Kara Bolino serves as the Executive Director of Heritage Point in Oklahoma City.

by Bobby Anderson, Staff Writer

With a lifetime in resident care Kara Bolino knows that no matter what, people always come first.
That’s why the Executive Director at Heritage Point of Oklahoma City is so proud her memory impairment community serves as a resource for families 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.
Most recently, Heritage Point has created a response team that allows for families to move residents in 24 hours a day if a crisis arises.
“We’re really good at making things happen if they need to,” Bolino said. “Any type of emergency situation we’re able to pull together and help families out. We have a nurse who is really flexible and more than willing to go and do an immediate assessment.”
“We can be here in the evening or at night for them. It’s important to be flexible. If we’re only here 9 to 5 how does that help anybody in a crisis?”
The ability to respond to patients’ changing needs – whether they be emergent or day-to-day – has always been the philosophy from President and Owner Kip Pammenter and Vice President of Operations David Thompson.
Pammenter created the original Heritage Point community in Overland Park, Kansas years ago, changing the way memory care was delivered and benchmarked.
Heritage Point was designed after that Overland Park community and is a sister residence to Heritage Point Tulsa.
When Pammenter talks about residents he uses their first names.
The president of a company that specializes in Alzheimer’s and memory care knows that’s the only way you can truly make a difference in someone’s life. Getting to know each and every client and meeting them where they are, is the hallmark of Pammenter’s successful approach to person-centered care.
Dealing with the effects of Alzheimer’s disease and trying to understand available care options can be extremely challenging for families. That’s why Pammenter designed Heritage Point to work with families to envision a better way to live with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia related impairments.
Pammenter wants to truly reinvent Alzheimer’s care and what life should be like for seniors with cognitive challenges. The focus is on each individual resident; knowing who they are and what they love to do…and then finding activities that have meaning and purpose.
Heritage Point offers a smaller, home environment that promotes dignity, respect and love. A dedicated team of experienced and caring staff understands the importance of developing close personal relationships with residents and becomes an extended part of your family.
The philosophy is that everything starts with the idea that every individual is a whole person – regardless of their level of dementia – with many different backgrounds, abilities, interests, beliefs, preferences, and needs.
“Every day is different to be honest and I think that’s a good thing,” Bolino said. “All of our residents function different daily. Every day is something new. The residents dictate the day and that’s a big thing we focus on. We want everyone to be their own individual self and do what they normally do and us work around them.”
The belief at Heritage Point is that each resident deserves to be understood and should be encouraged to be involved, to whatever extent possible, in participating in their care.
There’s a value and respect for residents’ innate right to have choices everyday and strive to provide opportunities for life activities that not only have meaning and purpose, but also promote independence and choice.
To that end, each home has a homemaker that is dedicated to creating an atmosphere that encourages and inspires resident participation in dynamic activities program.
A key part of taking a person-centered approach to care is embracing an interactive process that focuses on building personal relationships between each resident, their family, medical professionals, and care staff.
The goal is to create a collaborative partnership among everyone involved that ultimately enhances each resident’s daily life experiences.
In each home, everything is guided first by the question, “What is the right thing to do for the resident?”
That begins with a comprehensive sit-down meeting with families and Heritage Point managers and caregivers.
From dietary to housekeeping to nursing each member sits down with families ready to ask and answer any and all questions to make sure residents feel at home.
“It’s critical,” Bolino said. “I think the families need to be able to come to you with whatever. Our entire management team sits down with families and tries to get to know residents on a personal level and their family so we can provide the care we’re talking about.”

SYNERGY HomeCare’s Weama Kassem (right) opened her Edmond location in 2013, with a second Norman office start-up in 2016.

