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In the company of friends

Spring Branch neighbors migrate to Eagle’s Trace in West Houston

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May 13th, 2016
Betty Finkelman (left) and Wanda Teas

When Joe and Wanda Teas moved to Hilshire Village in the Spring Branch area of Houston in January 1963, they were looking for a community where they could raise their family.

“Our son Andy was one when we moved to Spring Branch,” says Wanda. “We liked Hilshire Village because it was a small neighborhood with two-lane streets and a 20-mile-per-hour speed limit. It seemed like a good place to raise children, particularly because Spring Branch had one of the best school districts in Houston.”

Meeting the neighbors

Otis and Betty Finkelman lived just around the corner from the Teas’ new home. Betty remembers taking her son Gary over to greet the new neighbors.

“Our sons were about the same age, and we hit it off right away,” says Betty. “Wanda and I have opposite personalities, but we just clicked. She’s organized, intellectual, and a good coordinator. I’m more artistic in nature.”

Within two years, both families had grown. Otis and Betty adopted their daughter Laurie in January 1964. Joe and Wanda’s daughter Wendy was born in 1965.

“Our sons are within a year of each other, and so are our daughters,” says Betty. “Our boys were like Batman and Robin. I think we even made them capes. They used to play in the gulley behind our house. They’d drag old Christmas trees that people left on the curb down into the gulley and build forts. One time, they swung on poison ivy vines and had the worst case of poison ivy I’d ever seen.”

Collective parenting

Wanda says her children had the benefit of many parental figures watching over them.

“Everyone knew the neighborhood kids,” says Wanda. “We all looked after each other’s children.”

That supervision extended to church and school. The Finkelman and Teas families attended Terrace United Methodist Church, and Betty went to work as a school nurse at Valley Oaks Elementary, where Gary, Andy, Laurie, and Wendy were enrolled.

As the children grew, the two families became even closer.

“Our husbands were best friends and led Boy Scouts together,” says Betty. “Wanda and I led Brownies for the girls and then Girls Scouts as they got older.”

“Joe and I went through three nine-passenger station wagons when our kids were growing up,” adds Wanda.

Tragedy and triumph

As they reflect on the past half-century, Wanda and Betty share defining moments that strengthened their bond. 

“Otis was a mechanical engineer who spent nearly 20 years as a pilot with the Texas Air National Guard,” says Betty. “He was killed in 1976 when his plane caught fire during takeoff. Our kids were 15 and 12 at the time. Wanda and Joe were there for me. They helped me get through it.”

Betty returned the support when Wanda went back to school in the mid-1980s to earn a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction from the University of Houston.

“I was teaching at the Big Little School on Wirt Road, and we wanted to implement a gifted and talented preschool program,” says Wanda. “I went back to school to earn the credentials to get that program started. It was a grand time in my life.”

In search of a new community

Eventually, Betty sold her Hilshire Village home to her daughter in 2004 and moved to a patio home in a gated community. “Then one day the water line broke in the patio home, and I realized I was ready to be done with home maintenance.”

In 2011, Betty moved to Eagle’s Trace, the Erickson Living community in West Houston.

At Eagle’s Trace, Betty settled into her one-bedroom Fremont-style apartment home and found a community of friends waiting for her.

“I belong to several artists groups,” says Betty. “I quilt and take a watercolor class. I’m also in good company because there are 38 retired nurses living at Eagle’s Trace at last count.”

By 2014, Joe and Wanda were seriously considering a move to a retirement community.

“Joe and I each made a list of priorities,” says Wanda. “Green space was at the top of both of our lists. We looked at communities all over Houston, but most of them were just a mass of concrete. Eagle’s Trace appealed to us because it’s on 70 acres.”

Different address, familiar faces

Joe and Wanda joined the priority list at Eagle’s Trace, putting down a fully refundable $1,000 deposit to reserve their place in line for the apartment home of their choice. 

“We waited 11 months for an apartment that met our criteria to become available,” says Wanda. “We wanted a two-bedroom, two-bath apartment overlooking the lake.”

When the apartment home of their choice became available, they put their Hilshire Village home on the market, and it sold in a week. They moved to Eagle’s Trace in March 2015.

“We had lived in that home for 52 years,” says Wanda. “It was hard to leave it behind, but in many ways we moved because we wanted that same sense of community we had experienced for so many years in Spring Branch.”

Even though their address has changed, Joe and Wanda are still surrounded by familiar faces.

“I can see Betty’s living room window from our apartment,” says Wanda. “And Nancy Bell, who hired me at the Big Little School, lives at Eagle’s Trace.”

Betty echoes that sentiment.

“You realize what a small world it is,” says Betty. “When I first met Jodie [Schroeder, sales counselor at Eagle’s Trace], she recognized me as the school nurse from Spring Woods High School in Spring Branch, where she attended.”

Always room for one more

Now that they’re settled at Eagle’s Trace, Joe and Wanda say they’ve found the lifestyle they wanted.

“We’re active and involved,” says Wanda. “I volunteer twice a week at Treasure Forest Elementary, and Joe continues his volunteer work with Project C.U.R.E. and his Rotary Club. We’re surrounded by interesting people. Everyone who lives at Eagle’s Trace has a story, and it’s been fun getting to know our new neighbors.”

Betty, for her part, is thrilled that Joe and Wanda chose Eagle’s Trace.

“We enjoy the same friendship that began all those years ago in Hilshire Village,” says Betty. “Now we need even more of our Spring Branch friends to move to Eagle’s Trace.”

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