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The best years of their lives

Neighbors discover romance, adventure at Maris Grove

Created date

December 16th, 2014
Maris Grove residents Jeanette and Joe Zack with Sally, the squirrel who launched their romance.
Maris Grove residents Jeanette and Joe Zack with S

For 12 years, Joe Zack lived alone in King of Prussia, Pa., in a big, four-bedroom house that required a lot of upkeep. 

Then, tired of coping with homeowner responsibilities and winter chores, in November 2009, he moved to Grove, EricksonLiving’s retirement community in Delaware County, Pa. 

Its active and maintenance-free lifestyle, beautiful grounds, and nearness to his three children and eight grandchildren made it a perfect fit. 

Joe’s future was set—well, until March 2012, when a strawberry blonde named Jeanette arrived from Chicago. By September, Joe’s world had begun to tilt. 

Jeanette had a bubbly personality and a zest for life. She chose Maris Grove because she had a daughter in Media, and the area’s rolling hills suggested her native West Virginia. 

“I didn’t think I was ready for a retirement community, but I didn’t want to move again,” she says. “So I came here and decided I’d do everything I could for as long as I could.” 

A ‘squirrelly’ romance

She and Joe met at Maris Grove’s meditation group.

He soon discovered that he passed Jeanette’s door on his way to dinner each evening in the Blue Sky Restaurant. And when he saw “Sally,” the pottery squirrel that sits on the shelf outside Jeanette’s door, he got an idea. 

Whenever he walked past, Joe turned Sally toward the wall. Jeanette thought Maris Grove’s student servers were playing pranks, so she attached a note saying, “Enough already!” 

Joe attached an anonymous note in reply.

When the messages became flirtatious and her neighbors became curious, Jeanette left a note asking the admirer to identify himself. 

So Joe called, told Jeanette his name, and asked if she knew he was the note writer. She told him, “No, but I hoped you were.”

“Well,” she says now, “That was the beginning of the end of him.”

Theirs was a whirlwind courtship, and at a candlelight service on Christmas Eve, when Joe reached through the darkness to hand Jeanette her candle, she saw it encircled by an engagement ring. 

Jeanette said “yes,” and they married on Valentine’s Day 2013. 

Best years of their lives

Since then, it’s been a continuous honeymoon: the Zacks travel somewhere every month. They’ve taken day trips and mystery trips with Maris Grove’s travel group, but mainly they travel on their own. 

“We’re very close to the airport here, and we’re close to I-95,” Jeanette says. Florida, the Dominican Republic, Savannah, Charleston, Hilton Isles, and Williamsburg—if they’re together, any destination holds appeal. Next year, they’ll take a European river cruise.

“We simply sign out at the front desk, have our mail held, and off we go,” says Jeanette. They travel worry-free thanks to the community’s 24/7 security team. 

Jeanette has brought adventure to Joe’s life. And in him she’s found her rock, a gentleman who keeps her grounded. 

Maris Grove offers 180-some activities, and the Zacks keep full calendars. She attends six different dancing and exercise classes each week. She also performs in Maris Grove’s Follies productions. He plays bocce, attends a men’s exercise class, and works out at the fitness center. 

They rarely miss a campus movie. And because their fathers were coal miners, they both attend Maris Grove’s Coal Crackers dinner group, which Joe chairs. 

What Jeanette doesn’t do is cook. 

 “I love the freedom here to do anything I want any time I want without any worries,” she says.

“I mostly like the security,” says Joe. “I grew up in a place where we never locked the doors.” Maris Grove provides that same safe, small-town environment.

The couple’s health care provides security, too; their doctors are staff physicians at the full-service campus medical center. Regardless of weather, they needn’t drive to appointments.