Ask Chuck

Location: Whitby, Ontario, Canada

Born in Malta but in Canada since age 5. Has written three books and presently does several columns about wine and food for various magazines.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Leisureworld-----Long Term Care With A Difference

A Nice Place To Visit
What does a Long Term Care Facility have to do with wine one may ask! The answer is nothing! However it just so happened that while coming home from a wine tasting trip in Toronto, I decided to stop in and see my wife Darlene who happens to be an Assistant Director of Care at Leisureworld just south of Kingston Road on Midland in Scarborough. I wondered for a long time what this facility was like and what sort of place she was spending those long hours at.
Now, I have worked in the Mental Health and Geriatric system during my younger days when I was working on my Social Service and several other community relations diplomas. So I had an idea of what to expect. What I found was something of a surprise.
I walked into the entrance of Leisure World and entered a setting that immediately made me comfortable. No idle residents here! No sour faces----or blank ones for that matter.
What greeted me were smiles. The receptionist smiled. The residents smiled. The staff smiled. This could not possibly be true. I stood and watched as staff, residents and guests interacted.
In the large room just opposite the main door (which I presumed sufficed for the dining area) was a group taking active part in a sing-a-long. Residents were busily active in either reading books or news papers or----in active discussion with each other. This was impressive.
As I stood waiting for Darlene to come down to say hello, the Administrator came over and introduced himself as Terry. Could he be of any help? I replied and we were into a discussion about Long Term Care.
Terry struck me as the ideal person for the job. He was an idea person who knew his business and what was even more important, knew people. While he spoke to me, his eyes were always on the move to detect what people were doing and how they were doing it. He said some nice things about Darlene but then went on to say that the team that worked at Leisureworld was a thoroughly dedicated group of people who did their jobs and gave 120 percent. He seemed proud.
Why shouldn't he be? It was obvious to me that in spite of being an older building, this place worked. It worked because of commitment and dedication. It worked because the staff had an ethic and felt needed. It worked because each knew that they were part of a team----an important one at that. Very important I felt that the Terry was an approachable person that listened. One needs a leader who knows how to lead and listen. Terry led and listened. You could tell.
I met many of the Directors and associate staff and never failed to be impressed. It must be hard to work in a building that had over 300 residents. Considering the high activity on an on-going basis, I couldn't imagine how each kept up to their jobs. Remember, I did work in the field.
Darlene finally came down to greet me and say hello. That is all the time that we had---a hello! She was busy and like the others who worked there, needed the time to keep up to the needs of those in her care. She apologized but none was needed. I found out where she worked and saw that what she was doing was meaningful and it was done in a meaningful place. I left feeling good!
My congratulations go to Terry and his skillful staff of Long Term Care Workers. A job well done at Leisureworld Scarborough!

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Fess Parker------An Icon Remembered

It's the little things that of life that are important! It's the things that we really do not stop and take note of that figure greatly on those we meet and know! The simple words and seemingly little gestures may have profound meanings to those who receive them. It's these types of acts that I will forever remember Fess Parker. It's these acts for which I will be eternally grateful!
The year 2006 was a very significant one for me. It was the year that I decided to follow a hunch! While watching the morning program "Regis and Kelly" on ABC I noticed that one of the prizes given to a phone in contestant was a seven day stay at Fess Parker's Wine Country Inn and Spa plus a visit to his winery----both not far from the small town of Los Olivos, California. I contacted Kimberly Charles of Charles Communications in San Francisco who was then the publicist for Fess Parker. I wanted some comments for an article that I was doing for East of the City magazine on Wine and Chocolate. Fess Parker responded with his choices as well as a nice note mailed to me along with several signed labels of his wine brands. It's the little things that make life worthwhile!
I later decided to do an article on Fess Parker and the Santa Barbara region. This blossomed into a television episode called "The Wine Frontier" and culminated in a terrific interview with Fess Parker.
Fess Parker was a tall very slim 82 year old whose good looks and smile could charm the most ardent of grumps. We had agreed to do the interview at his Fess Parker Winery in the very encompassing porch. We weren't too far from the two very large doors that constituted the entrance of the boutique.
He walked up the pathway from the parking lot about fifty yards to the side of the winery and noticed that there were some people waiting to visit. He peaked in and then banged on the door. Then turned around and looking at me said, "Mr. Byers?"
Those were the first words that he said to me and I will remember them forever! There he was, the person who I grew up with! There he was! Davy Crockett, Daniel Boone, The dad from Old Yeller, Mr. Smith from the Mr. Smith Goes To Washington television series, The Jayhawkers where he fought another idol of mine "Jeff Chandler". He stood there with a smile that melted any apprehension I had. It's the little things that make life worthwhile!
We had an excellent interview. During this discussion, I always referred to him as Mr. Parker. I had (and still have) the habit of using the formal address for a person unless specifically asked to use another one. During the interview he said, "Please, call me Fess!" At that m0ment, he could have given me a million dollars and I would not have been more thrilled! It's the little things that make life worthwhile!
During the interview he shared a number of things with me but the thing that stuck with me the most was when I asked him why he decided to leave the "film" business. His answer was "You can be too long at the fair!" He told me that he had a family and other responsibilities and it was time for him to leave the fair and move on to other things. That he did and he did it in his own way and own manner!
One didn'thave to be a buddy to know that Fess was an amazing person------that He was kind, loving and gentle but also inwardly tough with had an amazing sense of business. It didn't surprise me that he accomplished much in his lifetime. The thing that stuck with me was his soft spoken nature and the aura of "fairness" that surrounded him. I liked him but now it wasn't the star struck, hero worshipping "me" liking him. It was more on the level of person to person.
He was the kind of person who would listen to your complaints if any and then simply say, "Well, can we discuss this a bit!" It wasn't a sign of weakness. On the contrary, it was a sign of strength and security. I imagine that Fess Parker could really "dig his heels in" if forced to!
During the following years, I made it a point to visit Santa Barbara and Los Olivos. The second time I visited it was with my family. Fess, his wife Marcella (Marcy) , daughter Ashley and the rest of the family were wonderful to us. It was the occasion of Taryn's birthday and we gathered at the weekly sing-a-long that was held at the Fess Parker Wine and Country Inn and Spa we were seated to hear the various guests take a stab at singing when Fess came up to the microphone and sang Taryn a Happy Birthday! It's the little things that make life worthwhile! My two subsequent visits to Santa Barbara and Santa Ynez did not include meeting with Fess since he was very ill. I did however see some of the family and sent my regards. I am sorry that our paths did not cross again. I always came out of a meeting with him feeling that I had gained something and was the better for it!
Fess's statement about staying too long at the fair will be the one thing that will always stay with me for some reason. Maybe at some point, when my time comes, Fess Parker will meet me and say "Welcome to the fair, stay awhile!" Fess from the bottom of my heart, you will be missed!!!