The Orchards | Resident Stories


Southington’s Very Own

With more than 30 years of working and living in Southington, it’s only fitting that Joseph Yurcak retire to a local assisted living community.

Southington Service

Joseph Yurcak Yurcak worked for seven years at the Southington parks department. He beautified everything from soccer and baseball fields to bocce courts, and maintained equipment, ensuring a photographic field before the next big game. 

For the next 23 years, he served as superintendent of the highway department, where he paved, built and plowed roads alongside his 30-man crew. During his tenure, he saw Southington’s roadways grow from 135 to 200 miles.

He’ll tell you his greatest accomplishment was the Mulberry Street extension. The multi-million dollar project went on for two years, almost doubling in street size with added sidewalks. Yurcak describes the people of the town as “being happy, especially with the ability to utilize the sidewalks.” 

The Sweet Life

Joseph Yurcak The highway department managed to take a good portion of Yurcak’s time until the real fun came along: retirement. He retired in 1995 and began teaching himself how to woodwork. He started carving and building pieces of furniture. At his Mulberry Street home, he had a workshop filled with dozens of tools and his masterpieces - the steamer trunks he enjoys creating the most.

Road to Assisted Living

An unforeseen series of events led to Yurcak’s next chapter. His wife, Lorraine, passed in 2015, he then downsized and moved to the Spring Lake Village condo community.

A few years later, in 2019, he knew it was time to consider assisted living and he officially became a resident of The Orchard at Southington.

His physical disabilities made it difficult for him to live alone “I couldn’t have done a better thing. It’s fanatic here. The staff is great. I would recommend it to anybody,” says Yurcak, who decorates his new home with his many handmade masterpieces. 

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A Love for Literature 

A Classical Language master promotes imaginative writing at The Orchards at Southington to remind residents of the true meaning of literature, through poetry. Every Saturday at 10 a.m., the recreation team would host a social that included reading newspaper articles, enjoying pastries and a warm cup of coffee. However, the group didn’t have a great turnout as they would have liked.

Jessenia and RogerThat was until Jessenia Sterling, recreation coordinator, at The Orchards of Southington, came on board. She decided to switch things up a bit with the help of Roger McQuiggan, resident, at The Orchards who both have been in the community just shy of six months.

Instead of giving the residents a newspaper, she gave them poems and short stories. As Jessenia began inviting newcomers, Roger was the very first to join. Residents seemed to be drawn to the poetry and many others who did not attend asked for copies.

Roger seamlessly integrated into the community and quickly took a leadership role, facilitating The Orchard's very first Poetry Club.

“It just kind of drifted into being and it has been a lot of fun,” said Roger.

Before retiring, Roger was an English and Latin teacher for 44 years at Platt High School in Meriden, as he was teaching he also served in the Army National Guard for 23 years. Later, he achieved his master’s degree in English and Classical Language, literature is Roger's forte.

A day in the life of a Poetry Club member consists of:

  • A lovely assortment of pastries and a warm cup of coffee to get the creative juices flowing.
  • Open discussion of the pre-work, which is very well received by the members. Many of them feel comfortable sharing their thoughts, ideas and interpretations during this segment. Members also value and respect Roger’s point of view.
  • Closing up the poetry session with assigned homework.

Roger McQuigganWhenever residents have questions or could not decipher a poem, he would help explain. Roger would also suggest other poets that residents could consider in their leisure. Soon, Roger began to bring in copies of poems for the group to review, and before they knew it, the Poetry Club had 10 recurring members each Saturday. It was a hit!

“It gives everyone the chance to use their imagination and create something tangible,” said Roger.

With the club growing, Roger suggested ordering poetry books from Amazon so that everyone could be on the same page and from there, he was able to assign homework. The club has four poetry books that they cover.

Residents continued to attend and admire Rogers's love for literature. Every week new talents are showcased along with new lesson plans. Residents have been featured in the local Southington Observer newspaper.

The future of the Poetry Club is not written in stone, but Jessenia and Roger hope to encourage residents to write more poetry of their own, welcome new members and be featured in more publications.
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Age Is Just a Number and True Love Knows No Bounds

Love is in the air at our assisted living community, The Orchards of Southington located at 34 Hobart Street, Southington. Melvin and Joanne’s love story beings a week after he moved into the community. It was love at first sight.

Melvin & JoAnneJoanne was chatting with her friends in the parlor when Mel walked in. It was love at first sight and instant connection was made. Mel was initially too shy to approach Joanne, but from that moment forward, he insisted on finding out who the mystery, outstandingly beautiful woman’s name.

As time passed, Mel finally got the courage to speak to Joanne and said, “I’d like to walk you home,” and this is where it all began. Joanne and Mel came from two different walks of life but that didn’t stop the two from learning to love again. They quickly discovered that they had much more in common. They share a love of knowledge, Joanne admired Mel for all his life’s accomplishments and his gentlemanly mannerisms. Mel enjoyed that Joanne was a headstrong, free-spirit and wise woman.

As their relationship grew, Mel knew Joanne was the woman he wanted to spend the rest of his life with. With the help of Hartford HealthCare GoodLife Fitness, a program geared to improving an active senior lifestyle, Mel and exercise physiologist, Christine Solomini-Swift, created a personalized program to help reach the goal of getting down on one knee safely. He worked toward the goal several times a week until he was ready to pop the big question.

One evening Mel built the courage to stroll his way into the community room pub during happy hour. Approaching Joanne, he successfully got down on one knee. The rest is history. The two have built a life at The Orchards of Southington and they plan to enjoy each other’s company and make memories to last.

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Orchards at Southington

​Life Stories Program

Through this unique, national initiative, trained volunteers are working directly with our seniors and helping to capture their meaningful memories.

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