Every resident at The Greens at Greenwich is special, but not everyone is a centenarian. Sheldon Evans just celebrated his 101 birthday with family and friends at The Greens where he celebrates life every day. We talked to him the other day in the garden and asked how it felt to be 101. He responded, “I liked being 50 and 75 and I like being 101. Really can’t tell the difference.” Then he smiled that big Sheldon smile and gave a little laugh. Often referred to as “The General” by other residents, his charismatic personality is a gift to the community.
Sheldon Evans was born June 21, 1918 in Forty-Fort, PA. A photo of his family and birth home resides on the wall in his room. He readily points to the second floor window of the room where he was born. A photo of the love of his life, Phyllis, and other cherished family members are arranged around his room. Phyllis passed away in 2012 at the young age of 86, after 65 years of marriage. His three children and their families are frequent visitors to The Greens at Greenwich. One of their many memorable visits was when they prepared a “This is Your Life–Sheldon” presentation for the residents and staff. The story was told by his family with the aid Sheldon’s hat collection representing many parts of his life.
Sheldon graciously shares stories of his active duty in World War II with The Greens’ inter-generational programs that brings in students from area schools. He is one of the mentors of the groups. Sharing his greatest victories as well as moments of tumult provides mentees with a real-time WW II history learning experience. It is not surprising that some of these students come back to visit Sheldon to hear more stories and gain wisdom from “The General”. He is also proud to show a well-aged photo of his combat unit as he proudly points out his position on the photo.
Sheldon is a long time member of The Greens’ Photography Club, a program Sharon Parker facilitates several times a month. “One of the amazing things about Sheldon is how engaged he is in the moment,” according to Sharon. “A recent activity took our group into the garden where they were asked to identify places they loved. We photographed those special spots and made collages for residents. Sheldon was very precise about his photos and in one case I kept missing the exact hydrangea photo he wanted. I would show him the photo I took, and Sheldon would say, ‘No, I want that one’. All of a sudden, I realized the hydrangeas he wanted were the grouping on the other side of the fence against the building. I had been taking photos of the ones in front of the fence.” That’s Sheldon, his dementia does not affect these moments of insight and precision. Whether he is painting or looking for a flower or playing a word game, Sheldon knows what he wants.
After spending her first week with Sheldon, Beth Liebowitz, Program Director at The Greens, was inspired by a quote by an Indian poet to put in his memory box: “I slept and dreamt that life was joy. I woke and saw that life was service. I acted and behold Service was joy.” Beth reflects: “Sheldon is the epitome of living life to the fullest. At 101 he has made such an impact on our community that other residents with memory impairment have become aware of his presence in a tangible way. For example, at Monday evening bingo one of the residents will say, ‘Wait don’t start until Sheldon gets here.’ He is the reigning bingo champ. It is not a surprise that during Sheldon’s school years he was spelling bee champ.”
With a century of accumulated experiences, Sheldon continues to view each day as a celebration and opportunity to learn something new. Sheldon has a profound appreciation of music. His hands moving and feet tapping, he doesn’t let any limitation in his wheelchair stop from feeling and dancing to the music. He proves that you can always learn something new as with his first visit to the opera at 100. Five residents went to see the opera Don Giovani at the nearby music conservatory and Sheldon returned as a new opera enthusiast talking about the beauty of the music with those who could not attend. “Even at 100, you can learn something new,” Sheldon said.
He shares his experiences daily through storytelling, sharing lessons learned, acts of kindness and a genuine interest in living his life to the fullest. If there is an activity going on, it is likely Sheldon is there. Not only is he at the activity, he is an active participant with his engaging smile, questions and comment. The Greens at Greenwich has a daily schedule and Sheldon follows it like an important military itinerary. Most residents do 2-4 activities a day. Sheldon’s schedule includes 6 or more. And if there is an evening program, count him in. It is not unusual to find him helping others who may be more cognitively limited than he is, engage in programs. Sheldon’s positive attitude is renewed each day.
Sheldon Evans received the CALA (CT Assisted Living Association) 2019 Award for Outstanding Resident Accomplishment for exemplary service to the community. “There is no one more worthy than a centenarian who has lived his life in service to his country, his community, his family and his friends,” says Maria Scaros, Executive Director at The Greens at Greenwich.
At the end of many activity groups, Sheldon leads residents in the cheer, Hip Hip Hooray! Sheldon’s gift to The Greens at Greenwich residents and staff is a treasure. Let’s give a Hip HipHooray to General Sheldon for his contributions, graciousness, wisdom and positivity that enrich our home every day. We Love You Sheldon!
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