SYNERGY HomeCare provides hope and help to seniors and their families

by Traci Chapman

Kassem always knew she had a calling to serve – it was a calling that became a beacon of light for seniors and their families who needed help.
“Caring for people and providing hospitality are my natural passions, and part of my culture is to care for seniors,” Kassem said.
Kassem’s passion lit the beacon that became SYNERGY HomeCare, a flame that began to burn in 2011.
It was in 2011 Kassem graduated with an MBA from University of Central Oklahoma. That graduation marked a turning point for her – Kassem said she saw a void when it came to compassionate senior care and was determined to do something about it.
Kassem had a unique approach – fusing her drive to care for people with her love for hospitality, she did extensive research on senior care franchises. When she found SYNERGY, Kassem knew exactly where she was meant to be, she said.
“My heart just connected with the mission and values of SYNERGY HomeCare,” she said.
Kassem’s philosophy quickly took hold, spurring growth for the local franchise. Today, Kassem’s SYNERGY operation includes two offices – the original in Edmond and a second location, opened in December 2016 in Norman – employing 10 staff members and more than 100 caregivers. The company has a 5-mile service area and also provides referrals to clients in other locales, Kassem said.
“Although the metro area is geographically widespread, the small-town culture naturally evolved into relationships extending southward down the Interstae-35 corridor, allowing SYNERGY to begin penetrating the Moore/Norman market,” Kassem said.
While about five percent of Kassem’s caregivers provide live-in care, most do not, offering services to clients that take anywhere from an hour and up to 24 hours, at any given time, she said. Those caregivers tend to a myriad of needs, from the most personal – like bathing and dressing, feeding, dealing with incontinence and other issues – to companionship, coordinating outside appointments and services, meal planning and preparation, transportation, light housekeeping and running errands.
Those, of course, are necessities and things seniors need assistance with every day. But, there is so much more to it – and, that’s where post-hospitalization care comes in, Kassem said.
“It’s difficult for anyone to come home after a hospital stay, but for seniors it can be much more challenging – they might suffer from memory loss, their health depends on remembering and following hospital discharge instructions, keeping follow-up doctor’s appointments and other matters,” she said. “They also face trying to take care of day-to-day tasks while they’re recuperating.”
According to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, almost a quarter of seniors hospitalized are readmitted within 30 days of discharge, many times for conditions unrelated to the initial illness or injury. That’s one reason why SYNERGY moves beyond daily assistance, with coworkers providing medical and emotional issue care, including care management, recovery assistance, difficult behavior management and more. Caregivers provide help, and hope, not only to senior clients, but may also provide relief for family members who need respite from taking care of a loved one, Kassem said. It’s assistance that can mean all the difference to everyone involved, she said.
All Kassem SYNERGY caregivers are employees, not contract labor – something somewhat unusual in the senior home care industry, and management is always a phone call away, including on-staff supervising registered nurses, she said. Care assessments are always provided on a complimentary basis, Kassem said.
Veterans are an integral part of SYNERGY’s mission – in fact, she said the organization is one of the largest veteran home care providers in the state.
“Veterans call us directly, and we can even help get them through the paperwork process,” Kassem said. “At times we work with the VA Center in Norman and with the Dale K. Graham Foundation in Norman.”
As SYNERGY continues to grow, Kassem said she hopes to provide even more services, including expanding a program started in 2017 – Dine & Discuss, an event hosted at SYNERGY’s Edmond location, which also served as an Alzheimer’s Association fundraiser.
“We partnered with the Alzheimer’s Association, where we provided complimentary dinner and two free hours of respite care while the topic was discussed,” she said. “The topics change each month, and the speaker also varies – we hope to create the same opportunity to the public going into 2018, but working towards creating a calendar of speakers further in advance and promoting it more so the word is spread.”

