On July 2, 2019, Tom and Joyce Christie moved into Luther Manor after living in their family homes in Cedarburg, Wisconsin, for more than 56 years. They had built a house in each city and lived in each for 28 years. The Christies have been retired for a number of years. Tom tells about their joint decision to retire: “When I knew the time had come to call it quits from teaching, I said, ‘Joyce, I’m going to retire. Would you like to join me or should I just send postcards?’” Joyce started packing.
Both retired music teachers, Tom and Joyce graduated from the Lawrence Conservatory of Music in Appleton, Wisconsin, where they met in the practice rooms perfecting their musical talents on piano (Joyce) and trumpet (Tom).
The music bug bit both Tom and Joyce early in life. Tom was born in Detroit, Michigan, and spent his youth in Appleton, where he was inspired by church activities, learning to play the trumpet in 5th grade, and Boy Scouts excursions to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and the mountains in New Mexico. Prior to Lawrence, Tom attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison, majoring in music, and participating in their marching band and Men’s Glee Club—both renowned national institutions.
Joyce lived in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, where at nine-years-old, her passion became playing the piano. The war had just ended, and Joyce recalls not having a piano to practice on. She went door-to-door begging neighbors who owned pianos to let her run scales and learn her tunes. The family ultimately bought her a grand piano that Tom—later in their married life—totally refurbished, key-by-key. Joyce also began playing the organ in church at age 13. Volunteering as a church musician in a variety of ways has followed her through life.
In 1962, Tom signed a teaching contract for the Grafton Public Schools, and the couple built a house and started their family. Tom taught secondary instrumental and vocal music there for 34 years, along with marching band, chorus, musical theatre, glee clubs, summer music camps, and all the other extracurricular activities that come with music education. For 15 years, Joyce delayed her teaching career, staying home with her children, Carol and James, and serving as the primary piano accompanist for all of Tom’s music students. When Joyce finally stepped back into the classroom, it was also in Grafton teaching elementary music. She taught there for 19 years.
Performing And Traveling In Retirement
Early retirement was filled with performing and traveling. Both Tom and Joyce continued playing in a community orchestra, finally retiring in 2018. Tom still plays in the local Alte Kameraden Band, a popular German brass band with engagements on most weekends from May to October, although this is currently on hold due to COVID-19. He just recently retired from a Lutheran Church in Cedarburg as church choir director for more than 60 years.
“Luther Manor residents are still surprised to learn about all our musical experiences,” says Tom. The Christies led the formation of the Luther Manor Choir shortly after they first moved in—now there are 20 members. The choir performed first in the fall of 2019, and then quite a bit around the holidays. They also began a community sing-along at Luther Manor with Tom leading the singing and Joyce providing piano accompaniment.
For more than twenty years, the Christies took at least two major trips per year. Cruises were a favorite. They traveled to the Caribbean every year, toured the Hawaiian Islands, and went on river cruises to Germany, Ireland, Great Britain, France, Austria, Switzerland, Norway, Finland, Sweden, and countries surrounding the Baltic Sea, including Russia. They toured southern Germany six times with Tom’s German band playing for festivals.
Tom and Joyce have always been planners. Lesson plans. School vacations. Their social schedule. So it stands to reason they approached retirement the same way. The Christies started looking at senior living communities a number of years ago in metropolitan Milwaukee, in rural communities, and in the Grafton/Cedarburg area. The criteria for their future home was well thought out, too. They love to walk, so access to wide-open spaces was important to them. A metropolitan area offering a symphony, dramatic arts, and other artistic opportunities to feed their cultural appetites was a must-have. And, of course, enough space in their residence for a music room.
On a casual visit to Luther Manor, they were shown their current residence and opted to accelerate their retirement plan. The apartment was large, there was a perfect alcove for Joyce’s electric piano, another area for Tom’s music practice, and “ample space for my fitness equipment,” says Tom. “It was a perfect fit for us,” says Joyce. They remember thinking, “We’d better take this NOW!” They were also impressed with and have come to appreciate two special amenities they found in no other community—the Manor Mart grocery store and the community’s delicatessen for convenient grab-and-go items like breakfast sandwiches, salads, fresh fruit, ice cream, and beer & wine.
Joyce and Tom knew Luther Manor and its heritage and legacy of more than 50 years of service to area seniors, as Joyce’s parents had been Assisted Living residents. “Experience counts,” says Joyce. “We just knew the community had worked out common senior living issues over the years and offered a wide range of activities, many of which are led by dedicated volunteers.”
Meeting Expectations . . . And More
After settling into Luther Manor, Joyce was pleasantly surprised that meeting new friends was so easy. “I was unexpectedly thrilled that there were so many residents that became good friends within the first two weeks,” says Joyce. Tom and Joyce look forward to post-COVID times when they can again enjoy full “group dining” and even more good times with all their new friends and neighbors.
The Christies moved to Luther Manor about eight months prior to community-mandated restrictions for COVID-19. “But we did get a running start,” says Tom, who had a few objectives for what he wanted to accomplish in his new home. “In the moving process, I found an old cribbage board,” says Tom. Learning to play cribbage was at the top of my list, along with a regular Bible study, taking my physical exercise routine to the next level and walking.” Tom and Joyce are still able to ZOOM in on the two-hour German class they’ve attended every week for 25 years, and they tune in to Facebook Live and Luther Manor’s community channel for church services and Bible studies.
Tom and Joyce are accomplishing all their objectives at Luther Manor—even though some activities are still broadcast remotely. With the exception of card playing, the Activities Department has now opened up some small group activities for up to nine people, and socially distanced fitness classes and book clubs are in session, as well. Tom says he’s in better physical condition than he was living at home. “I’m a do-it-yourself kinda guy. Living maintenance-free at Luther Manor has allowed me to give up those chores and switch gears in favor of more walking, proper exercise, and reading. Luther Manor has seven wonderful libraries loaded with great books, CDs, and DVDs.”
Two more reasons the Christies chose Luther Manor are the availability of on-site care and Luther Manor’s overall mission. “We knew we wanted to move to a community only once—taking advantage of the flexible healthcare services internally without having to move again,” says Tom. The Christies also appreciate the great inspirational and diverse mission of Luther Manor. “Religion seems to grow more important later in life,” says Tom. “You can really feel God’s presence at Luther Manor and that’s a great feeling to have. There are numerous opportunities for prayer and an appeal to all denominations.”
Final Thoughts From Tom And Joyce
Like all of us, Tom and Joyce are looking forward to a post-COVID way of life when they can once again “shake hands and hug one another, perform music for groups, dine with our new friends, sing with the Luther Manor choir, and play more cribbage.” Joyce has this inspirational message for these trying times: “Help people feel good. Smile and encourage others to smile.”
If you’ve begun searching for the perfect place to spend retirement, we hope the Christies’ story illustrates how you can easily weave your personal passions into a rewarding and independent lifestyle at Luther Manor. Learn more by contacting our team today.