By Debbie Szwast
MADISON – What started as a meeting in elementary school has become a lifelong love story for Betty and John King, now residents at St. Catherine’s Village senior living community.
“The couple act like newlyweds, even though they have been married for 66 years,” said Felichia Fields, assistant executive director at St. Catherine’s Village. John, who is 90 years old and a Korean War veteran, lives in skilled nursing in Siena Center while Betty, 88, has a studio independent living apartment on campus.
“Being able to stay happy and connected while living in separate areas of St. Catherine’s Village is a testament to their bond and the strength of their marriage,” said Fields.
John and Betty first met in Clinton and after travelling across the country and Europe and raising two daughters, retired there. But as John entered his 80s, his health began to falter and his mobility became restricted due to diabetes. After caring for her husband at home for seven years, Betty—a former teacher—realized it was time to get caregiver support. A close friend told the couple to check out St. Catherine’s Village.
“We had seen the community being built but were unaware of the services available,” said Betty. Following a stint in physical therapy for John, the couple decided to visit the property.
“When we first spoke with the staff, they were all very kind and truly made us feel wanted here,” she continued. “Luckily, one private skilled nursing room was available so we took it. And we are so glad we did! St. Catherine’s Village is about the most precious place in the world.”
John moved into Siena Center in Oct. 2017. For a year, Betty visited John at St. Catherine’s Village every day. John was concerned about Betty driving 20 miles each way so her daughters urged her to consider moving to the senior living community as well. It was a difficult choice after owning a home for more than 60 years.
“I put everything on paper…one column with what I liked about St. Catherine’s Village and one column with the drawbacks. When I looked at the paper, everything was in the ‘like’ column,” she recalled. “So I prayed on it and asked God to show me a sign to make the right decision.”
Soon after, Betty’s son-in-law called to tell her he had a friend who was looking to purchase a home for investment purposes. The morning after showing Betty’s home, the potential investor made an offer and within 30 days the Kings’ family home was sold and closed.
“I knew this was God’s answer,” she said.
In Oct. 2018, Betty moved to St. Catherine’s Village and immediately began making friends. Around the corner from her apartment was a college mate and around the other corner was a couple from Clinton she had known. On her first night, she also met the community’s music director.
“I found my niche—playing the piano and loving it,” said Betty. “I grew up playing in church then in clubs and at dances. Now I play hymns for Sunday church.”
At first, Betty was concerned about downsizing to a studio apartment.
“I thought, I can’t live in a space that small,” she recalled. “But the staff assured me that when a larger apartment opened up I could move into it. Needless to say, the studio ended up being absolutely perfect for me.”
She appreciates that her residence has a balcony overlooking the lake because a natural setting is very important to both Betty and John, who worked for the Mississippi State Park Service helping to restore the Gulf Coast after hurricane Camille and building 11 new state parks.
Overall, St. Catherine’s Village boasts 160 acres of beautiful outdoor space with lakes and wooded grounds. The Kings can be found walking around the lush campus and enjoying the well-manicured property during “date time” nearly every day. Betty often accompanies John to the grill, as well.
“We both adore the food here,” John said. Several choices are offered for every meal, all chef prepared in one kitchen. So whether in independent living or skilled nursing in Siena Center, menus are the same.
While Betty likes going out to eat at night, she also plays bridge with friends and participates in many of the activities and events at St. Catherine’s Village. There is so much to do on campus that even though the couple’s daughters and their families live nearby in Clinton and Madison and can frequently visit, “sometimes I’m already booked,” Betty teased.
John prefers quiet hour on the lower level. More importantly, he wants to catch a big fish on what he calls “Lake Siena,” the large lake outside the Siena Center skilled nursing building.
“I keep trying to put together a football team but no one wants to be on my team,” John joked. A former college football coach, he met a staff member at St. Catherine’s Village who had been a quarterback on one of his teams.
“We feel so special and blessed to be in such a good place,” said Betty. “With John’s diabetic condition, the nurses test his blood sugar several times a day and keep him on track. You don’t find that anywhere else. And they are always in such good spirits and take beautiful care of him. So we can stay relaxed and not worry about anything.”
“Everything at St. Catherine’s Village is at the highest level—service, amenities, property, activities, etc.,” said Betty. “Anyone who moves here will have the best quality of life—whether for the next year or many years.”
As Madison’s preeminent all-inclusive Life Plan Community, St. Catherine’s Village provides the right care at the right time for those in their retirement years. The private, gated community boasts a caring staff, on-site resident-centered care, and a mission-focused environment. Adults age 62 and older are welcome and encouraged to enjoy fullness of life, health and faith.
St. Catherine’s Village offers independent living in apartments and garden homes, assisted living in Marian Hall, memory care in Campbell Cove, skilled nursing in Siena Center and the new Tuscany building, and skilled nursing dedicated to memory care in Hughes Center.
The all-inclusive Life Plan Community was the first in the state to earn accreditation by CARF-CCAC. This “commitment to excellence” seal signifies that the campus exceeds the standards established by the only international accrediting body for CCRCs.
To learn more about life at St. Catherine’s Village, log onto www.StCatherinesVillage.com or call (601) 856-0123 to schedule a tour.