More information is available by calling or reviewing SYNERGY HomeCare’s websites, both for its Edmond and Norman locations:
SYNERGY HomeCare Edmond
13720 N Bryant Ave
Edmond, Oklahoma 73013
SYNERGY HomeCareNorman
1272 N Interstate Drive
Norman, Oklahoma 73072

Linda Ardray decided to open The Dusty Paw in Moore.

by Bobby Anderson, Staff Writer

Linda Ardray worked in health care for more than 30 years.
Approaching retirement after working as an MRI tech, Ardray wondered what she would do with the rest of her life.
She knew she had a lot of free time ahead of her. And she didn’t have any big plans to travel the globe.
Sitting at home all day didn’t seem too appealing either.
“My dad was an accountant and he always said you have to start your own business, that’s the only way you’re going to make it,” she said with a laugh.
So she took a deep long look at where her passions lied.
Turns out they were lying at her feet under the kitchen table.
“My dog is my kid and I wanted to get her really good food,” Ardray said of the beginning of her business plan. “I went online to see what I really needed to look for.”
She went to one of the big box stores for pets. Up and down the aisles she went, eventually leaving without what she was looking for.
“That’s why I thought we needed this in Moore,” she said. “I like that I’m right here and that I’m a little neighborhood store.
That’s how The Dusty Paw was born.
Just east of the Cleveland County Health Department’s Moore location, The Dusty Paw serves pet owners looking to make informed decisions about what they feed their animals.
“Unfortunately, the pet food industry is not very transparent,” she said. “There’s groups out there trying to change legislation on the wording of pet food. Instead of pet food a lot of it is pet feed.
“Once I started this store and really delved into it I thought ‘Oh, my God.’”
She noticed immediate changes from both her dog and her cat when she switched their food to one with purer ingredients.
A reduction in shedding was one of the first benefits.
Ardray has a miniature Australian Shepherd. Now 13, her dog still acts like a pup.
“She just runs circles in the backyard,” Ardray said. “When I changed her over I saw the biggest difference.”
Getting up every morning to go to work and then coming home at night, Ardray discovered that after 30 years she didn’t truly know the community she lived in.
Now, every day is an opportunity to bond with someone new.
“The customers are happy when they come in. The dogs are happy when they come in,” she said. “I’ve made a lot of friends here.”
She opened The Dusty Paw in February 2016, shifting from health care to entrepreneur.
“I had more time when I had a job,” she said, only half joking. “But it’s been fun. It’s been very rewarding.
And some things still remain the same. She’s still taking care of people on a daily basis.
Owning a business has allowed her to express her creative side. Often people come to The Dusty Paw in search of quality pet food but they fall in love with Ardray’s hand-made vests and leashes.
Pets are welcome to browse with their owners and most often leave with either a new treat, toy or article of clothing.
“I want them to know that they can come in here and if I can’t answer their questions about nutrition I’ll find out,” she said. “I have a nutritionist I can call for answers. I just want it to feel welcome here, not just a store.”
Ardray remains active in the community, raising funds for various causes, most of them animal related. In December she’s offering an opportunity for owners to bring their pets for photos with Santa. All proceeds benefit the Moore Animal Shelter.
She has a drop box for Pet Food Pantry, which currently serves over 8,000 lbs of dry food & over 2,500 cans of wet food each month to cats and dogs belonging to the homeless, elderly and veterans in Oklahoma.
The pantry also gets her expired food.
With Blake Shelton playing on the radio in the background, Ardray describes herself as a “wanna-be country girl.”
Her down-to-earth demeanor makes it easy for people to ask for advice. She’s researched the ins and outs of all things pet food related.
She warns customers to make sure they know where their food is sourced from.
“You can put Made in the USA on something and it can still be sourced from overseas,” she said.
You can be sure Ardray knows where everything in her store is coming from.
It’s now her passion in life.

Russell-Murray Hospice staff, board of directors and advisory board members gathered Nov. 15 for the organization’s annual meeting, a celebration of its move to a new, larger home base. RMH also has locations in Kingfisher, Weatherford and Oklahoma City.
Russell-Murray Hospice new office-annual meeting November 2017. Tara and Rodger Roblyer view the new space.


