Residents and staff of the Fritz Reuter Altenheim retirement community gathered together Sept. 11 for a dinner honoring two family benefactors who donated money for two solariums adjacent to the front welcoming area of the home.
Joe Diamond, a one-time resident of the retirement home, along with Otto and Rose Ernst, were memorialized with plaques dedicating each of the two atrium-like rooms to their memory. The estates of both families paid for the rooms.
Situated directly next to the Schuetzen Park Ballroom, the event was held in the Crystal Ballroom, one of three rooms owned and operated by the banquet hall. The Fritz Reuter Altenheim facility shares a “friendly bond” with that local landmark, according to Ingrid Burner, director of housekeeping and commonly referred to as the surrogate “house mother.”
Founded in 1897, the Fritz Reuter Altenheim received support and aid from both the Plattduetsche Volksfest Vereen organization and Schuetzen Park, which was a common gathering place for various clubs and groups of German descent.
Today, the retirement community is home to 189 residents of all nationalities and religions in two types of living accommodations; one for independent living and one for assisted living. They pay a fee to live there. However, to qualify, they must be at least 70 and qualify for Medicare.
The over $1 million received from the benefactors led to the construction of two symmetric rooms at the front of the main building. Although construction finished in 2000, almost three years ago, residents and staff did not want their appreciation to be forgotten.
“This dinner is a nice way for us to thank the families for their benevolent, philanthropic donations to our community,” said John Lawrora, a current resident of the Fritz Reuter Altenheim.
Representatives from the families’ estates who made the solariums possible were not available to attend the luncheon, which is commonly referred to as “dinner” by the staff and community members even though the start time was noon. The plaques were unveiled in a short speech after dinner by Honorary President Trustee Frederick Hansen and the facility’s Administrator, David Kolk.
“The plaques will commemorate the sponsors by hanging one in each of the new rooms,” said Hansen.
Memorializing the sponsors
The tribute afternoon boasted a four-course meal and a full bar for the over 100 residents from both the assisted and independent living facilities who were in attendance. The family atmosphere was enhanced by an accordion player who filled the room with familiar German tunes, signing some of the lyrics in the native tongue understood by many of the guests.
According to Hansen, the “next big project” is the refurbishing of the main dining room at the Fritz Reuter Altenheim. A committee has already been formed to begin preparations in the hopes that another family-style celebration will soon follow for the much anticipated accomplishment.