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.

Ann Banach - We've Moved All Over The Place

When it came to moving to the retirement community known as Discovery Village at Naples, Ann Banach barely batted an eye or flinched a muscle.

After all, moving to a new home is old hat to someone who’s done it 16 times already.

Banach has been around the country and back again, thanks in large part to her late husband.

“I was born and had lived in the New York - New Jersey area until the war ended,” the 89-year-old Banach says. “He was a bit older than I was; he was 26 and I was 19, but he was very handsome and had a new car; what else could a 19-year old girl want in a husband?”

Not wasting any time, the two were married six months later, and within five years had a son and a daughter to add to the family.

But instead of going to work at an office, her husband went to work everywhere, and took Ann and the kids with him. Working as a servicer for Curtiss-Wright, the largest aircraft manufacturer in the world, the Banachs found their way from coast to coast,following her husband’s career.

“We moved to California and to Florida and all over the place,” she said. “It’s been a wonderful experience. When we first came down here, we lived in Marco Island.”

Her favorite story about her husband comes from the time when he was working at New York’s John F. Kennedy airport while the family was living at the Jersey Shore.

“We lived there for 21 years, but Kennedy was so far from the Jersey Shore that at the end of the day he would get himself put on a transport plane that was going from JFK to the little airport out here,” she said with a smile.

Banach thought the move to Marco Island might be permanent, but that was before her daughter had a baby at 42 and her son’s new baby boy was born with a severe hearing impairment.

“I was happy in Florida, but when family needs you, you go,” she said. “So I moved back up to Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, and wound up living there for 21 years.”

When retirement time came for real, Banach headed back to Florida and found an ideal spot just 13 miles north of her former home at Marco Island.

“This is the loveliest place,” Banach declares. “There’s so much banter going on between the residents; there’s a real happiness here, and the people who work here want to make you feel happy and feel good about yourself.

“The food is excellent and the servers are very qualified, lovely young people.”

Banach has always been a go-getter; just ask her about her impending 90th birthday.

“I’m waiting on 90 to get here, I can’t wait to be 90,” she says with a laugh, showing no signs of slowing down mentally or physically. “We have great exercise classes for any skill level. Some of them are all sitting down but they show you how you’re still stretching your fingers and your toes and keeping those parts of your body active and limber.”

She keeps a fantastic perspective on her life as she strives to enjoy every day of it. “I’m extremely happy here,” Banach says. “This is the third section of my life. Life is all about experiences, and this life is good.”

Mary Lou Steelman - Youngest 90 Year Old

When people walk through the doors for the first time at Discovery Village at Naples, they are often greeted by a vibrant, friendly woman who offers to show them around, wants to know where they’re from, and lets them know that she’s there to help them anyway she can.

It’s only when they ask if she works there do they realize that they’ve just met a new neighbor by the name of Mary Lou Steelman, who might just be the youngest 90 year old on the planet.

“I like it here so much, there’s so much to do, and we’re all very talkative, nobody is a stranger,” she says. “I’ve always been very outgoing and I want everyone to feel welcome, so I spend a lot of time greeting our new residents.”

Like a lot of people, Steelman was naturally anxious about moving to a home specifically for seniors when she began thinking about a transition.

“I didn’t want to go in a nursing home, I didn’t want to be the woman sitting in a rocker in the corner,” Steelman said. “I still have my driver’s license and I still like getting out and doing things.”

Trying new things has been the credo by which Steelman has lived her entire life. Originally from Pennsylvania, Ohio, she married a engineer and together they raised three children. The family moved to Naples in 1977.

“When he retired, I went to work,” she said. “I always thought bartending looked fascinating, so I went to bartending school in St. Petersburg.”

She got a shot at the profession when she replaced a regular at a Naples’ country club for a summer. They liked her so much, they asked her to stay, and she did for the next 10 years.

She and her husband retired together, permanently, at age 65 and got back to another one of their passions - golfing.

“We loved to golf, we went on these package programs where we went out of town to other courses and went on a lot of tours,” she said.

Steelman prefered to play with the guys rather than the ladies, although she admitted she didn’t always strictly keep to the rules.

“The guys let me play with them because I could keep up with them,” she said. “When you play with women, each time you hit a bad shot, you have to hear from every single person what you did wrong and how to do better. Although sometimes, we’d be walking up to the tee and they’d ask me where my ball was and I’d point to an area, except I really had the ball in my hand - sometimes I just couldn’t accept the shots I hit.”

She and her husband were married more than 50 years before he passed on. One of her favorite things about her new residence is her access to family. She and her husband had previously lived in a condo community that restricted when grandchildren could visit, something Steelman didn’t take sitting down considering she has 10 grandchildren, 11 great-grandchildren, and one great-great-grandchild who is 10 years old.

“They’re always welcome here, and everyone loves to see them,” she says. “It’s a friendly place with wonderful people. When I talk to people from other retirement communities, they ask me, ‘Why does everyone seem so friendly?’ It’s an easier answer: Because they are friendly!”

Jerry Nepon - There's No Snow Here!

Timing is everything for 89-year-old Jerry Nepon, who calls Discovery Village at Naples home. He visited Naples 40 year ago for a convention back when things were a little bit different.

“When I came to Naples for a convention, Marco Island was very tiny. Naples had about 7,000 people with two main roads and the biggest mosquitos you’ve ever seen,” he recalls.

Nonplussed, he returned to New Jersey, where he had lived since age 13 and started his own company providing solution for heavy haul transporters.

Forty years later, he came back to Naples to visit his brother-in-law.

“The whole complexion of the city had changed,” Nepon said. “My son had moved here five years before and bought a house for $110,000, and now it was worth $500,000 to the bank.”

In those 40 years he had been gone from the area, Naples had tripled in population to nearly 21,000. The economy - based largely on tourism to the nearby Everglades and Ten Thousand Islands, had exploded. Its savanna climate saw temperatures in the 70s and 80s almost year-round, and it was just a quick two-hour drive from big-city life in Miami.

For all those amenities, the real determining factor to Nepon and his wife of 66 years was the one his brother-in-law passed along.

He said, “Move to Florida, no more snow,” Nepon recalls. “That sold me.”

He and his high school sweetheart headed for Naples and a different retirement community. Nepon struggled some with the transition as he watched the community management make mistakes and show no interest in advice from residents.

Dissatisfied with their choice, Nepon remembers randomly opening the newspaper one day to a giant ad for a new community called Discovery Village at Naples. With rave reviews from other properties, a 36-month rent lock, an in-house movie theater, and non-stop list of activities, it looked like the perfect fit.

It even looked like Nepon’s timing was perfect as when he called he got the very last unit available. But that great timing took a crushing blow when his wife passed away mere days before they were supposed to move to Discovery Village.

“It was really tough,” he recalls. “It was supposed to be the two of us, and instead it was just me. But I was still working, so that helped.”
It also helped that the Discovery Village at Naples was exactly what Nepon was hoping for when he left his prior community.

“The director is very young, but is doing such a sound job,” he says. “She listens to new ideas and has a much higher class of employees here than at the place I was before. There are 20-foot-high ceilings in the sun room and the living room, there’s good acoustics in the theater, and good programming available, I’m very happy. I have a lot of friends here.”

And it’s not just friends keeping Nepon occupied. The day of the interview brings a close to a weekend visit from a whopping 15 members of his family - his son and daughter, now both in their mid-to-late 60s; five grandchildren and a couple of their spouses; and two great-grandsons, ages 2 and 4, for Nepon to spoil rotten.