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.

Al Carper - Retired District Manager of JCPenny

Ever had a really big meal?

I’m not talking about a triple cheeseburger with waffle fries or a 24 ounce T-bone medium well with a baked potato … although both of those sound really terrific right about now.

No, we’re talking about the kind of meal that sends you off on a new direction in life; the kind of meal that turns into a career.

That’s the way it happened for Al Carper, who was born and raised in Nebraska, and went on to college at the University of Nebraska.

Because it wasn’t any old lunch, you see, it was a recruiting trip for a burgeoning power in the department store vertical of the United States. A little company called J C.Penney.

“One day one of our professors took about half a dozen of us and we went to have lunch with the manager of one of the stores,” Caper recalls. “I came out of that lunch really curious about J.C. Penney and what they had to offer.”

What J.C. Penney had to offer was what has become commonplace today: a department store that is the hub for multiple goods and services for one entire town - from clothes and shoes to watches and necklaces to sporting goods and automotive repair facilities.

The diversification under one roof didn’t just appeal to customers, but also to the future great business minds of this country. In 1940, a young man named Sam Walton began working for a J.C. Penney’s in Iowa. Twenty-two years later, the idea of it would be the basis for his own mega-company, known the world over as Walmart.

Carper took to J.C. Penney’s like a fish to water.

“I started out as a management trainee, then got my own store to manage, then became a district manager,” he recalls. “I was in the corporate office in New York City for a time, then ran another district from Dallas. Then J.C. Penney’s moved its headquarters to Plano, so I was there my last 27 years working for the company.”

Although he built the majority of his professional career in Texas, Carper didn’t have too much of a problem transitioning to another home in his retirement years.

“My daughter lives right near here,” he says of Discovery Village at Sugarloaf, located in Suwanee, Georgia, “I was not really hard to leave Texas to live just a few blocks away from her.”

Carper and his wife, who passed away about eight years ago, had three children together. The daughter in Georgia has provided him with endless entertainment with two grandchildren of her own, one of whom made Carper a great-grandfather with a son and daughter of his own. All of the descendants live in the same area in Georgia.

After all his years ensuring that J.C. Penney’s profits were as high as possible, ranging routinely into the millions, Carper’s days are now filled with another financial pastime that has proven to be a bit more enjoyable.

“One of my favorite things to do here is play poker with the guys,” he says. “There’s not a lot of pressure in those games, we use the kind of money that jingles. You can go in there with $5 and be fine for the evening.”

Barbara Hefferman - Still a Nurse

Among all of her neighbors at Discovery Village at Sugarloaf in Suwanee, Georgia, Barbara Hefferman has something that’s truly one of a kind.

A job.

Yes, living at the place most people go to to kick back and relax, Hefferman remains a full-time employee of a local hospital as a registered nurse; a career she’s enjoyed for the past 43 years.

“I’m still able to work and I enjoy it so much,” the 63-year-old Hefferman said. “I think a lot of my neighbors envy me because I am still able to work, and I envy them because they’re retired.”

You read that right. Hefferman, at 63, is likely the youngest resident at Sugarloaf.

She made the move to the independent living facility because she likes to plan ahead and she’s quite forward thinking at that.

“A big part of my motivation was that I’m widowed without any children, I basically have no family left,” she says. “I’m living the life that some people wait until they’re too old to enjoy it. I have an independent cottage with my own garage, but if my health gets bad or something else happens, I’ll be able to transition myself to where I really need to be at the inside facility if I need to.”

For as much time, energy, and money are spent by the rest of us trying to fight the inevitable fact that at some point we’ll slown down and need help, Hefferman is at the complete opposite end of the spectrum.

“I enjoy the elderly. I like to be around my ‘peeps’ - that’s what I call them,” she says. “They have so much experience and so much still to give and to share, people don’t realize that about them.”

Originally from Memphis, Tennessee, Hefferman moved to Georgia about the same time she became an RN. She’s called the Peach State home since then and remains very active even if her health has flagged a bit lately.

“I love to gamble, there’s a casino I go to in North Carolina a bit,” she says. “I have friends I love to get together with. I love sports - I like to watch football and basketball and baseball; I even make it out to a game every once in awhile.”

When asked about the Atlanta Falcons’ embarrassing loss the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LI this past January, Hefferman didn’t have much good to say.

“The Falcons...that was miserable,” she recalls. “I guess, at least they got pretty far.”

She’ll give the Falcons a pass for now, provided they can get something done in the future; after all, Hefferman is planning on being around for a long time now that she’s found a place to call home.

“ I can’t expect my friends to take care of me. I need to be somewhere they can take care of me, but hopefully that won’t come for years,” she says. “I needed a family, and I kind of have one here now. We all care for each other.”

Dorothy (Dottie) Lasserre - Coming Back Home

It takes about two seconds to recognize Dorothy “Dottie” Lasserre’s accent if you’ve heard it before.

