Stephanie Waller Wojczynski, recently retired from her 18-year school nursing career.

by Bobby Anderson, Staff Writer

After nearly 33 years in nursing, Stephanie Waller Wojczynski, RN, went to the Northwest Classen senior prom this spring before graduating in May.
She wasn’t earning a diploma or degree, those had already come in bunches over the last few decades.
Waller Wojczynski’s commencement was the beginning of her retirement after 18 years of school nursing.
“So far I’m really enjoying it,” she said of her retirement. “I’ve had a lot of time to do things I haven’t been able to. One big thing is my mom moved in with us. She needed extra care and it’s given me time to take care of her so it’s a win-win situation.”
She became an LPN in 1984 and then transitioned to RN in 1989. She earned her BSN in 2000.
“I kind of went the long and winding road,” she laughed. “From the time I was a little kid I always wanted to be a nurse. My mom still has a picture I drew when I was five years old in kindergarten of what I wanted to be.”
School nursing came into her life at the right time.
She originally entered Oklahoma City Public Schools in 2000 when her husband was ill and unable to watch the kids.
The school nursing hours allowed her to be free when her kids were out of school.
“After I had been doing it for a few years and he passed I remarried and found I really, really liked it because it’s a lot more challenging than anybody would guess. It’s amazingly challenging,” she said. “Essentially, for a lot of these kids, we are their only health care provider. A lot are uninsured … and with the Affordable Care Act the working poor can hardly afford that. “And we have those who might not be in the country legally and that’s not my job to figure out. My job is to take care of the kids.”
The kids were always the reason she showed up every day.
From the funny to the tragic, school nursing ran the gamut for Waller Wojczynski.
Her first year as a school nurse brought her into the courtroom. A middle school girl came into her office one day and told her that her mother was selling her to older men for drug money.
She immediately notified the police. A few months later she was summoned to court after the biological father sued for custody.
“That was stressful,” she said.
During flu seasons, she could see upwards of 40 children a day.
One fall afternoon she was called to her elementary school where the entire office staff was home sick with the flu.
“There was one clerk working the office and there was a line of kids down the hall,” she said. “We sent home more than 100 kids that day with fevers over 100.”
Waller Wojczynski often split her time between several schools. She spent eight years at NW Classen.
As the health care provider for literally thousands, you can imagine the paperwork.
One spring break she worked almost an entire week entering shot records at home.
“I’m not complaining about having to do it at home because that freed me up to take care of the kids when I was at school,” she said. “The most important thing was taking care of the physical needs of the kids,” she said. “It was drop everything if a kid came in with a physical need but it was crunch time to try to get that paperwork done.”
Prom was a chance to see many of the kids she had nursed their entire school career.
“The students treated me like I was a rock star,” she laughed.
As May wound down so did her 33-year nursing career.
She broke down the NW Classen nurse office one last time and broke down herself more than a couple times.
“That was kind of a mixture of sadness and laughter because I kept coming across things that would remind me of funny stories,” she said. “The feelings are indescribable really. I was kind of overwhelmed those last few days thinking this is the last time I would be here.”
Coming up, she plans on visiting her three kids. Her oldest son, 39, lives in Portland, Maine and is an IT professional with Dell Computers. He and his wife have her only two grandkids, twin boys.
One daughter, 26, and a son, 22, are also out on their own working on their careers.
Later this month she plans a trip to her hometown in Michigan. Her husband’s mother also turns 96.
Friends will be met, dinners will be had.
As for the future, Waller Wojczynski sees herself giving a lot of flu shots this fall.
She’s toying with the idea of a hospice role.
But school nursing will always have a special place in her heart.

Elegant touches abound at Iris Memory Care in Edmond.
Residents can make beautiful music at Iris Memory Care in Edmond.

