January 21, 2020

First residents share impressions on first day of life’s next chapter

Oct. 2 marked admission of the Bangor MVH’s first two residents into its special care unit.

The MVH has eagerly anticipated welcoming its first residents. Some residents will be relieved. Yet, the staff’s buoyance may be diminished somewhat as they realize the ambivalent feelings some of these first citizens will experience as they begin their lives’ next chapter.

First at the door, Jonathan Myers of Orono, was assisted by his wife of 50 years. Wilsie Myers said she had hoped to keep Jonathan home as long as possible, but caring for him was wearing her down.

Jonathan’s increasing disability through Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimers caused her constant worry and extreme fatigue.

Their lives seemed to be suspended, while they awaited MVH’s opening. His disability worsened, while she delayed her leg surgery.

This first day, they came to Jonathan’s new home, which he, for the first time in 50 years, will no longer share with Wilsie. “It’s not easy, especially since we’ve been together this many years,” Wilsie said.

She briefly recounted her husband’s 78-year life and their five-decade marriage, mentioning their 50th anniversary coincides with the end of World War II.

Jonathan was born and raised in Orono. He played on the champion, “unscored on, undefeated football team of 1934, at Orono High.” He was one of the first soliders from the northeast to enlist in the Air Force in 1939; his enlistment number was 00050.

After her mother’s death when she was 14, Wilsie lived with her brother and his wife in Cape Forrest, Tenn. At 18, though she “was too young to do much,” she worked for the quarter master in the laundry cleaning soldiers’ uniforms.

They met when he was in charge of repatriating German POWs, at a site near Wilsie’s home. She said at first she wasn’t sure whether he “was always underfoot” because he wanted to see her, or because of her sister-in-law’s fine cooking. Within two weeks, she knew the answer when he proposed marriage.

While in the military, Jonathan suffered a head injury, some effects of which remain. A few years ago, their eldest daughter, Evelyn Clark, recognized his distinctive tremor as being identical to her grandfather’s, Jonathan’s father. Parkinson’s disease was soon diagnosed.

Recently, Jonathan spent 17 days in a nursing home for rehabilitation services. When he returned home, Wilsie realized that her husband had lost much of his mental and physical abilities. The diseases and head injury robbed him of motor skills and reasoning power.

Although Jonathan had several hospitalizations this year, and Wilsie realized he needed nursing care, she said, “I couldn’t let go.”

She read about the Maine Veterans’ Homes. Then a friend confirmed that it was a “nice spot.” “It’s good for him to be with other old veterans,” she said. “They will have something in common.”

Now Wilsie will rely upon her children and grandchildren to help fill the void left by Jonathan’s living at the MVH. Yet, she plans to stay busy unpacking and settling into her new Bangor home on the same street as her daughter, who “has been a godsend.”

“It’s good to be able to relax, and be concerned about someone else, like myself. It will be tough,” Wilsie said, “but it’s better for us both. Home is not the place he should be.”

Paul DeVoe of Plymouth became resident number two. His friend, Rebecca Weymouth of Howland, said “He wanted to get in with the old cronies. He waited for about a year (for the Bangor home’s opening).”

His daughter, Audrey Gilbert, whom Paul has recently lived with, said, “It’s been a long haul that required lots of paperwork. Now he wants peace and quiet.”

Before Bangor opened, Paul and his family had considered applying to the Veterans’ Home in Augusta, but he wanted to be closer to his family. “He’s very independent,” said Audrey, “after serving 23 years as an Air Force staff sergeant.”

When Paul began living with her, Audrey took three months off from her job as Plymouth’s animal control officer. “If he’s happy,” she said, “I’m happy.”

“He’s better off here. There were no men when he stayed with me,” Rebecca said, “and where he lived with Audrey, there were no men. The men here have the same type of life.”

“When you tell a military joke,” said Paul, “they will laugh!”

Throughout his military career, Paul spent 17 years overseas at locations including Europe, the Philippines, Hawaii, Alaska, England, Greenland, and France. Stateside, he served in Oregon and New York.

“I served everywhere,” he said. “It feels good to go here now and know it’s home.”

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