by Traci Chapman
Staff Writer

As Russell-Murray Hospice prepares to commemorate its 30th year in business, those associated with it are celebrating a new home and new levels of care to those who need it most.
“It’s appropriate we are here today, holding our board of directors and annual advisory board meeting, in our new building,” RMH Executive Director – and the organization’s first RN – Vicki Myers said. “It’s peaceful, it’s efficient, it’s just perfect for everything, and if Russell-Murray is here for 30 more years, this building is perfect for us.”
Myers made her remarks during the Nov. 15 annual meeting of the two boards at Russell-Murray’s new home, located at 2001 Park View Drive in El Reno. The new building, recently purchased by the longtime hospice care organization, is more than triple the space of its previous offices, located in historic downtown El Reno, Myers said.
“As we’ve grown, the staff really has had to try to work in a situation that just wasn’t feasible,” she said. “They were just crammed in with each other, and while everyone handled it very well, it just wasn’t working the way we wanted it to.”
That meant when a former medical office building located adjacent to Mercy Hospital El Reno came on the market, the organization jumped at it. The space meant not only plenty of room for a growing staff, but also room to grow and a more prominent location, headquartered not only near the hospital, but also other medical providers. That’s good news for the staff, but also for Russell-Murray’s patients, said Melodie Duff, RN, patient care coordinator. As RMH closes out the year and heads into 2018 – its 30th anniversary – Duff said staff and those associated with its success have a lot to be proud of, including 4,440 patients who have been treated and cared for by the organization’s nurses and caregivers.
“We currently have patients from infants days old to patients over 100,” Duff said. “We serve without care about their ability to pay, and we’re always there for them, no matter what.”
That’s something unique in Oklahoma hospice – and elsewhere – Russell-Murray Clinical Supervisor Missy Ellard said.
“If a patient qualifies and desires hospice care, we do not turn patients away based on their reimbursement status,” she said. “Many hospices, even not for profit hospices, have a ‘quota’ of non-reimbursable patients and will decline patients if they don’t have a payer source – RMH has never done that.”
That assistance totaled about $400,000 last year, Administrator Christina Ketter said. With $3.8 million in revenues and a $2.6 million payroll, Russell-Murray saw a jump in helping those who could not afford it.
“It might be younger people who lost their job and didn’t have insurance and, of course, the seniors who might not have access to Medicare or something like that,” Ketter said. “To me, our charity care, the way we look at our patients and how we treatment them shows what kind of an organization, what kind of people we are.” Russell-Murray’s approach has worked – from its roots as a small El Reno hospice care provider to an organization with offices also located in Kingfisher, Weatherford and Oklahoma City. In October, those sites combined served 118 patients through the work of 25 full-time RNs and LPNs, as well as several per diem PRN nurses, across RMH’s four offices.
“We serve approximately 75-mile radius surrounding each of the four offices,” Myers said. Even before the move, Russell-Murray was working to expand its services, not only to patients, but also their families. In March, the organization celebrated the opening of the Virginia E. Olds Resource Library, coordinated originally by Carol Russell Davis and Evan Davis and Vicky Joyner. When RMH began looking at moving, Carol Davis undertook the transfer of the library’s books to the new site, while Sue Pennington-Unsell is director of bereavement. Named for retired University of Oklahoma School of Social Work professor and longtime Russell-Murray counselor Virginia Olds, the library is unique among hospice organizations, Myers said – and is something that can help not only patients and their families, but also nurses who deal daily with end-of-life care and the emotional toll it can take. “We wanted to accumulate information related to social issues involved in bereavement, emotional and psychological resources, coping with these kinds of illnesses and more,” Myers said. “It’s important to remember that the patient isn’t the only person who suffers through an end-of-life illness – it’s incredibly difficult and stressful for their family, their friends and their caregivers.”
Those caregivers are the backbone of Russell-Murray’s nearly 30-year success, and they make those who work with them proud every day, Duff said.
“I can’t tell you how many thank you cards and calls we get, talking about how our staff treats their patients, and particularly those who can’t afford it,” she said. “We hear all the time that our nurses never judge and are always there to do everything they possibly can do – and that’s an accomplishment in itself.”