story and photos by Bobby Anderson, Staff Writer

From the moment you walk through the front door the familiar sights, sounds, and aromas of home greet you at Iris Memory Care. From the wood dining tables to the leather recliners, there’s an attention to detail that tells you months if not years of careful planning went into crafting this environment for those needing memory care. Marketing Director Jessie Motsinger explained the entire environment was meticulously crafted to care for loved ones in a comfortable, stimulating environment. Each building at Iris is designed to look and feel like a high-end single-family home, yet the community also has targeted features to meet the unique needs of their residents. Day or night, weekday or weekend, family members are always welcome to spend cherished moments together at Iris.
What it boils down to is Iris Memory Care is unlike any environment you’ve ever experienced. And that was the goal. “For me this is more about caring for people than it is about selling,” said Motsinger, who was brought on more for her background in gerontology rather than sales. “That’s what motivates me. For (the owners) it’s about exceptional care they didn’t feel like they could find when they were going through placing their loved ones in memory care. It’s very personal for all of us.”
The founders of Iris Memory Care met several years ago while working together for a senior living company. Having both had personal experiences with dementia, they shared many of the same ideas on how the design and care model for the memory impaired could be improved. “They paid close attention to what was missing in the industry, and took note of all the design flaws you often see in other communities,” said Motsinger. “I think there are many examples of what makes our community better and unique. One that stands out is the ability to see almost all of the common areas of the building from one spot. It might sound like a little detail, but in the memory care world this is a huge advantage for residents and staff. Our building’s open floor plan allows residents to wander freely without fear of getting lost in a back hallway or staff missing them because of blind corners.”
Executive Director Sherri Hudlow, RN, serves as the administrator. The former critical care and senior living nurse has her own personal experience with dementia with her mother. She brings that clinical and personal background to work every day and Motsinger said it benefits everyone around her. “For her it’s about caring for residents and staff. The staff here are kind of like her kids,” Motsinger says. “Sometimes they go on to a nursing career. In addition to making sure the staff is well equipped to care for our residents, Sherri is really interested in growing and mentoring them.” The small environment allows mentoring and engagement to happen more fluidly and benefits the entire Iris community.
“What I love about Iris is that it’s a small place where the owners are regularly here and always available,” Motsinger said. “This is so personal to all of us and it’s an exceptional physical environment. It’s beautiful. And the people we work for – I feel really good working for them. They do things the right way. Taking care of people the right way is just as important to them as the bottom line.”
Each resident embarks on a uniquely tailored care path that is tailored by both family and staff. When a new resident joins the Iris community, the staff conducts a personal evaluation to identify cognitive function, social interaction, mobility challenges, special dietary needs, and more. Family members are encouraged to attend the evaluation to offer insights about past events, personality traits, friends, relatives, hobbies, and other details that will help us connect with a resident. The more information they provide the deeper the pool of knowledge that can be drawn from. “The most helpful thing is when families give us a lot of history on their loved one to assist with creating a care path,” Motsinger said of the extensive interview process. From proper nutrition, hydration, and medication management to compassionate assistance with activities of daily life, the needs of each individual resident are central to their care path. As soon as a resident moves into Iris this personalized care path guides the daily work of strengthening their abilities and promoting independence. “You’re seeing more engagement by just steady constant routine with a smaller group,” Motsinger said. “We’re trying to maintain as much independence as we can.”
The Personalized Paths of Care spell out a recommended routine on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis, yet they do evolve. As a resident’s needs change, Iris has the flexibility to reassess and customize their care path to fit the situation. That’s why Motsinger says Iris’ owners never want to grow past a certain point. “For us what’s most important is we’re not trying to do everything for everybody,” Motsinger said. “Our goal is not to be a huge organization or take over the market. Our owners want all communities to be within in a few hour’s drive so they can always be easily accessible and stay connected. We want to be thoughtful leaders in care for those with Alzheimer’s and dementia, and a resource for the community.” Whatever the moment may bring, a loved one’s physical and emotional needs are the most important considerations at Iris Memory Care.
An important difference for Iris Memory Care is the emphasis placed on making connections. Staff members engage residents multiple times per day, and make it a point to facilitate connections among residents with similar interests. With memory impairment, activities that stimulate the senses and encourage hands-on participation can be invaluable ways to soothe or delight your loved one in the moment. Music and art play an important role in the care provided, as do stage-appropriate tasks. When anxiety or sundowning issues arise, the Snoezelen cart helps to reduce stress through sensory engagement with calming aromas, textures, sights, and sounds. You’re also bound to see Motsinger’s therapy dog sprawled on the floor or the light chirping of resident cockatiels in the background.
Monthly resource and informational seminars are offered by Iris to share best practice information as Motsinger taps into her healthcare background and brings people in from all fields so that others may benefit. “These seminars are truly about equipping the community with information they need,” Motsinger said. “For us, if you never come live with us, that’s OK. Let’s share our expertise and share our knowledge.” And, it’s about meeting each person where they are on their memory care journey.

Article by Nikki Buckelew, Buckelew Realty Group’s Mature Moves Division with Keller Williams Realty.

