Monday, November 24, 2008

Pegged out: Karolyn Cleveland, cribbage player...

From The News Observer:

Retirement community's Energizer Bunny dies at 97


CARY - For many at Glenaire retirement community, it seemed as though Karolyn Cleveland had always been there. And, in truth, she had.
The community opened its doors in June 1993; she moved in two months later.

Anyone would have understood if Cleveland, as she approached the century mark, opted to curl up in a rocker and while away her twilight years.

But she had a job -- lots of them.

She made sure residents decades younger got up each morning and showed up for breakfast in the dining room.

She played bridge and cards and cribbage, served as secretary for Glenaire's buildings and grounds committee, and pioneered the Busy Fingers, a handiwork group that met weekly to knit, crochet, quilt and gab.

She sang in the chorus. She organized yard sales and decorated the hall bulletin board, adorning it with snowflakes for winter and hearts for Valentine's Day.

"She was impatient with folks who complained about their problems and dragged their heels," said Sam Stone, Glenaire's former executive director. "She lived life energetically."

A week before her death Oct. 25, Cleveland participated in the senior games held with two other Presbyterian continuing-care communities. She boarded a bus for the competition, which was near High Point. An avid golfer, Cleveland competed in putting.

Along for the ride were some boosters from Glenaire -- cheerleaders, actually. Cleveland had organized the Busy Fingers to craft pompoms for their shoes.

Cleveland, who had lived independently at Glenaire, died of pneumonia. She was 97.

In 1911, Karolyn Meyer Cleveland was born into a prominent German-American family in Indiana. She married her childhood sweetheart, a fiber salesman, and moved with him and their two boys to Atlanta, Connecticut and New York City. In Manhattan, on the banks of the East River, the Clevelands kept a cabin cruiser they used to shuttle visitors to the 1964 New York World's Fair.

In 1973, after Wayne Cleveland retired, they moved south to Pine Knoll Shores, N.C., a town on the coast where he eventually became mayor. They developed the easy, familiar routines of retirement: golf, and lots of it, and a daily trek to the ocean every afternoon at 4, where they'd join friends for cocktails.

After her husband died in 1983, Cleveland stayed at the shore for another 10 years before moving to Cary.

In an unfortunate twist of fate, Cleveland's son also ended up at Glenaire after suffering a stroke.

She visited daily, encouraging him to join her for a program in the auditorium or catch a Friday night movie.

In her 80s at the time, Cleveland had a list of commitments that rivaled those of someone decades younger.

Every Sunday night was devoted to playing 99, in which every player gets three cards and four coins and wheels and deals until the first player amasses 99 points and is crowned the winner. The women in the group were younger than Cleveland, but they ceded the task of shuffling to her.

"Good exercise," she called it.

"Her fingers were still just as limber as they could be," said Betsy McNeill, her neighbor. "The rest of us, much younger than she, were all stiff."

Birthday biscuits

McNeill and Cleveland, who was 14 years older, shared the same birthday. You know what they say about older people and forgetfulness, but it hardly seemed to apply to Cleveland. When each March 23 dawned, McNeill would open her door to find hot homemade biscuits, a birthday treat from Cleveland.

At monthly hall meals, Cleveland could be counted on to liven up the dinner conversation. She'd bring age-appropriate stories to tell, like the one about the doctor who met his patient on the street, accompanied by a lovely lady.

"Doctor," the patient began, "I've got a hot mama on my arm."

"Oh, no," the doctor replied. "That's not what I said. I said you have a heart murmur."

Twice a year, Glenaire hosts a yard sale. The Busy Fingers always staffed a table where they sold knitting needles, thread, unfinished cross-stitch canvases and fabric scraps.

The most recent yard sale took place last month. Cleveland, as usual, spent most of the day representing the Busy Fingers table.

At one point during the day, a friend, Maria Kiser, offered to relieve her.

"Oh, no," she replied with a smile. "I might miss something."

Now it's Busy Fingers' turn to miss her. Without Cleveland as a driving force, Busy Fingers may unravel.

* * *

Karolyn Cleveland is survived by two sons, four grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.

Life Stories
bonnie.rochman@newsobserver.com or 919-829-4871

Original article here.

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