The Stacie Daniel Success Story

Hunting is Stacie Daniel’s passion. She loves being outdoors surrounded by nature, the thrill of the hunt and truly living off the land. But Stacie was born with cystic fibrosis, a disease that not only threatened to end to her hunting days – but also her life.
“I remember my mom being in tears when I was diagnosed at six years old,” says Daniel. “They told her to love me while she could and pretty much wrap me in a bubble because the life expectancy at that time for someone with CF was 10 to 12 years.”
As a child, Stacie’s issues were mainly digestive. She didn’t start experiencing lung problems until she was a teenager. That’s when her disease started to progress. By the time she was 25, her lungs were only functioning at 30 percent capacity.
“I would get up every morning and start coughing,” remembers Daniel. “I’d have coughing fits that would last 45 minutes to an hour. If I got excited or laughed, or anything really, I would start coughing. It was miserable.”
Despite her deteriorating condition, Stacie did her best to live life to the fullest. She would try to go hunting as often as she could. “I wanted to enjoy life. I wanted to go out and have fun. I wanted to hunt and fish and be active and travel and see things. So I did.”
“Today, people with my disease are living well into their 30s,” adds Daniel. “Growing up with cystic fibrosis you know it’s coming – eventually. You just hope it’s later than sooner.”
At 29, Daniel was listed on the transplant list. She would wait nine months before getting ‘the call.’ “When you get the call, its earth shattering. It’s an answered prayer, it really is. But at the same time you know another family is now grieving. That part is hard to take.”
In August 2017, Daniel received a double lung transplant at the Nazih Zuhdi Transplant Institute at INTEGRIS Baptist Medical Center. Doctors say her new set of lungs is as close to a perfect match as possible. “Stacie is an ideal patient. Complaint and full of drive and dreams,” says Mark Rolfe, M.D. “She is the kind of patient that every transplant pulmonologist loves because she is so easy to take care of and takes advantage of the transplant to live life to its fullest.”
“I’m able to walk as long as my little legs will carry me, I don’t cough anymore and I can actually breathe. My energy is back and I feel great,” she declares. “But the best part is, I can hunt as much as I want to. In fact, I was out there opening morning of hunting season this year, which is amazing to me considering that it was only five weeks after my surgery.” Daniel shot a 9-point deer on the three month anniversary of her transplant.
In November, Stacie celebrated her 31st birthday … and thanks to the miracle of transplantation she no longer fears the inevitable. “I am not cured, I will always have CF and the sinus and digestive issues that go along with it. But the disease cannot get into my new lungs and it’s the respiratory issues that are the most fatal. So my prognosis is great and because of my donor and the generosity of his or her family, I truly have been given a second chance at life.”
Daniel hasn’t been in contact with them yet, but would like to someday. In the meantime, she will continue to share her story in hopes of saving even more lives. “In the last moments of your life, the best thing you can give is life. Check the little green box on your driver’s license and become an organ donor.”

