By Rick Banas of assisted living provider BMA Management, Ltd.
I first met Manny Shellist in January 2010 as I stood admiring his wood carving of the Gettysburg Address that was on display at Heritage Woods of Bolingbrook, an affordable assisted living community that BMA manages in Will County, Illinois.
Manny was 98 and a resident of Heritage Woods. He had moved into a studio apartment to take advantage of the lifestyle and services that were available.
As I learned as we sat and talked, Manny had been living in a condominium right across the street from where I went to high school – Notre Dame College Prep in Niles, Illinois – before moving to Heritage Woods. The community’s location in southwest suburban Chicago was convenient; his daughter lived not far away.
Manny had a remarkable zest for life and outlook on aging.
He found out when he retired for the first time that a steady diet of golf and pinochle was not for him. He went back to work, helping out at the Niles Township Sheltered Workshop, an organization that served men and women with mental and physical handicaps.
After retiring for the second time, he began going to the Glenview Senior Center in Glenview, Illinois, where he took up woodcarving at the age of 92.
Four years later, as our country and our state celebrated Abraham Lincoln’s 200th Birthday, Manny undertook the Gettysburg Address woodcarving project at the Senior Center. The woodcarving stands eight feet high and contains 1,211 individually carved letters, each three-quarters of an inch in height. Just prior to coming to Heritage Woods of Bolingbrook, Manny’s woodcarving had been on display at the Lincoln Museum in Springfield, Illinois.
Two others – Bob Crampton and Paul Gotschewski – helped put the finishing touches on Manny’s piece of art. One stained the wood, and the other built a combination frame and easel so the woodcarving could be easily displayed for others to see.
Manny’s zest for life and for woodcarving did not stop because of a move into an assisted living community. He invited me to see how he was able to do his woodcarving in the privacy of his apartment.
Much of his work consisted of carving nameplates for friends, residents and staff members. I feel honored that he presented one to me. I have it proudly displayed on my desk.
He also did a woodcarving of BMA’s Mission Statement and presented it to Heritage Woods of Bolingbrook. The woodcarving calls attention to our mission “to provide a Dignified Lifestyle defined by Integrity and enhanced by our Values” of “Love, Compassion and Dignity.”
His zest for life was not just displayed in woodcarving. He talked frequently with other residents about the need to stay active and do something with your life. He joined with other residents for an annual visit to the Illinois State Capitol to advocate for affordable assisted living and meet with the Governor.
He was a member of the Heritage Woods of Bolingbrook’s Wii Bowling Team that finished in Second Place in the 2012 Affordable Assisted Living Coalition’s Wii Bowling Tournament. During the awards ceremony, he was recognized as the oldest bowler to compete in an AALC Wii Bowling Final Four. He was just short of his 101st Birthday and averaged 176 in the Final Four competition.
During a visit to Heritage Woods of Bolingbrook last week, the staff informed me that Manny had passed away. He was 102 years of age.
He certainly was a wonderful role model for how to age well.
Top – woodcarving desk name tag by Manny for Rick Banas
Middle – Manny with his woodcarving of the Gettysburg Address
Bottom – Manny meeting Illinois Governor Pat Quinn
All affordable assisted living communities managed by BMA Management, Ltd. are certified and surveyed by the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services. All assisted living communities are licensed and surveyed by the Illinois Department of Public Health.
“BMA Management, Ltd. is the leading provider of assisted living in Illinois
and one of the 20 largest providers of assisted living in the United States.”
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