A common question asked by retired homeowners is, “If I were to move, what is available nearby with a smaller yard that fits my budget?”
The vast majority of people over 55 have historically said they don’t want to move from their current homes, but lately many are beginning to reconsider. Instead, boomers and seniors are seeking ways to simplify their lives, both now and in anticipation of future needs.
The challenge for real estate professionals is helping these downsizing clients find places that are both affordable and solve the maintenance and yard work dilemmas.
Some people want to remain owners by simply trading in their current home for one that is a bit smaller, one level, and requiring less maintenance. Others are looking to relinquish homeownership altogether and just rent. By renting, home maintenance becomes the landlord’s problem, taking the concern about falling tree limbs, leaky roofs, and backed up sewer lines off the minds of seniors and their family members.
Even though more seniors are expressing the desire to downsize, there are certain obstacles keeping them from making a move. Reasons for not moving, despite a desire to do so, are largely related to three key factors: affordability, location, and perceived lack of support.
Newer homes that are smaller and with yards which the neighborhood maintains are not as available as one might expect. Yes, they exist, but current inventory of such homes is limited. When they do become available, the lower priced ones sell quickly. Exterior maintenance-free homes under $200,000 are hard to find, with more inventory in the over $200K price ranges. Rents on 1-2 bedroom homes or traditional 55+ apartments will typically run between $1,100 – $2,300 in most areas of the metro. Reduced rent properties and section 8 housing vouchers (for those who qualify) require application and have waiting lists from 3 months to 2 years depending on the location.
Newer neighborhoods designed for the 55+ crowd tend to be located toward the outer edge of the metro because that is where developers are finding land at a reasonable price. Unfortunately, there is limited space within the city limits of the Village, Bethany, Warr Acres, and Oklahoma City, where retirees homesteaded some 40 or more years ago and where they prefer to stay. If developers can find a small pocket where they can build, the price point of homes pushes the financial limits for many retiring boomers and seniors on a fixed income. Considering land costs, developers also tend to build bigger than most downsizing seniors want — it’s a matter of ROI for them.
Perceived lack of support
Many seniors say they would move if they found a suitable place, but candidly tell us that they struggle researching their options. With the internet as the primary method for marketing homes and apartment communities, the “technology-challenged” tend to struggle locating 55+ living options. Furthermore, new construction and lease properties aren’t always listed in the multiple listing service (MLS), the go-to database for local real estate agents. Finding leases requires multiple phone calls, driving neighborhoods, and online searches.
Assuming one does locate a neighborhood, home, or apartment that suits them, managing the logistics of the move can be a daunting task to many long-time homeowners. With families scattered around the country and adult children maintaining their own jobs, homes, and kids, seniors often struggle with where to get help. Few are aware of the local services that provide downsizing, relocation, and liquidation support or see it as an unnecessary expense, but the ones who do make the investment find that having a professional move manager can make all the difference.
To learn more about issues effecting retired homeowners, attend the Senior Living Truth Series: The Truth About Homeownership in Retirement. Two sessions: October 12th at 10am or 2pm, MAPS3 Senior Health and Wellness Center, 11501 N Rockwell, Oklahoma City. The event is free to seniors and their guests. Professionals pay $25. Seating is limited so call 405.563.7501 or go online to register.

Jerry Smith makes a living selling ornamental and exotic plants at farmer’s markets.

Local produce abounds at markets

by Bobby Anderson
Staff Writer


Dale Roath travels to Moore from Dibble twice a week to bring his produce to market.