by Mary Waller

In many cultures the tree is a symbol of life, of a fresh start, of good health or a bright future. For these reasons, the tree has become a central figure for Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA) and its 22nd annual Celebrate Life event which honors cancer survivors for their personal triumphs over cancer, five years after first receiving treatment at the Tulsa hospital. To honor these survivors, the hospital plants a tree through the Arbor Day Foundation in their name.
This year, almost 50 cancer celebrants made the trip to Tulsa for event at CTCA in northeastern Oklahoma. The honorees journeyed from all over the country – from Colorado to Florida. Many brought friends with their relatives, surrounding themselves with the caregivers, prayer warriors, best friends, spouses, parents, children and grandchildren who had been with them each step of their treatment and recovery. During the uplifting event, CTCA nurses, doctors, administrators, staff, and of course family, cheered as each name was called and as white doves were released.
Reaching the five-year survival mark is a huge milestone for most patients who have experienced the cancer journey. And not just for the patients and family, but also for the hospital’s team members, especially the nurses. The special celebration is a time for many nurses to see patients once more for who they have cared, counseled, served and often come to know incredibly well.
“We are all always thrilled to share this special and uplifting day in our patients’ lives,” said Tammi Holden, chief nursing officer and vice president of oncology patient services at CTCA in Tulsa on behalf of the staff. “When a patient comes to our hospital, our entire team – from medical oncologists and registered nurses to physical therapists and licensed dietitians – works together with the individual and their caregivers toward the goal of not just surviving, but thriving.
“This event is an important tradition that commemorates their incredible story and every single new day they enjoy,” added Holden. And for every survivor, CTCA commits to planting a tree in their honor.
In addition to returning to Tulsa for the event, the Celebrate Life honorees are given the opportunity to add their names on brass leaves to the “Tree of Life” in the hospital’s entrance. In addition, an Interactive Survivor Tree, which includes a kiosk and large electronic wall screen near the lobby fireplace, allows visitors to select a specific person’s leaf and hear more about their cancer story. After participating in activities such as a group photo opportunity, “Camp Thrive Survivorship Fair,” and a luncheon, many survivors often seek out a beloved nurse, favorite doctor or special staff member for a hug or to introduce them to a family member.
This year CTCA celebrated 27 years in Tulsa serving, caring for, treating and helping patients. Over the years, the hospital has recognized more than 1,500 Celebrate Life five-year survivors and this year added a second “Tree of Life” in the hospital’s gallery to hold all of the honoree’s names.
Holden added, “The forest continues to grow, and that’s a good thing!”

Photography and Text by Terry “Travels with Terry” Zinn t4z@aol.com

Colorado offers many tourist areas. Two are the college town of Ft Collins and the mountain town and gate way to Rocky Mountain National Park, Estes park. Both offer a staggering amount of dining options and shopping experiences, sure to test your endurance.
For lunch in Ft Collins, the Mainline, 125 South College Avenue, is in an upscale modern renovated industrial building offering a diverse selection of food choices with courteous wait staff. Located in old town on its main street, is popular and validates its reputation.
The Perennial Gardener and Sense of Place, at 154 N College street, offers seasonal décor and specialty items. While the store is packed to the rafters with tempting objects, don’t miss the outdoors back yard with a choice of garden sculptures. Nature inspired gifts include scented candles, wall art, jewelry and even unique pajamas. In their own season, holiday items and ornaments abound. While strolling the town don’t miss the old town square and the candy store, Rocket Fizz.
When shopping on College, on Ft. Collin’s main street, be sure and drop into the Rocky Mountain Olive Oil Company (www.RockyMountainOliveOil.com) where you can sample many different Olive Oil infusions, and a few hole olives. I was looking for gourmet blue cheese stuffed olives for Martinis.
I found my olive search at Flat Top Mountain Trading Company, (145 East Elkhorn, 970-480-1445) in Estes Park, Colorado. The Olives are very large and the cheese as pungent as you cold want. Of course you’ll need to visit Estes Park and its main street filled with a variety of gift and food shops.
While in Estes Park be sure and visit the tasting room at Dancing Pines Distillery (www.DancingPines Distillery.com). Their Colorado Crafted Vodka is distilled from grapes 6 times in a column still with snow melt water from the Rockies. The Vodka has a faint hint of grape and is a truly unique vodka, just the kind of specialty you seek as a delectable souvenir. For a tasting of 6 of their liquor concoctions you can get a cocktail made to your specifications. You can choose from the Campfire Mule, of Ginger Beer with a choice of spirits, Chai Manhattan, of Bourbon and Black Walnut with Cherry Orange, among others. The tasting room offers comfortable seating and an elevated view of the shops below a mountain backdrop.
Visitors are encourage to take the Elkhorn Express Trolley located a the Visitor Center, 691 N, St. Vrain Ave, conveniently located next to the new parking structure. The trolley can make stops at Bond Park, The Ore Cart Rock Shop, West Park Center, the Trading Post, Barlow Plaza and the Grubsteak Restaurant. For availability and times check out; www.estes.org/shuttles.
Twin Owls Steakhouse, near downtown Estes Park on MacGregor Avenue is a natural choice for a mountain log cabin environment. Of course the food selections are numerous and the quality top notch, from prime rib, seafood to trout. Musical entertainment might be engaged on your evening experience. Our wait staffer, Sergei, was Russian charming and efficient. Reservations recommended. (970-586-8113) For overnight lodgings you may want to investigate the nearby Black Canyon Inn.
A trip to this area would not be complete without a stay or short visit to the iconic and historic Stanley Hotel. This hillside white visage is credited with inspiring Steven Kings’, “The Shining,” and tours of the property are available even if you can’t book an overnight stay. As with many famous and upscale hotels, a visit to their restaurant or bar can satiate your need of your atmospheric hunger. The Whiskey Bar offers quality beverages as well as you can order food, as the restaurant proper has limited hours. In coming years a maze, just recently planted in front of the hotel, will grow and offer an old world experience.
This is just a small sampling of two cities which you can explore when visiting Colorado.
For more on Estes Park visit, www.EstesPark100.com
For more on Fort Collins visit, www.visitftcollins.com

