‘We knew this was it’

Former West Point organist and choirmaster lives, plays locally

Created date

August 29th, 2017
From spring into fall, Janet and Lee Dettra use the balcony of their home at Maris Grove as their family room.

From spring into fall, Janet and Lee Dettra use the balcony of their home at Maris Grove as their family room.


Choral performances, religious observances, and memorial services are among the multiple events that take place in Maris Grove’s beautiful interfaith chapel.

Depending on the occasion, piano or organ accompaniment will add solemnity or ceremony to the event.

And sometimes, majestic organ notes will flow into the vestibule from a seemingly empty chapel. 

At those times, it just might be former West Point organist and choirmaster Lee Dettra practicing the music he’ll play for a Sunday service at one of the area’s churches. 

While Lee has a keyboard in the Dettras’ apartment home, it was important to him that Maris Grove had an organ and that he was free to play it. 

He was thrilled when management told him they wanted the organ to be used. Lee takes full advantage of that. “I never get tired of playing,” he says.


Lee and his wife Janet spent 15 years at West Point following his appointment there. He was serving at a church in Wilmington, Del., when he applied for the position. One of a hundred applicants, he went through a series of auditions before being selected. 

“Being there was quite an experience,” Lee says. 

He remained at West Point from 1985 to 2000. Then he and Janet returned to Wilmington.

Moving to Maris Grove has brought them home: Janet grew up in Delaware County, and Lee was raised in Montgomery County. 

“We looked at several places, and as soon as we saw Maris Grove we knew this was it,” says Lee. 

The location lets them maintain ties to friends and connections in Wilmington, such as their volunteer efforts with Wilmington’s Meals on Wheels program. And it’s a short jaunt to the airport for flights to their children in Dallas, Little Rock, and Denver.

“We also liked the concept of everything being connected,” Janet says. Right on site, Maris Grove provides a medical center, a rehabilitation and continuing care neighborhood, a fitness and aquatics center, and six restaurants. 

After knee replacement surgery and one day of inpatient therapy in the hospital, Lee completed six weeks of physical therapy in Maris Grove’s outpatient therapy room. 

Community members can also do their banking and fill their prescriptions on campus. And they can walk to all 3 clubhouses and 12 residence buildings via climate-controlled hallways and enclosed bridges.

Her dream home

The Dettras were interested in the Manchester floor plan, a two-bedroom apartment style that also featured a balcony or patio. Janet especially liked the style’s walk-through kitchen. “It’s almost like a little ranch house because of the layout,” she says.

Because that floor plan rarely becomes available, they joined Maris Grove’s priority list to save their place in line for it. 

Still, Janet wasn’t comfortable choosing something she’d only seen on paper. So Maris Grove arranged for the couple to have dinner at a campus restaurant with a resident who lived in the floor style they were considering. 

“That was very accommodating to us,” Janet says. When they toured their host’s home, she saw that it was indeed exactly what she wanted. 

Amazingly, the style became available just two years later. 

Although theirs wasn’t the first name on the list, no one ahead of the Dettras was ready to move, so the apartment was theirs. 

They listed their house with a Maris Grove-preferred real estate agent, it sold in four days, and they moved to Maris Grove in April 2015.

Life is good

Since then, the Dettras have gone on trips with Maris Grove’s travel group, he’s played piano in the campus Follies production, and she’s participated in several campus groups. 

They most enjoy relaxing on their balcony or tending their 10- by 10-foot campus garden space.

In fact, from April until October they consider the balcony their family room. 

“We feel very thankful and blessed that we’re here and in the space we wanted,” Janet says. “We couldn’t be in a friendlier place.”