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Long-lasting marriage grows from childhood friendship

Couple now enjoying their next chapter in life at Fox Run

Created date

December 23rd, 2013
couple sitting in chairs

George and Wilma Gallanis have known each other, literally, their entire lives. Their mothers were friends when they were born just a few months apart, and their families socialized throughout their childhoods in upstate New York. The young George and Wilma became friends, and as young adults, they developed a romantic relationship. In fact, George was Wilma’s date to her senior prom.

“It was at the Pierre Hotel in New York City,” George reminisces. “[We] went to the Copacabana afterward.” 

Love, marriage, and retirement

George and Wilma later married. They moved from New York to Michigan for George’s career with General Motors. The couple built a life in Michigan, where they raised their four children. Now, after nearly 60 years of marriage and four grandchildren, George and Wilma are living their retirement to the fullest. 

“We really enjoy each other’s company,” George says.

In 2008, the Gallanises moved from West Bloomfield, Mich., to Run, an Erickson Living community in Novi. Wilma says they had been keeping an eye on Fox Run since before it even opened, knowing that they may eventually decide to move there. 

They were members of Fox Run’s priority list, which enabled them to visit the community frequently for lunches and special events. They also had several friends who already lived there, which gave them a sneak preview of the Erickson Living lifestyle. 

So when George and Wilma decided they no longer wanted the burden of maintaining a large house, the decision to move to Fox Run was an easy one.

“I’ve loved it since the first day I was here,” Wilma says.

Family traditions get a welcome update

George and Wilma chose a Hastings-style apartment home. Situated on the fifth floor, their home features two bedrooms, one-and-a-half bathrooms, and a large bay window. It also has a spacious kitchen, which Wilma happily reports doesn’t get much use these days.

“We have been here for five years, and I’ve never used my oven,” she says. “It’s wonderful not to have to cook. When we have company, we just use the private dining room.”

Wilma says one of her daughters initially had concerns about her parents moving, in large part because the Gallanis house was where their family used to celebrate Christmas. As it turns out, Wilma says she and George are still able to host their children and grandchildren for holidays, except now they have access to all of the amenities at Fox Run, like a roaring fire in the clubhouse fireplace and a delicious meal that no one has to cook or clean up.

“Often, we have Christmas here,” Wilma says. “We get a table at the restaurant for dinner and then go back to our apartment to open presents.”

More time for friends, hobbies

Without the responsibilities of maintaining a big house, George and Wilma now have more free time for activities they enjoy. And living at a community with more than 1,000 other active retirees means that there are always friends around for socializing and trying new things.

George and Wilma both enjoy singing and have been members of their church choir for many years, so when they moved to Fox Run, the community’s choir was a natural fit for them. 

Wilma also leads a happy hour sing-a-long in the clubhouse before dinner, and she is a member of Fox Run’s bell choir. The couple attends meetings of the poetry and prose club, a casual group that gets together to read poems and passages they find meaningful. 

George says he has written several poems that he has shared with the group. George also volunteers to operate the sound and light systems in Fox Run’s performing arts center during special events.

Staying in shape is very important to George, and living at Fox Run makes it easy to fit exercise into his schedule. In addition to using the treadmill and lifting weights at Fox Run’s on-site fitness and aquatics center, George also gets outside whenever he can to walk the community’s scenic wooded trails. Recently, George won a gold medal in the 5K race walk at Michigan’s Senior Olympics. 

“They tell me I set a new record for my age bracket, and I beat the winners in two younger age brackets,” George says.

This winter, George and Wilma look forward to attending performances of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. The orchestra outings are organized by one of Fox Run’s resident-run committees. A shuttle bus picks up residents at the community’s main entrance and drops them off right in front of the theater for the performance, making it a convenient outing. But the best part, George and Wilma say, is getting to share cultural experiences with people whose company they truly enjoy.

“We have a lot of friends here,” George says. “We’re very fortunate.”