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Life getting dull? Move to Maris Grove!

Artist finds friendship, fodder for the imagination

Created date

June 14th, 2018
In the great-room gallery of her home at Maris Grove, Joanne Lennon displays a self-portrait.

In the great-room gallery of her home at Maris Grove, Joanne Lennon displays a self-portrait.

When Joanne Lennon moved from her large house of 51 years in Media, Pa., to Maris Grove, Erickson Living’s retirement community in Delaware County, life got better. 

Joanne sold her house last May and spent the summer at her home on the Jersey Shore. She moved to Maris Grove in September, happy to begin living maintenance-free.

She also anticipated a more interesting lifestyle. Joanne wanted engaging activities and additional friends. “As beautiful as it was to sit and look out into the yard from my kitchen, it was getting boring,” she says.

Maris Grove’s population of more than 1,500 residents and 150-plus activities and special interest groups promised plenty of things to do. In fact, the community offers a surfeit of riches.

Joanne has taken up line dancing, a first for her. She attends a lecture series in Maris Grove’s Cardinal Theater, and she’s the secretary of the campus women’s club. “I think I’ve come out of my shell more,” Joanne says.

While she aims to get involved slowly in campus life, she also laments that she doesn’t have enough time to participate in everything she’d like.

‘Art is my best friend’

The one thing Joanne makes time for is art. “Art is my best friend, and my life revolves around my art,” she says. A watercolorist, she paints for herself, not to sell her work.

Joanne has been drawing since childhood. She remembers her dad driving her to the Philadelphia Art Museum where she took art lessons at a young age. Even then, Joanne’s teachers recognized her talent. She’s been painting ever since.

For years, her paintings sat out of sight in her closets. That’s changed now too.

At Maris Grove, Joanne uses the long walls of her open-concept Thurmont-style apartment’s great room as a gallery showcasing her works of art. She would never have had so much space had she moved to a smaller retirement community.

“I’ve started collecting my own work,” Joanne says. Some of her paintings capture her children and grandchildren. Primarily a realist painter, she has recently begun experimenting with a more abstract approach.

She often displays her watercolors in Maris Grove’s Redwood Commons Clubhouse. And she’s given many of her paintings to family members. Joanne has 6 children and 22 grandchildren.

Because five of her children lived just five minutes from her home in Media, they and their kids dropped in constantly.

“Moving from the children was the hardest decision,” says Joanne. “But the kids are happy I’m here; they’re happy because I’m happy.”

And Media is only eight and a half miles from Maris Grove in Glen Mills.

At Maris Grove, Joanne is free to live as she likes, come and go as she pleases, and do what she loves.

Her spacious second bedroom with its large light-collecting windows is her art studio. “But I’m always seeing and thinking even when I’m not painting,” say Joanne. “I can enjoy myself wherever I am; I see color, shapes, design.”

This summer, she’s painting quick sketches at her home in Sea Isle City, N.J., where kids and grandkids show up every weekend.

Joanne also returns to Media to see her best friend, and throughout the year she accepts frequent invitations to dinner at one of her children’s homes.

Better than expected

At Maris Grove, as she’d hoped, Joanne’s made many friends.

“The people who live here are so friendly,” says Joanne, “and the staff is wonderful. The young kids who serve in the restaurants are wonderful. Everyone is so nice, and it’s genuine.

“When I moved in,” she adds, “the staff had a sign that said ‘Welcome Home,’ and that’s just the way it feels.”

In fact, Maris Grove’s population includes a number of residents who grew up in southwest Philadelphia, as did Joanne. Last December, a former south Philly resident told her that he and his wife had one of her mother’s Christmas tree skirts under their tree. “My mother and Maris Grove resident Bob McIvor’s mom belonged to the St. Irenaeus parish senior club in south Philly. My mom made the skirt and donated it to the club’s Christmas bazaar, where Bob’s mom won it. When Bob’s mom stopped putting up a tree, she gave the skirt to Bob,” Joanne explains.

You never know who you’ll connect with when you live at Maris Grove.

“Life is good,” says Joanne. “I feel so glad that I’m independent here and I don’t have to ask my kids for anything. This is a new beginning—the next phase of my life—and I’m pleased where I am.”