Mr. Terry Zinn – Travel Editor
Past President: International Food Wine and Travel Writers Association

Jeanne Kleinschmidt earned a featured space in a national art calendar competition hosted by Watermark Retirement Communities.
Jeanne Kleinschmidt’s oil painting titled ‘Serenity’ will be featured in the Expressions 2018 calendar for the month of May.

Jeanne Kleinschmidt, a resident at The Fountains at Canterbury in Oklahoma City, earned a featured space in a national art calendar competition hosted by Watermark Retirement Communities.
The Watermark Expressions art calendar, created by Watermark Retirement Communities which manages The Fountains at Canterbury, is designed to be a source of inspiration for all those who receive it. Pieces of art submitted for the competition included sculpture, needlepoint, oil and watercolor paintings and mixed-media. Each month features a beautiful work of art and a brief background story detailing the artist’s background, personal history, artistic training and inspiration. The calendar is distributed nationwide.
Kleinschmidt’s oil painting, ‘Serenity,’ was selected as one of 12 features for the 2018 Watermark Expressions art calendar out of entries from Watermark communities located coast to coast. The work was inspired by Colorado scenery.
“The annual Watermark Expressions calendar competition is an opportunity to showcase the abundant creativity being cultivated in our community, as well as the many exceptional artists residing at The Fountains at Canterbury,” said Becky Strong, director of community life at The Fountains at Canterbury. “Jeanne is a brilliant artist and we are excited to see her honored with national recognition for her skills and passion.”
The piece was first judged as part of a local competition among residents at The Fountains at Canterbury. Three local experts narrowed down the pieces and sent the five best on to the national competition. Final selections to be featured in the calendar were made at the Watermark Retirement Communities’ national resource center in Tucson, Arizona.
Please call (405) 381-8165 today to receive a 2018 calendar at no cost while supplies last.
The Fountains at Canterbury is dedicated to being the first choice in senior living, providing a continuum of care including independent living, assisted living, memory care, innovative rehabilitation therapies and skilled care. The Fountains at Canterbury is managed by Watermark Retirement Communities and is committed to creating an extraordinary community where people thrive. To learn more, please call (405) 381-8165 or go online to www.watermarkcommunities.com.

Virginia Norris Rogers is being recognized as a significant woman in Oklahoma agriculture.

