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One for the history books

Will this growing club go down in history?

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March 21st, 2018
With his beard and stovepipe hat, it’s not too difficult to envision Ann’s Choice resident and Lincoln reenactor Fred Antil as the sixteenth president.

It’s not too difficult to envision resident Fred Antil as the sixteenth president.

People who live at Ann’s Choice, Erickson Living’s retirement community in Bucks County, Pa., spend little time lounging in their apartment homes. More than 150 clubs, special interest groups, and events vie for their time.

Activities range from sports, fitness, and craft-related offerings to purely social groups. And the campus is packed with lifelong learners.

The history club, for example, has grown in attendance every month since it started last August.

‘A learning club’

Fred Antil, who lives at Ann’s Choice, facilitates the meetings and opens them with facts from the History Channel about what happened that day in history.

A member of several Civil War Roundtables and a board member at Craven Hall, a restored Colonial farmhouse in nearby Warminster, he’s also a docent at the John Fitch Steamboat Museum at Craven Hall.

Locally, Fred has earned a

reputation as a Lincoln reenactor. Tall and lean, when he grows his beard and dons his stovepipe hat, it’s easy to imagine him as such.

His aim for the history club is not to engage in discussion but to send attendees off with food for thought. “This is a learning club,” he says.

Fred does extensive research for each 90-minute meeting, spending hours online and salivating at the tantalizing information he finds there.

His meetings sometimes feature a movie or YouTube videos; other times, he invites guest speakers.

The club’s first two meetings focused on Lincoln and included Steven Spielberg’s epony- mous film about the sixteenth president. A third meeting showcased Benjamin Franklin.

Another featured the documentary Nanking inspired by the book The Rape of Nanking, Iris Chang’s account of the 1937 Nanking Massacre during the Second Sino-Japanese War.

Because so much history abounds in or near Bucks County, another meeting high- lighted “The History in Our Own Backyard.”

“General Washington headquartered here for a time, the steam boat was invented here, astronauts trained here at the naval air station,” Fred’s voice grows excited as he lists the possibilities. “The difficulty is winnowing down,” he says.

Captive audience

Whatever topic he presents, his audience sits enthralled. “I see real attention and a lot of ‘ahas’ on people’s faces,” says Fred.

That certainly applies to club member Walt Kusters. “I’ve always been a history buff,” Walt says, “mainly the American Revolution.”

The second bedroom of the Kusters’ apartment home at Ann’s Choice holds many of Walt’s books on American history. Their patio has become his fair-weather reading room.

Walt also attends Ann’s Choice Lifelong Learning Academy (ACLLA) lectures presented on campus by professors, scholars, and other area experts. History lectures always feature prominently in ACLLA’s spring and fall lecture series. 

‘Just right for me’

Ann’s Choice resident Fred Antil, who retired from Cornell University, keeps busy on and off campus. He volunteers at local museums, gives presentations as a Lincoln reenactor, and belongs to several Civil War Roundtables.

At Ann’s Choice, he’s in the chorus and the veterans club, and he facilitates the campus history club.

Fred moved from Ithaca, N.Y., at the urging of two stepdaughters who wanted him to live near them. The move also keeps him relatively close to family in New York.

He loves his apartment home, a two-bedroom, one-bath style with a bay window. It provides ample space for his book collection.

And because climate-controlled walkways connect all the apartment homes and the three clubhouses, this winter he never had to bundle up and go outside to get to dinner.

He doesn’t need to shop or cook either because his monthly service package includes 30 meals a month in his choice of five campus restaurants. “Once a week I eat with friends,” says Fred, “but the other nights I’m always meeting someone new.”

Even the size of Ann’s Choice— Fred has 2,100 neighbors—appeals to him. “It offers so many things that a smaller community wouldn’t have,” Fred says. “It’s just right for me.” 

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