September 2022 marks 30 years of community right here on Pickett Road. It’s the perfect time to recognize the incredible people who have shaped who we are and will continue to contribute to The Forest at Duke’s legacy well into the future: our Pioneers.
A group of the original residents and team members who were with us when our doors initially opened, seven Pioneers still live and work at The Forest—three residents and four team members.
In honor of our 30th anniversary, please read the abbreviated stories of our Forest Pioneers below, and learn about their individual connections to this beautiful place we are proud to call home.
“You are not your job. Your job is a part of your life experience.”
As The Forest prepared to open its doors in 1992, a friend told Carol Adams about the new community, encouraging her to apply for a position. A single parent in need of a stable job with good benefits, Carol perused vacant roles and ultimately joined the early Forest team as a housekeeper.
Over 30 years’ time, she saw the campus grow—along with it, her pay and opportunities to advance. Beloved by residents and team members alike, Carol found her place and worked her way up to another challenging position within the General Services department.
Today she serves as Assistant Laundry Supervisor and holds responsibility for ensuring that linens and personal items from the Health Center are properly cleaned, dried, folded, and returned. The service she provides is labor intensive, but Carol always delivers her duties with a positive attitude and a smile as bright as the one seen here.
Carol thinks highly of The Forest at Duke and recognizes it as a great place to work, particularly if team members take advantage of the many opportunities available to them. As she moves forward in her career, she looks ahead to what comes after her life on campus: “To retire—to start a new life experience at retirement.”
“Confucius says, ‘Choose a job you love and you will never have to work a day in your life.'”
Glenn Arrington, Community Life Assistant / Driver, first learned about The Forest at Duke from a very close friend, Howard DeWitt. Howard, who happened to be the CEO at Croasdaile Village at the time, told Glenn about a Driver position available in the new community. After making a phone call to request an interview, Glenn met with Activities Director Lucy Grant and CEO Karen Montgomery and soon began his Forest legacy.
From the beginning, transporting residents has always been a major part of Glenn’s role. He also sets up and breaks down meeting spaces for resident and team member events, assists at the Community Center reception desk when needed, and achieves a potpourri of responsibilities on behalf of the Community Life team.
“I love working with senior adults and being able to assist them [in] any way I can,” Glenn shares.
Over his 30 years with The Forest at Duke, which he officially celebrated on August 21, 2022, Glenn has seen an array of changes. The best, for him, was getting his very own office space several years ago. The worst—as it is for so many team members—is losing a resident, “because it feels like I’m losing a family member.”
With a hopeful heart for the future, Glenn expects The Forest to grow and continue to excel in taking care of its residents and team members. To him, the most important thing our community can do is to fully embrace all Foresters and have the utmost respect for residents at this stage in their lives. “They need someone who is compassionate and kind,” he says. “As a team member, you are part of a team, and you should be able to support each other to fully accomplish the goals of The Forest at Duke.”
“I love the lasting friendships that are created with both residents and team members.”
Perusing classifieds in the local Sunday newspaper in 1992, Laurie Lach saw an ad for a position at The Forest at Duke. She jumped on the opportunity, handwriting an application and soon receiving a callback for an interview. Upon arriving at the new continuing care retirement community (CCRC) on Pickett Road, Laurie was taken with the beautiful campus.
Her first role as Administrative Coordinator in Dining Services (1992-2007) entailed responsibilities in administrative work and food service. Having worked in both environments beforehand, Laurie felt that the position was just the right fit for her.
After 15 years in service to the dining team, Laurie worked as the Resident Services Manager for the Health & Wellness Center for the next 11 years of her Forest tenure. Then, in 2018, she moved to her current role as the Clinic Administrative Manager in Health Services.
In her experience at The Forest at Duke, Laurie has certainly witnessed a changing landscape. “[Others] may disagree,” she says, “but I like when we renovate. The change and modernizations [are] always exciting to watch unfold.”
Laurie has established many friendships on campus and thrives wherever she goes. Speaking from her heart about her work, she shares, “If you are looking for meaningful relationships, great benefits, and an opportunity to enhance the lives of seniors, then this is the place for you!”
“Over the years, the most important factor has been the support of neighbors and friends—in times of fun and activities, and in the times of pain and sorrow.”
Peg Lewis and her husband traveled to Durham in 1992 to visit Peg’s college roommate and her husband. While in the area, they looked at two local retirement communities to get a feel for the opportunities available to them in the Bull City. After their tours, they took an excursion to The Forest at Duke’s sales office, where Lucy Grant—then known as a “Marketing Counselor”—convinced them that The Forest was the place they should choose to retire.
But it wasn’t just the talented sales team that influenced the Lewises’ decision. “The newness of the community, the swimming pool, and design of the cottage that we chose were the features that were important for us,” Peg explains.
Upon establishing residence on campus, Peg joined the Residents’ Association. In her early years as an active member of its Board, she was directly involved in the development of the Forest library and volunteered her time and efforts in the Health Center. Perhaps most notably, Peg stands out as the first woman to be elected President of the Residents’ Association, taking the helm in the fall of 1997. She also served as the head of the Community Relations Committee, was named one of three Volunteers of the Year at The Forest in 2000, and participated on the committee that planned the last addition to the existing Health Center.