story and photos by Betty Thompson


Pawnee – It has been said that a picture is worth a thousand words. The framed photo of young Virginia Norris Rogers sitting horseback, dressed in her boots, jeans, button up and cowboy hat, is no exception. The photo is a mere glimpse of the woman she would become, strongly rooted in agriculture.
“I tell people my outfit never changed, I just buy bigger sizes,” laughs Rogers.
Rogers said she began working on the ranch at a very young age with her father and their long-time ranch hand Albert. She even had a horse before she was born, which she later named “Chicken,” because of his yellow color.
“I was out at the crack of dawn getting cattle in,” Rogers recalled. “We would work until noon or so, and then my dad would go off to auction.”
Her father, Cecil “Whitey” Norris, started trading cattle at the age of 16 and became an auctioneer at age 23. Rogers said he went to an auction just about everyday.
After marrying Avis, Rogers’ mother, in 1933, Cecil bought 160 acres of land and used every opportunity from trading and auctions to buy more land. Together, they built a ranch of nearly 5,000 acres with horses and Hereford cattle.
Rogers is proud to be a fourth-generation farmer in Pawnee County and deeply rooted in agriculture. Family photos and keepsakes fill her walls and shelves, including her parents’ spurs, which hang above the front door. Her grandfather’s brand was the first brand ever registered in the state of Oklahoma and is still used today by her cousin John Henry.
“I think it’s [agriculture] been more fulfilling than shaping,” said Rogers. “It’s hard to describe what’s in your blood. You don’t know anything else.”
Rogers was no stranger to the hardships that ranch life brought: drought, cattle prices, finding reliable help, and more, but her love for ranching never faltered. After marrying her husband Olin, she said “it was just natural” for them to start their own ranching operation, Rogers Ranches, LLC, and have been running the operation ever since.
Rogers and Olin have been married for 42 years and have been running their commercial Angus herd on the farm Olin grew up on since 1986.
“It’s not a lot, but it’s enough to keep us busy,” laughed Rogers.
Busy is an understatement.
Not long after marrying, they bought an insurance agency which they worked while running their cattle operation, and only just sold it in November 2011.
Rogers was also very active in Oklahoma Extension Homemakers, now known as Oklahoma Home and Community Educators, a service designed to provide homemakers with resources similar to the resources farmers receive from the extension service. Rogers served as the county secretary/treasurer under Martha Waters, who was the first woman to be a director of an Oklahoma county extension.
A few years later, she was appointed to serve on the Pawnee County Health Department Board.
Like her father, Rogers and Olin have always been active in the Pawnee County Cattlemen’s Association (PCCA). Olin served as PCCA president in the early 1970s, and Rogers served as president from 2009 to 2011. During Rogers’ time as PCCA president, PCCA became a unified county under the Oklahoma Cattlemen’s Association (OCA). Rogers went on to serve for three years as a district director for the OCA before being elected as the North Central District vice president, putting her on the Executive Board of Directors. She also makes it a priority to be involved in the Oklahoma Cattlewomen’s Association as well.
“It has been very rewarding,” Rogers said. “I love it. Olin and I both enjoy meeting other people and learning about ranches across Oklahoma.”
Rogers was recently appointed to serve as the president of the Pawnee County Economic Development Foundation by the chairman of the Pawnee County Commissioners. The Foundation is actively involved in trying to bring new businesses to the community, and recently awarded a $75,000 grant to the city of Pawnee to refurbish an old building.
In addition to her leadership positions, Rogers writes a column for the local newspaper addressing concerns for farmers and ranchers.
“I just had this wild hair idea one day to start writing about issues in the cattle industry,” Rogers said. “Every now and then I throw in a column about my upbringing, experiences on the ranch as a child, or encourage membership and participation in the OCA.”
If you think she cannot make time for any other commitments, think again.
Rogers also serves as Chairman of the Board for her church, as well as staying busy with four grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
She attributes this desire to give back to her upbringing.
“I learned early from my family that caring for people was important,” Rogers said. “You have to do what you can for others. I hope to relate to others that agriculture is vital to our state.”
Another important lesson she learned on the ranch is that you can be caring and giving, but also a tough fighter.
Rogers laughed recalling that she woke up to her father saying “Get up boys!” even though it was only her sister and her. Perhaps that oftentimes hard upbringing is what made her so strong when she was diagnosed four years ago with breast cancer.
However, cancer picked the wrong cowgirl. Today, she is cancer-free and proud to be called a survivor.
“I never had a ‘straight path’ in life,” Rogers said, “but I love doing what I am doing now—trying to be one of the best representatives for agriculture I can be.”