She might live in Suwanee, Georgia, but that accent is pure Louisiana Cajun country.

“I was raised in a little town called Westwego, and I met my husband in New Orleans,” she recalls. “I was working at the Municipal Auditorium, which is where we met. I had to ride the bus and cross the Mississippi River on a ferry to get there. He was a bookkeeper and I was secretary to the manager of the theater.”

Their love story stayed in the New Orleans area for nearly 40 years as her husband went to work for Gulf Oil in nearby Metairie.

When their son was off on his own and with retirement looming, the couple decided to invoke the spirit of her hometown’s name - Westwego, or West, We Go!

“We decided to buy an Airstream trailer and traveled a lot,” she says. “We went to an annual meeting once a year where there would be three or four thousand trailers and mobile homes .We did it for 32 years.”

The farther west they traveled, the more the Louisiana natives fell in love with what they saw.

“We loved Wyoming, all out west we kept on going,” Lasserre says. “We loved Victoria, it was simply beautiful. We have seen really a lot of the best parts of the country. Some day I need to sit down and count all the states and all the cities we’ve been to.”

But as the couple got older, Lasserre started noticing little glitches in her husband’s routine - leaving the keys in the ignition, forgetting where they were, etc. Lasserre took her husband to a doctor who diagnosed him with dementia.

“We kept him at home and had caregivers, because neither one of us wanted to go to a nursing home,” she said. “He died two years ago and I went on living by myself for another eight months. But I started having falls. My daughter took me to the neurologist and my brain was fine, but they couldn’t see what was causing the dizziness so I ended up coming here for rehab and then moving in.”

It was a grueling year for Lasserre. Not only was she moving to a new home after her husband passed away, but her daughter-in-law died as well, losing her battle with cancer.

“My daughter had looked all over and eventually told me either I get you a 24-hour caregiver or we find a place for you to live,” Lasserre remembers. “She went around all the different places and found this one. She brought me on a tour and first I said, ‘I can’t live here, look at all those old people.’”

Lasserre’s asked her to remember her age. She’s 86.

From there on, she found Discovery Village at Sugarloaf to be exactly what she has needed.

“I love living here, I like the food and the people have been wonderful,” she says. “I’ve made some wonderful friends, the caregivers have bent over backwards, and I really enjoy the whole thing. I call this place a campus because it’s so big and well-maintained. I have been perfectly happy here.”

Bill and Donna McEwen - Moving To Somewhere Structurally Secure

He might be retired, but Bill McEwen is still a structural engineer at heart. That’s why when he noticed something unsound about the first retirement community he and wife Donna moved into, he had to raise his voice about it to the management of the property.

“He was a structural engineer and he saw something that wasn’t safe,” Donna says. “He let the management know and their response was that they weren’t going to change it.”

The couple, who have been married for 63 years, quickly made up their minds that if management wouldn’t make the change, they would do so themselves, leading them to move to Discovery Village at Sugarloaf in Suwanee, Georgia.

Moving has never been an issue for the couple. Both hail out of Southern California - but Bill’s job saw them move frequently.

“I didn’t know I was marrying a gypsy engineer,” Donna jokes affectionately. “We have been moving around the country and the world working on major rapid transit systems. We’ve lived in Canada and England and a whole lot of different states.”

Bill started as a structural designer for a small firm that got progressively bigger, designing schools and industrial buildings.

He eventually got on-the-job training on the ins and outs of transit system operations. That opened a lot of doors for the McEwens, starting with a trip across the pond that turned out to be a little more than they bargained for.

“England was a very different situation. It was the early 1950s and England was very afraid it was going to be attacked by Russia,” Bill remembers. “On my way there, I was handed some information and told to take it to a British military officer, who turned out to be the British Secret Intelligence Service.

The English had watched the Western bloc deteriorate rapidly following Germany’s defeat in World War II. Convinced the Soviet Union would take up right where the Nazis left off, the Americans and British shared information. Bill was a perfect candidate to carry information. He had every reason to be traveling internationally and no ties to either country’s government.

“When Bill told me what was going on, I thought, what has he gotten us into this time?” Donna said.

In addition to England, Bill took on jobs in Vancouver and Toronto before the family, which by now included three children, came to Georgia for a job.

“They brought him here and we decided to stay, sometimes I still can’t believe we actually settled down some place,” Donna says.

Although she admits Vancouver was always her favorite city, the McEwens put down roots there. All three kids stayed in Atlanta when they became adults, and a couple of grandkids have come along as well.

“The kids really liked Atlanta,” Donna says. “Our older daughter and son both married native Georgians, our other daughter is head of a very successful law firm. And we’re going to finish our lives here if the Good Lord lets us.”

The McEwens have called Discovery Village at Sugarloaf home for just over two years and have been active participants as the facility expands and evolves.

“Our new director has a wonderful varied background and is very aware of things, “Donn said. “Overall, I won’t be complaining about much of anything.”