Later, she joined a group of 11 residents, team members, and Forest Board members to form the Steering Committee—a task force for achieving The Forest at Duke’s first accreditation. In 2007, thanks to the committee’s collaborative efforts and the hard work of many on campus, The Forest earned accreditation from the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities-Continuing Care Accreditation Commission (CARF-CCAC). At the time, The Forest at Duke was one of only 300 accredited CCRCs out of approximately 2,000 in the entire country.
In many ways, things now are undeniably different from when Peg first achieved residency. The trees, shrubs, and flowers on the property are much more lush. Renovations, revisions, and construction have occurred. Many new neighbors have joined. While the original newness has long worn off, the factors that first lured Peg to The Forest largely remain the same: a close spirit of community, an ongoing plethora of scheduled events and activities, dear friends living close by…
Peg treasures her connection to the wider Durham community and its many offerings of sports, music, theater, and dining, yet clings to her love of her beloved retirement home. “I hope that as we increase in size, we can still retain the joy from having good friends and the opportunities to do a variety of activities together.”
“For me, The Forest at Duke is the greatest place to retire and live.”
Eric Reid first learned about The Forest from two of his coworkers, Sonja Jay and Jenette Walker, in 1992. The community sought part-time help in Security, and with Eric newly out of the Navy, the young veteran was on the hunt for his next adventure. He interviewed with then-Director Cathy Crapo and Security Manager Keith Franklin; impressed with his engaging personality and his background in the service, they offered him the job.
“This is such a great place to work with such a diverse group of employees and residents,” he states.
Beyond his time in Security, Eric also worked in Activities and Reception during his 30 years of service (and counting!) to The Forest at Duke. In early 2014, he took on a role as bus driver for the community and filled in as needed at the Community Center reception desk. Currently, he works pro re nata offering administrative support as a Health Services Receptionist.
Looking toward the future, he wishes only the best for The Forest: “[I hope] we continue to be the best retirement community in the Triangle area!” Eric views our community as an extension of family, and we’re thrilled to call him a part of ours!
Mary Ann Ruegg
“I am glad I made the choice to be here.”
When Mary Ann Ruegg first applied to a CCRC with her husband, Don, the couple lived in Chicago and were not yet age qualified to make such a move. Later, when the two were 65, a friend whose aunt lived at Carol Woods in Chapel Hill suggested that they look into that retirement community. As an afterthought, she added that a new CCRC was being built just down the road in Durham. This was about 1991, as it turns out, and the community in question was none other than The Forest at Duke.
Their interest piqued, the Rueggs visited and fell in love with their future home and soon began taking steps toward residency. They appreciated the newness of the buildings, the cottage they chose for their own, and the fact that the new community had an activities department. Once settled, Mary Ann and Don found the Activities and Dining teams particularly influential in helping them grow acquainted with the area, Forest team members, and other residents.
It didn’t take long for the couple to immerse themselves in campus goings-on. They took part on the Dining and Nominating Committees, served with the Rose Clippers and in the Health Center gift shop, and even started the “Lunch Bunch” for monthly luncheons and dinner outings.
Today Mary Ann continues to thrive in her Forest home and most treasures the security of her place here and the many friendships she’s grown along the way.
“Don’t wait too long to make plans for ‘old age living’!”
In 1992, Molly Simes was not eager to leave the lake house she owned with her husband Frank, but she soon discovered that she was very glad she did. “I felt it important to be able to make friends while my body and mind were functioning in an agreeable manner,” she shares. Looking back, she recognizes that the lake house was getting to be a bit overwhelming to maintain.
Earlier that year, Frank’s sister—a patient at Duke Hospital—received a letter from Dr. James Crapo, which Molly’s husband opened because his sister could not. At that time, Dr. Crapo contacted just about anyone and everyone who might be interested in retired life at his up-and-coming community, The Forest at Duke.
“We made an appointment, listened to Dr. Crapo (an excellent salesperson!), chose an apartment, [and] paid our $1,000 to hold the place for two years on that day!” Molly explains. She and Frank did not want to burden their daughter, who was working and living overseas, so this decision seemed ideal for supporting them into the future.
Upon settling in, Molly and Frank worked hard to foster growth in their new community. Frank served on the Financial Committee; Molly was part of the Dining Committee early on, then served as Chairman of Building and Grounds (as it was called then) for six years.
“I recall my husband saying that we had to ‘get off the island’ for activities,” Molly remembers, alluding to Frank’s desire to spread the couple’s service to realms beyond The Forest at Duke.
Frank volunteered at Duke Hospital, while Molly freely gave of her time and efforts at Sarah P. Duke Gardens for 17 years. “Many a lunch I prepared for Forest residents who were my guests for lunch and a trolley tour!” Molly says.
Certainly over her three decades at The Forest, Molly has seen many changes. While she misses the smaller size of the community when it first came to be, she acknowledges that the newer cottages on Fountain View Lane have integrated “most favorably” with the rest of campus. She sees the positive future ahead, particularly with the new Health Center on the horizon, and likes to use the word “content” to describe her feeling about being here. “I am very satisfied!”
—Lauren Young, Communications and Engagement Coordinator