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The Birches Assisted Living

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Birches Residents Reflect on Wedding Day Memories

Residents of The Birches Assisted Living in Clarendon Hills, Ill. recently shared wedding photos and memories with one another.

Clarendon Hills, IL, July 22, 2016 --( By the time you make your home in an assisted living community, your wedding day is long behind you. But no matter how much older you get, it’s still one of most memorable and important days of your life.

Residents of The Birches Assisted Living in Clarendon Hills, Ill. recently had an opportunity to share this memorable day with one another in a wedding photo display exhibited outside of The Birches’ dining room.

The display, which was called “Guess Who Said I Do,” gave Birches residents a rare opportunity to share their wedding pictures with their friends and neighbors. In addition to their pictures, the residents also shared interesting stories and words of wisdom from their marriages.

Some of the couples featured in the display are still married and living at The Birches together—like Tom and Jean Donnelly.

Tom and Jean have been married 61 years, even though they faced some obstacles in the early days of their relationship. When they met, they were both graduate students at Cornell University. They worked for the same professor, and they gradually developed a friendship. But when things turned romantic, they faced a significant obstacle: Tom was Catholic and Jean was Methodist. It may not sound like a big deal by today’s standards, but their parents were not pleased.

Much to their parent’s dismay, they decided to date anyway. But another barrier arose when they both finished their master’s degrees: Tom wanted to stay at Cornell and pursue a PhD but Jean was done with her graduate studies and ready to move on. That’s when they made a big decision. The thought of never seeing each other again was unbearable, so they decided to make the ultimate commitment: marriage.

Tom says his marriage proposal wasn’t a grand romantic gesture, but rather a thoughtful conversation that led to a mutual decision.

“We talked it over. I did not get down on my knees. We were sitting in a car talking about it. And we just kind of mutually decided that we were going to get married—that we wouldn’t go out of each other’s lives,” said Donnelly.

But Tom and Jean faced one more barrier before they got married—where the ceremony would take place. They couldn’t get married in either of their churches, so they decided to get married where they first met: Cornell University. The university had a chapel on campus—the perfect location for their union.

Today, 61 years, four children and many grandchildren later, the Donnellys’ marriage is still going strong. Tom attributes the success of their marriage to the fact that they share the same values, even if they still attend separate churches to this day.

Bob Kleinfelder is another Birches resident who decided to share his wedding pictures in the display, along with some words of wisdom about marriage. Kleinfelder’s wife died after 41 years of marriage. But the wedding photo display gave him a chance to reflect fondly on the time they spent together and what made their marriage a success.

Kleinfelder and his wife met, of all places, at a wedding. They were both members of the bridal party and began dating shortly after. His proposal was a bit more traditional than Tom Donnelly’s. He took his future wife Angie to one of their favorite restaurants— a German restaurant in Chicago’s Norwood Park neighborhood.

After some good German food and a few drinks, Bob and Angie took a walk through the neighborhood. And then he stopped under a big tree, got down on one knee and popped the question. Angie said yes, and they were married a year later.

Kleinfelder says the reason their marriage lasted over four decades (and would’ve lasted longer if not for Angie’s passing) is because they shared everything—their feelings, concerns, visions of the future and most precious dreams. They also embraced the four most important components of all relationships, says Kleinfelder: love, trust, respect and forgiveness.

The Birches Assisted Living in Clarendon Hills, Ill. offers professional services to support the physical, social, intellectual and spiritual growth of the older adults who make it their home. The Birches offers purposeful programming and activities designed to promote a healthy aging lifestyle and a strong sense of community. For more information about The Birches, call 630-789-1135 or visit:
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The Birches Assisted Living
Jenny Smiechowski

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