Tribune Print Share Text

Nurtured by nature

Retired teacher delights in wildlife at Eagle’s Trace

Created date

October 13th, 2016
Joan and Frank Maresca moved into their two-bedroom, two-bath, Manchester-style apartment overlooking the lake at Eagle’s Trace in October 2015.

Joan and Frank Maresca moved into their two-bedroom, two-bath, Manchester-style apartment overlooking the lake at Eagle’s Trace in October 2015.

Joan Maresca is everything you’d expect in a great teacher.

She’s personable, creative, organized, and passionate about science—a subject she taught for more than 30 years.

When Joan and her husband Frank moved to Eagle’s Trace in October 2015 from their home in Meadows Place, Tex., it didn’t take long for Joan to get excited about the wildlife on the community’s 70-acre campus.

“I was walking our dog Angie around the lake, and I saw a cooter turtle laying its eggs in a flower bed,” says Joan. “It was amazing to see it up close.”

Turtles were a regular fixture in Joan’s fourth-grade classroom, along with a number of fish and a hedgehog named Hedwig.

“I had one turtle the kids called Speedy,” says Joan. “If he got out of the classroom, we could always find him in the girls’ restroom.”

Joan says her love of nature is nurtured at Eagle’s Trace. 

“So far I’ve seen a family of black-bellied whistling ducks, several bullfrogs, red-eared slider turtles, and the cooter turtle that was laying the eggs,” she says. “I also heard from the birdwatchers on campus that we have 44 registered species of birds living here.”

Tracing their journey

As Joan continues to discover new outdoor delights at Eagle’s Trace, she can’t help but think back on the journey that led her to her new lifestyle.

Joan’s parents, Bob and Varella McDonald, lived at Charlestown, the Erickson Living community in Catonsville, Md., for 15 years.

“My father was the president of Charlestown’s Resident Advisory Council and an avid painter,” says Joan. “He got to know John Erickson [founder of Erickson Retirement Communities], whom Frank and I met several times when we went to visit my parents.”

On one of those occasions, Joan mentioned that Erickson should build a community in Texas.

“We were back home in Texas one day when we got a call from John Erickson,” says Joan. “He told us that he’d just purchased land in Dallas and Houston.”

Joan and Frank were among the first to join 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 joined the priority list in 2004 before they even started construction at Eagle’s Trace,” says Joan. “We knew that the priority list was the best way to ensure that we’d get the apartment we wanted when we were ready to move. Charlestown had a two-to-three year waiting list for the best apartments, so we recognized the value of getting our names on the list.”

Because of their priority list status, when Joan and Frank were ready to sell their home of 44 years and move to Eagle’s Trace, they were able to reserve the apartment they wanted—a two-bedroom, two-bath, Manchester-style apartment overlooking the lake.

“My parents thrived at Charlestown because of the built-in social opportunities, peer support, and health care amenities at the community,” says Joan. “We enjoy the same benefits living at Eagle’s Trace.”

Once a teacher, always a teacher

Now that she’s settled at Eagle’s Trace, Joan can’t help but share her love of nature with others.

This summer, Joan brought one of her favorite school activities to the West Houston community.

“I ordered a class set of butterfly larvae, food, and a circular mesh habitat,” says Joan.

When the butterfly kit arrived, Joan distributed the larvae in small containers to her friends and neighbors at Eagle’s Trace.

“People were asking me what they needed to do to care for their larvae,” says Joan. “There’s really nothing to do except wait. The food was already in the containers.”

Once the larvae formed into chrysalides, residents brought their containers to the community’s creative arts studio, where Joan carefully transferred each chrysalis to the habitat.

“The creative arts studio is a visible place on campus,” says Joan. “Lots of people walked by to see if any butterflies were emerging. The anticipation was really fun.”

By late May, the habitat was filled with nearly 70 painted lady butterflies. 

“It was neat to see the looks on residents’ faces and hear the excitement in their voices as they watched the butterflies,” says Joan. “They were just as excited as the nine- and ten-year-olds I used to teach.”

On June 1, Joan invited residents to join her in the community garden, where they released the butterflies.

“Some of the butterflies landed on the flowers in the garden,” says Joan. “Others flew off. There were a lot of smiles as we watched them go.”