The Residents of Rogers House: Lebanon Senior Housing Facility Is Full of Colorful Characters
Bob Todesco, 69, at Rogers House in Lebanon, N.H., on July 25, 2013. Valley News - Sarah Priestap) Purchase photo reprints »
Bernard Rogers, 89, at Rogers House in Lebanon, N.H., on July 25, 2013.(Valley News - Sarah Priestap) Purchase photo reprints »
Jeannette Chamberlain, 88, at Rogers House in Lebanon, N.H.,on July 25, 2013. (Valley News - Sarah Priestap) Purchase photo reprints »
Pearl Corrigan, 87 at Rogers House in Lebanon, N.H., on July 25, 2013.
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Hyacinthe "Hy" Lanteigne, 90, at Rogers House in Lebanon, N.H., on July 25, 2013.
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Marion Williams, 85, at Rogers House in Lebanon, N.H., on July 25, 2013.(Valley News - Sarah Priestap) Purchase photo reprints »
Jacqueline Digby, 83, at Rogers House in Lebanon, N.H., on July 25, 2013. (Valley News - Sarah Priestap) Purchase photo reprints »
Carmen Deuso, 75, at Rogers House in Lebanon, N.H., on July 25, 2013.
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Gerry Goodhue, 66, at Rogers House in Lebanon, N.H., on July 25, 2013. (Valley News - Sarah Priestap) Purchase photo reprints »
Theodore A. Trottier Jr., 65, at Rogers House in Lebanon, N.H., on July 25, 2013. (Valley News - Sarah Priestap) Purchase photo reprints »
Jackie Fedchenko, 78, at Rogers House in Lebanon, N.H., on July 25, 2013. (Valley News - Sarah Priestap) Purchase photo reprints »
Madelyn Taylor, 90, at Rogers House in Lebanon, N.H., on July 25, 2013. (Valley News - Sarah Priestap) Purchase photo reprints »
Pam Filion, 72, at Rogers House in Lebanon, N.H., on July 25, 2013. (Valley News - Sarah Priestap) Purchase photo reprints »
Grace Keane, 81, at Rogers House in Lebanon, N.H., on July 25, 2013.(Valley News - Sarah Priestap) Purchase photo reprints »
Logan Goodhue, 38, at Rogers House in Lebanon, N.H., on July 25, 2013.(Valley News - Sarah Priestap) Purchase photo reprints »
Lebanon — Every community has its colorful characters, and Rogers House, the former hotel in downtown Lebanon that now serves as income-based public housing, is no different. The four-story brick building in the heart of the Colburn Park Historic District is home to 57 seniors and older disabled people. Over that past few months, the Valley News has visited with many of them. Here are some of their stories.
Ricky and Gerry Goodhue live in a two-bedroom basement apartment with their 38-year-old son, Logan. They met when Gerry was a nursing student in Hanover. Ricky, 69, likes to recount the story.
“I was out chasing nurses one night,” the Lebanon native said.
“And my roommate says, ‘I can’t go out tonight, but my roommate will,’ ” Gerry, 66, continued.
He agreed to pick up Gerry at 7 p.m., “not 5 of, not 5 after,” he said. “I don’t wait for women.”
But Gerry was making a special dress for the occasion — light lavender with white trim around the neck — and Ricky ended up breaking his own rule.
“The next thing you know, she started wrapping me right around that little finger,” he said, holding up his hand. “Here it is, 45 years later, and we’re still together, and I have no complaints.”
They’ve had their struggles. Gerry had a kidney transplant a few years ago. To help cover the costs, she compiled a book of recipes based on that most prodigious summer vegetable, zucchini. She sold about 160 copies at $10 apiece, which helped them travel to Florida, once for the surgery and again for her first checkup.
Ricky has cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair to get around. Logan, the oldest of their three children, takes care of him.
“We’ve been through a lot together, and we still have a lot more to go,” Ricky said. “Whatever the good Lord has planned.”
Heading into retirement, Jackie Fedchenko would have taken any senior housing the Lebanon Housing Authority had to offer. But she had her eye on Rogers House.
“I’m really glad I got in,” said Fedchenko, a former real estate agent with a love for old buildings.
It’s close to everything and has helped her downsize, she said, laughing. “I have a little tiny place, and I can’t go out and buy all kinds of crap anymore.”
These days, she spends a lot of time visiting her children and grandchildren. She takes line dancing lessons at the senior center and is one of several Rogers House residents who show up for live music and dancing at local social and veterans’ clubs.
Before moving to Rogers House, she lived in the home she’d bought following a profitable adventure in Connecticut.
“I ran away from home to work at Foxwoods Casino,” Fedchenko explained. “I looked around and decided I was being selfish, and I ought to come back and see what my kids were doing.” After returning to the Upper Valley, she shared her new West Lebanon home with exchange students from Saudi Arabia, Peru, Chile and Romania, and they keep in touch through Facebook. When she could still lift 70 pounds, Fedchenko worked for the post office. Later, she took a job at McDonald’s in West Lebanon.
