The day Jack Cook graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill, he skipped the university’s ceremony, and he and Janice Callahan had a special ceremony of their own. The two Alamance County, N.C. natives got married. Little did Jack know that more than 55 years later, after Janice passed away, and he was on his own again, he would find support and camaraderie in a later-in-life fraternity.

Janice Cook

Step by step, supported by Southminster’s dedication to spiritual wellness and helping residents heal after loss, Jack re-defined his life as a surviving spouse. His close-knit North Terrace friends at Southminster knew that going to his first swim class after Janice’s death represented a major emotional plunge after so many years alongside the love of his life. They hatched a plan to make sure he didn’t have to go alone. They all dressed in their bathing suits and robes and escorted him en masse to the lesson. In addition to having a lasting impact on Jack, the gesture sent a powerful message to those who witnessed it about the importance of being part of a community of people who support and care for each other.

Jack, who serves on the Southminster board, said there’s never any time when he doesn’t have many choices of things to do with other interesting and social people. “I’m involved in lots of activities here –singing at ‘choir practice’ and getting exercise in the pool. I do movie night with my neighbors and eat lunch with multiple groups of friends,” he said. It’s also great that his fraternity of friends will share a glass of bourbon with him, his preferred beverage choice.

Many people see moving to a Life Plan Community as an opportunity to plan for yourself and your spouse, rather than leaving future life choices to someone else. Making a move earlier, rather than later, allows you to design your own future, build a sense of security for yourself and your family and empower yourself to continue living the life you love.

All those advantages were true for E.J. Albergotti, originally from Long Island. She met her husband Julian at UNC-Chapel Hill Medical School. They were married for 65 years and lived at Southminster for 15 years before Julian passed away. “Julian was on the welcoming commitee,” E.J. said. “It was easy to make friends because everyone is on the same page, in the same chapter of life. Living in a Life Plan community really strengthens your 􀆟es to community. We all volunteer to help each other and share a sense of gra􀆟tude for where we are in our lives. It is truly my comfort zone.” E.J. goes on to say, “In so many aspects of life, Southminster is not only a blessing to us, but is also such a blessing to our children and their families.”

Southminster has special programming in place to support surviving spouses, so they don’t have to move forward from loss on their own. Minister of Spiritual Wellness Carol Anne Lawler calls the immediate family right way to offer support and to ask how Southminster can help. “We immediately send flowers and a condolence card from our leadership team, and our residents receive the news through our internal communication app and announcement cards posted by our Chapel. If the person’s spouse lives at Southminster, I visit them and provide a copy of “Healing After Loss,” a daily advice and meditation book.”
In addition to periodic grief support groups, Southminster also has a Service of Celebra􀆟on to honor the lives of residents who have passed away each quarter. Lawler is always available on an as-needed basis and can make referrals for ongoing counseling for widows who need additional grief support.

Nancy Litle and her husband Tom had moved to Southminster after raising their girls in the Northeast, Chicago and Charlotte, since 1978. Like Jack Cook, Nancy already had a built-in social structure when Tom passed away. “I think that living in a Life Plan Community makes being a widow easier because you are surrounded by people who make you feel less isolated and well supported,” she said. “I feel safe here and enjoy con􀆟nuing my prac􀆟ce of yoga and atending a variety of lectures and programs. I have also benefited from the spiritual wellness offerings.”

Harriet Barnhardt fondly remembers her late husband Bill and his life􀆟me of leadership in the business and civic worlds in Charlote and beyond. Dedicated to her through more than 72 years of marriage, he gave her the most loving gift she could have imagined. He chose their South Terrace residence with its large ground floor patio specifically so Harriet could continue her gardening and enjoy her many sentimental outdoor sculptures. “Like many surviving spouses, I dreaded having to go out and dine alone,” she said. “It is so nice to eat with long-time friends, as well as folks who soon become new friends.”

After his wife Doris passed away, Charlie Fonville also found Southminster gave him the social connections and activities he needed to thrive. “It’s so great to have people to sit and eat with, like our Braswell’s Lunch Group,” he said. Another resident, Jim Crook, also found all kinds of ways to stay ac􀆟ve after his wife Barbara’s death, especially through the Men’s Club and gatherings at Lola’s. “I consider moving to Southminster the best gi􀅌 you can give your kids,” Crook said.