Windemere’s Annual Fund
Hardship does funny things to you — it can hurt you or help you. I grew up during the Great Depression, scrounging for every penny. I remember being a teenager, tutoring kids my own age to make fifty cents. It wasn’t easy being a poor kid, it was very hard. But your values get developed that way.
I was always good in school — I loved education. While working as a public health nurse in New Haven and raising a family of four children, I had to do my schooling a piece here and a piece there over many years. I pursued every scholarship I thought might be available to me, and I was pretty successful at that. When I went to my final graduation at the University of New Haven, to accept a master’s degree in gerontology, I was in my early eighties. My grandchildren were there with a big sign: Yay, Grandma!
Gerontology was a field that interested me, learning about how people grow old. What the hell, I wanted to know how you do it. And now I’ve done it: I was 99 years old this past September.
When we moved here in the 1980s and I applied for a job with Hospice of Martha’s Vineyard, they wanted to know why I was retiring from my job in New Haven. They didn’t realize I was already 84 years old! I was president of Hospice for 10 years — it was good work. I knew Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, who was a founder of Hospice; she was a very nice lady. And Hospice was a good fit with my philosophy: You live until the end, as best you can. That’s the best way I can put it.
I moved into the assisted living section of Windemere about six months ago — I was an old lady, and I could no longer live independently. This apartment is my home now. I’m surrounded by things I saved from my home in West Tisbury — they encourage you to do that here. I have pictures of my son, my three daughters, my grandchildren — fourteen of them, and they’re all just gorgeous.
This is what happens when you grow old: it happens again and again. Just talk to all the people living here. Windemere is a life-saver for so many people. I have Island friends who visit me often, and we have a community of our own right here.
You want words of wisdom? I haven’t got them. But I do know that without Windemere, I’d have to scrounge now, at the end of my life, the way I did when I was a girl. Perhaps I’d be living in someone’s cellar now. People need to understand what a hidden treasure Windemere is, and your generous support will mean that this very important place will be here for many years to come.
Sarah Isenberg (pictured here at her 98th birthday party last
September) spent a career in public health nursing in Connecticut
before moving year-round to West Tisbury and serving for a
decade as the president of Hospice of Martha’s Vineyard. She has
been a resident of the Windemere Nursing & Rehabilitation
Center since late last year.