“I loved it,” she said.
When macular degeneration, cataracts and an old eye injury took their toll on Jeannette Chamberlain’s vision, she found herself struggling to navigate the 18 steps down to the laundry room. She left her apartment of more than three decades and moved just across the green to Rogers House, where the elevator has been most helpful.
Chamberlain, 88, is virtually unable to read now and needs help with everyday tasks. But she’s kept her girlish voice, cackling laugh and the timing of an old school comedian.
“I’ve shrunk 41/2 inches. My chin is touching the table. Osteoporosis,” she said, settling, with help, into a chair in the common room. “I take meds, but I still shrink. They said, ‘Well, it stops the breakage if you fall, but it doesn’t stop anything else.’ ”
She paused to address the woman who’d helped her. “Oh, thank you,” Chamberlain said, cheerily. Then, “Who are you?”
“You know me,” Gerry Goodhue said. “I’m Gerry.”
“Oh, hi, Gerry,” she said, apologizing. “I used to be able to see you, but I have problems.”
Chamberlain, who grew up in Claremont, once spoke Italian, Spanish and a little bit of Polish.
“Since I left Claremont, I haven’t been speaking any foreign languages at all. … So I’m forgetting,” she said. “Of course I’m 88, you know, so it’s been a long time since I learned languages.”
Her father was French Canadian, and thanks to her work in housekeeping at Mary Hitchcock Memorial Hospital, she still knows French. “They used to use me as an interpreter all summer.”
Before joining Hitchcock, she worked in a Massachusetts hospital, where patients included soldiers from the Italian campaign and German prisoners of war.
“I’m an old rolling stone from World War II,” she said. “We had a lot of fun.”
Now in her fourth year at Rogers House, Chamberlain says she likes it. A widow, she spends her time listening to the radio or attending house events, such as potluck suppers and birthday celebrations. She has help reading her mail, and an aide takes her shopping. “I think I’m buying string beans, and I’m buying sauerkraut,” she said, laughing. “She’s more or less my eyes.”
But Chamberlain, a naturally sociable person, is limited by severe allergies to everything from perfume to pet dander. Just the scent of aftershave can set her back for a few days.
“I have a boring life because I can’t associate as much as I’d like to,” she said, laughing again. “It’s too bad.”
Theodore “Ted” Trottier Jr. returned to the area about 31/2 years ago after a stint in Maryland. He lived with his sister in Wilder but wanted his own place. After a few months, he landed a one-bedroom apartment in Rogers House, which he enjoys “very much.”
“They have music here, and stuff like that, and sometimes they have potluck dinners,” he said. “It’s a nice place.”
Situated near the bus stop and grocery store and within walking distance of his counselor, it’s also convenient, said Trottier, who is disabled.
He once weighed more than 300 pounds, but since moving to Rogers House, he’s been walking a lot, around the park and nearby neighborhoods. The exercise, along with access to donated produce, has helped him lose weight.
“I’m down to 223 pounds,” he said. “My doctor’s real happy.”
Carman Deuso’s apartment is on the first floor facing the green, and that’s how she likes it.
“I can see everything that’s going on in the park,” said Deuso, a regular at the Lebanon Farmers Market. She buys the same things week after week: dill pickles, popcorn for her great-grandchildren, “and I always have a lemonade.”
Originally from Omaha, Neb., Deuso moved to Vermont with her former husband, who she met in the Air Force. She lived in various parts of New England before taking a job at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center.
“I worked in dietary, delivering trays to patients,” said Deuso, who is now retired. “I loved that.”
About 12 years ago, she moved to Rogers House, where she became president of the then-fledgling resident association.
“That’s when we started all the dances and the bingo and the birthday party,” she said. “They still do all those things,” and more.
Deuso no longer drives, but she still takes part in the association events, and she and her daughter take “a lot” of senior bus trips together — the Boston Flower and Garden Show, the Boston Harbor Cruise, the New England Aquarium, she said. “We’ve been everywhere.”
Pam Filion moved to Rogers House about three years ago after losing sight in one eye. Filion, who is widowed, says she doesn’t miss having a house to take care of.
“It gives me so much extra free time,” she said.
A self-described “gadget person,” she has posted her contact information in the shared computer area at Rogers House, in case anyone runs into digital trouble. She also volunteers with the Concord-based Sight Services for Independent Living, helping people who are blind access audio books.
“They come up to my apartment and we sit and figure out what they want,” she said.
Filion says she likes living in the building, which is convenient and friendly, without being overwhelming.
“I feel very fortunate in that you walk into you an apartment and close the door and people don’t bother you,” she said. “You have your own life.”
And between bus trips, the senior center, and activities in the house, “The sky’s the limit of things that you can do.”
When asked whether it’s a bit like college, Filion laughs.
“It is!” she said. “Except for, of course, we had a house mother, and we couldn’t leave the bedroom with pants on. It was skirts only.”