"I Got the Best Welcome Ever!"
Story by Karin Evans
A retired UC physicist who worked at Lawrence Berkeley Lab, Gerry Abrams first heard of Ashby Village at a retirement fair. “They had a booth there, and I picked up some literature. I tend to hoard literature,” he chuckles. "But then last January I thought I’d go and see what they had to offer. I didn’t know what went along with the words on the brochures, or who the personalities were, or how effective it was. “So I went to a Sunday afternoon Living Room Chat. I even gave up a day of football to go, so I was serious!” says Gerry. “They answered a lot of my questions. They had a member talking about personal experience, which was what I wanted to hear. For me it was all just entirely satisfying. I felt right at home immediately.”
So, he joined. “They sent out a volunteer, Audrey Newman, to welcome me into the village. I couldn’t imagine a more welcoming presence.” That’s what impressed Gerry immediately about joining the village—the welcoming atmosphere. That and the openness to new ideas. When Gerry mentioned that he was longing for some intellectual stimulation, maybe a group that could help him keep up on science, he got immediate encouragement.
That’s how the Science & Ideas group came to be. Gerry came up with the concept, Community Engagement Manager Manuela handled the necessary administrative steps, and at the first meeting, volunteer Shirley Jowell had the room set up and everything ready to go. “All I had to do was walk in and smile,” says Gerry. The half dozen monthly meetings so far have covered such topics as the domestication of animals, aging and dying, and climate change. “There’s a lot of interest in science of the brain, right now, such as plasticity. A lot of information is coming out.”
But Gerry’s curiosity doesn’t stop there. Not long ago, when he attended a potluck hosted by the Oaklandish group, he met a couple in their 90s, and got to chatting. The woman, it turned out, had also been a physicist specializing in High Energy Particle Physics—Gerry’s specialty—and the man was a nuclear physicist. It turned out that the woman had worked at the same lab as Gerry, but twenty years ahead of him, offering an interesting perspective. “She had memories and comments to make about the lab at a time when it was the place for high energy physics.”
And that led to his latest brainstorm. Ashby Village is filled with stories, says Gerry, and he would like to get to know as many of them as possible. “You hear all sorts of fascinating things.” Gerry now wants to assemble a video team to tape every member who’d like to be included. “People could come forward and tell you the high points of their career and lives. The village has some brilliant, dynamic people.” If his idea works, he says, “You could go to a huge library that doesn’t yet exist, and bring up these fascinating stories.”
Gerry lives with his son and hasn’t yet needed the services of the village, but he’s glad to know they are there. Meanwhile, he is getting what he needs. “The potlucks have been really nice to go to. I’ve been to a few of the happy hours. The social scene is very welcoming and fulfills a lot of my social needs.” He’s also very enthusiastic about the new Global Issues Forum.
“What’s struck me is the readiness of the individuals I have met to accept a new member as if they have been there their entire lives. I have neighbors a few blocks away whom I never knew, but now we are getting to be friends because we are both in Ashby Village together.”