A month earlier, the West River Parkway had been filled with throngs of runners during the Twin Cities Marathon. But on a breezy November morning, another group of outdoor enthusiasts moved down the parkway at a much more leisurely pace. They were members of the Becketwood Cooperative on a 1 K walk to celebrate their co-op’s 35th anniversary.
“The walk gave us a way to mark our milestone anniversary with a fun event that brought us together as a community. It also reminded us that while we live in a 55+ building, we are active and independent seniors,“ noted Carla Mortensen, who organized the walk with her Becketwood neighbor, Elaine Kirk.
“Planning an outdoor event in November was something of a risk,” added Kirk. “But we knew our members would come out for it even if they had to bundle up in their winter parkas. We are so lucky to live here along the river, so the walk was our way of celebrating this lovely piece of nature right at our doorstep.”
This year, Becketwood’s anniversary activities were complicated by the cooperative’s COVID-19 restrictions that limited the size of indoor gatherings. Becketwood had hoped to have a celebratory banquet to mark its 35th year, but the banquet had to be postponed, according to Phyllis Kromer, who chaired 35th anniversary planning committee.
“While the pandemic created a special challenge for carrying out of our wide-ranging plans, we were able to come up with ways to recognize the spirit of Becketwood’s special place in our lives through our anniversary theme: Honor the Past - Embrace the Future,” Kromer said.
3 founding members from 1986
The theme provided the focus for a special anniversary publication produced by Kromer’s group that drew on the talents of Becketwood’s writers, poets and photographers. An introductory essay by Ann Lovrien and Pat Cummings linked cooperative’s founders in the 1980s, who were part of the Greatest and Silent Generations, with the Baby Boomers and Gen Xers who are now following them.
The founders “brought with them their generational values inspired by a shared national experience,” Lovrien and Cummings explained. “Their optimism, work ethic, resilience, financial prudence built the foundation on which Becketwood stands today. In the last few years, a significant number of Baby Boomers have joined the generational mix. Boomers are known for rejecting and redefining traditional values, as well as for being-self-assured and goal centered. They frequently ask questions about why we do the things we do, and they are comfortable offering suggestions for improving our practices. Like any living organism, Becketwood is both challenged and nourished by these new perspectives.”
Becketwood’s foundation was established with the help of its “founding mothers” an all-women committee that helped oversee the co-op’s development in the 1980s. Gloria Delano, one of the founding mothers and a current Becketwood member received special recognition in the 35th anniversary publication. Along with Delano, the publication honored Becketwood’s two remaining “pioneers,” Vera Watson and Nancy Schultz, current members who moved into the co-op when it opened in 1986.
From orphanage to senior housing
The anniversary report also included a timeline intended to help educate the co-op’s newer members about Becketwood’s history. That history extends back to the 19th century, when an early Minnesota settler named Richard Martin bequeathed 130 acres of undeveloped property along the Mississippi river bluffs to an Episcopal orphanage, Sheltering Arms, then located in downtown Minneapolis. The bequest enabled Sheltering Arms to build a new facility on the Martin property in 1910. With changing times, the orphanage was converted to a rehabilitation center for polio victims and, later, to a school for young people with development disabilities. In 1982, after closing its school, Sheltering Arms sold its 13-acre site to the St. Paul-based Episcopal Church Home (ECH), Becketwood’s developer. ECH guaranteed the initial financing for the new senior housing facility that replaced the original 1910 orphanage building. Becketwood has retained its ties to ECH but operates today an independent entity with its own board of directors.
Always planning ahead
A key milestone during Becketwood’s 35-year history occurred in 1988, when Becketwood’s board established a capital long range planning committee to help the cooperative deal with its future capital needs. The committee laid the groundwork for a repair and replacement reserve fund that now totals more than $3 million.
“When our building first opened 35 years ago our early leaders may have been tempted to ignore the co-op’s long-term needs, since everything was so shiny and new,” said Loren Flicker, who now chairs the Reserve and Replacement Long Range Planning Committee. “Fortunately, our founders did not heed this ‘siren song’. Guided by the principle of starting to save for a replacement as soon as any new item was acquired, they put in place the process that continues to serve us so well today.”
COVID-19 affects co-op
In its anniversary publication, the Becketwood timeline concludes with the board action in the spring of 2020, suspending most group activities in face of the COVID-19 pandemic. David Liddle, who served as board president in 2020, said his year in office was a challenging time for the board. “We had to find a way to preserve a sense of community – one of Becketwood’s defining characteristics – at the same time that we were doing everything we could to keep everyone safe by following CDC and Minnesota Health Department guidelines,” Liddle said. “Complying with the guidelines meant that we needed to impose restrictions and disrupt familiar routines. Those restrictions and disruptions were necessary, but they made life more difficult for all of us.”
“Zoom has given us a way to keep some of our activities going, even with COVID-19,” explained David McKay who chairs Becketwood’s program committee. “But some of our members are not online or are not comfortable with Zoom, so we have come up with a hybrid arrangement. Most of us stay in our own apartments and use Zoom to access our on-line programs. But we are able to let a limited number of people watch the Zooms on the big screen in our large community room. That lets us provide a broader community reach for our activities.”
Becketwood used the hybrid plan for a variety show that concluded Becketwood’s 35th anniversary celebration on Nov. 6, 2021. The hour-long show on Zoom showcased Becketwood’s humorists, musicians, storytellers and poets.
With a nod to the Gen Xers who will soon start moving into Becketwood, the show included an original rap performed by Joel Mortensen and Debbie Richman, Becketwood’s general manager. The show also included Ole and Lena jokes told by Howard Bergstrom, a World War II vet and a member of the Greatest Generation.
“We really did honor the past and embrace the future,” Mortensen said.
Editor’s note: Local historican and writer Iric Nathanson is a member of the Becketwood Cooperative.
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