mostly right here in Richmond,” he says. “We’ve lived here since 1980, and I made the same drive to work almost every day and very little else We’ve discovered much more of Richmond that we didn’t know existed. That’s one of the features we really like about living here.”

While Meredith battles Alzheimer’s, the two have remained true to their roots as missionaries.

 

“We started a little group on Tuesday afternoons that gets together to sing hymns,” Don says. “We’ve doing it for more than two years and really enjoy doing that.”

Singing, like joy, comes from within.