It’s a late summer Thursday afternoon at the Farmer’s Market at Central Park in Moore and Dale Roath is defending his honor.
“Is the old boy from Dibble still lying to us?” a customer playfully teases as he walks up to inspect Roath’s vegetable stand.
“He’s hoarding all those tomatoes,” fellow vender Jerry Smith calls out from the next booth.
“Don’t listen to this guy here,” Roath shoots back.
It’s all part of the summertime fun that goes with the farmer’s market.
“I think it’s important to buy local,” Roath said, counting out change from a cucumber sale with the man who had supplied the earlier ribbing. “You get stuff fresh, right out of the garden. Lot of times you go down to the grocery store and you get stuff that’s been shipped from all over the country and a lot of times it’s not the quality you get down here.”
Everything on Roath’s table was planted from seed and raised by him and his wife.
Roath taught science, social studies, coached and was a principal during his 34 years at Dibble Public Schools.
He says the market is a great hobby and truth be known he gives as much ribbing as he gets from vendors and customers who see the value in shopping local.
Next to Roath, Smith is tending to his novelty plants.
“I’ve been doing this so long I had to do something to make some money,” Smith explains of his assortment. “If I sell the same thing everybody else does I can’t sell this time of year. I’ve got something I can sell year-round.
“My stuff is unusual – shrimp plants and plants from all over the world,” Smith said.
Miniature pepper plants, African milk trees – all grown in one of three greenhouses on his five acres.
Smith lives by Lake Thunderbird and says there’s something that just draws people to markets like these.
“The people mostly. I feel it’s like a family out here,” Smith said of the reason he keeps coming back. “It’s something that’s local that brings people out.”
The market runs this year until Sept. 2.
Central Park Special Events Coordinator Teresa Smith says the market tries to stay flexible and affordable to attract local vendors. Rental for a space under the Farmer’s Market Pavilion is just $15 and a discount is given for those who want to pay in advance.
Bathrooms are a stone’s throw away and customers can pull their cars up to within just feet of the vendors.
The pavilion is next to a newly constructed aquatic center that draws hundreds of families daily. Most agree that doesn’t hurt either.
Roath has been coming to the Moore Farmer’s Market for six years. A regular at the Bethany market until it closed, Roath was looking for a good place to land to showcase his wares.
“I’ve really liked it,” Roath said. “I live 35 miles out but it’s easy to get to. It’s a nice facility with this canopy and you don’t have to set up a tent in a parking lot like we did over there. The bathrooms are right here and people can pull right up to the front.
“Over the last six years I’ve met a lot of people and I have the same customers that come back over the last five years.”
A few booths down Bob Sirpless is handing out free tastings from his local Legends Vineyard and Winery.
It’s his second year at Moore.
“It’s value-added,” Sirpless said. “We grown our own grapes and put it into wine. We also do the Norman market and we have some good sales here. It’s not too long and it’s not like going to one of the other shows and spending the whole day driving.”
Like Roath, Sirpless makes the drive on Thursday afternoons and Saturday mornings.
Moore Assistant City Manager Todd Jenson says the city has offered a farmer’s market for 12 years and it’s become a vital part of the community as it’s passed through six different locations.
“It’s very important. It adds to the quality of life,” Jenson said. “It’s one more event where people get out and meet their neighbors and meet new people.
“Each vendor has its own loyal customers and if they don’t they’ll develop it over time. This is (the farmer’s market’s) home.”
Home’s a good word.
“The people are friendly up here,” Roath said. “I don’t have any problem with competition. Everybody tries to get along and nobody is trying to cut each other’s throat like some markets I’ve seen.”

Darlene Franklin is both a resident of a nursing home in Moore, and a full-time writer.

By Darlene Franklin

My problems today are nothing compared to what I’ve already been through: my daughter’s suicide. I should remember that more often.
When my first book came out twelve years ago, I was the happy middle of a three-generation sandwich: myself, my mother and my grown daughter. I also worked for a decade at a satellite dish company with pleasant company and had flexible schedule that allowed me to write. I didn’t consider how quickly all that could change.
My world shattered with my daughter’s suicide. Grief overwhelmed me in the wake of the unbelievable loss. I stumbled around for months. The testimony of her faith, in her own words, reassured me that was living, pain-free, heaven. My tears were for myself, for the reasons that drove the beatitude “blessed are those who mourn.”
People around me commented on how well I was coping. How could I work, articulate, have hope, while in such pain?
My daughter Jolene had had a difficult life, stemming from abuse and consequential severe mental illness. God had given me an inner steel core that refused to break under pressure. Years of dealing with past abuse, and raising two emotionally disturbed children as a single mother had deepened and developed my faith over and over. Without that core strength, I wouldn’t have made it through most days.
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
John 14:27 NIV
Looking back, in light of John 14:27, Jesus whispers something else to me. “That steel core was My peace that I gave to you. I didn’t give you an absence of conflict. Instead, I gave you Myself and My strength when you faced the worst.”
Here I thought the steel core had been crafted and given to me by God. But God had not given me that puzzle piece. He Himself had been that peace.
Jolene’s suicide was only the first of a series of life-changing events. After Jolene died, my mother moved to a nursing home. Things at my work place shifted, and I left my beloved Colorado to be near my grandchildren. A short time later, Mom died. My health disintegrated and I myself ended up in a nursing home.
Sometimes life sucks.
In some ways it was a huge relief. At last my problems could be addressed and steps taken to restore my health. I am much stronger now than I was when I first moved in, although independent living is still not a possibility.
Again, God has been my peace. So many who end up in long-term care hate and resent it. They weekly ask for prayer to go home.
Not me. This has been a place of healing. It has also been a place of amazing growth and opportunity.
Because, you see, a year or so after my health fallen apart, my publisher closed the book club I’d written for and my agent let me go. I was an author without a place to tell my stories. Briefly I wondered if God was going to end my writing career at the same time I lost my independence.
I kept writing-self-published a couple of books. Joined a small press. Since then, my publishing track entered a meteoric rise. Peace pressed down into the oil of joy.
So why oh why, when God has given me His peace to survive the big losses, do I reject the same peace in my daily struggles?
Because I think I can handle them on my own. I’m looking for peace like the world gives, worldly answers to worldly problems like when I go to bed and if I have enough supplies.
When problems were so big I knew I couldn’t handle them alone, I accepted God’s peace. Maybe He wants to remind me that everything is under His control. I’ll always need His peace.
It’s there, within my reach. Living in my heart. The next time life happens-I want to surrender, to open my heart so that God’s peace can fill in the hole.


Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation scientist Courtney Griffin, Ph.D., studies the emerging field of epigenetics.
Compelling evidence of epigenetic marks have been shown in mice, but the research in humans is still in its infancy.

As the parent of two children, Courtney Griffin, Ph.D., is well aware that the choices she and her husband make will have a profound impact on their daughters’ lives.
But Griffin is also a scientist at the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation who studies the emerging field of epigenetics. And through her research in this area, she is learning that the decisions we make as parents—what we feed our children, how much attention we give them as infants—may impact more than just our children, but also the genetic destinies of our descendants for generations to come.
Epigenetics are chemical changes to the genome that affect how DNA is packaged and expressed without affecting the underlying genetic sequence.
“Epigenetics works like a watermark on top of genes,” said Griffin. “If you imagine your genetic makeup as a well-oiled machine, epigenetics are like the rust that settles on it and leaves a surface coating. This can muck things up, suppressing genes that need to work or turning on genes that are meant to be quiet.”
Scientists have determined that these marks can form as a result of the foods we eat, the toxins we ingest or even the stressful events we experience. And that they can persist for generations in some species.
“The real news with epigenetics is that these actions can theoretically affect more than just you and your children, but also your great grandchildren, great-grandchildren and beyond,” said Griffin.
A geneticist by trade, Griffin has spent her career manipulating DNA, the encyclopedia of genetic information that is inside of each of our cells. Griffin edits DNA of laboratory mice so that she can understand the development and function of blood vessels in these animals. She said her experience has shown her that epigenetic marks really can serve to reprogram genes’ behavior.
“Anything that genetics controls, which is essentially everything about us, can be altered,” said Griffin. “It comes back to how the marks are read by proteins in the cell. Any extra variable changes what they read, and these variables can be introduced by bad lifestyle habits.”
Luckily, said Griffin, research suggests these epigenetic marks don’t have to be permanently etched onto your DNA. “It appears these marks are quite malleable in humans, and making healthy choices like eating a better diet or reducing stress can make a difference,” she said.
“To me, it’s profound and empowering that we can influence how our genes work through the choices we make,” she said. “It gives us yet another reason to live a healthy life and make smart choices, because it doesn’t just affect us.”

Terry Forst checking cattle on the ranch outside of Waurika, OK.
Terry Forst and her sons, Robert (left) and Clay (right), manage all aspects of Stuart Ranch and are the fifth and sixth generations to do so.

All 99 degrees of the July sun beat down on the parking lot outside the Stuart Ranch Headquarters in Waurika, OK. Inside, the walls of the log cabin-style building are lined with awards and family photos, most of which include horses and cattle. The sound of boots on a concrete floor echo down the hallway as Terry Stuart Forst rounds the corner and greets a visitor with a smile and a handshake.
Forst is the General Manager of the 46,000 acre operation, a title she’s held since 1992 when her father handed her the reins.
She pulls out a bench and sits at a long dining table as she reflects on memories and stories of the ranch.
Forst has had agriculture in her blood from day one. Some of her earliest memories as a child include going with her siblings to play at “Big Daddy’s Playhouse”, which was the scale house her grandfather used to weigh cattle.
“When I was growing up, if I was on a horse, I was happy,” Forst said.
Upon graduating high school in Oklahoma City, Forst went on to attend Oklahoma State University which she credits with giving her some of the best friendships in her life. There she received her bachelor’s degree and returned home to the ranch. However, before she took the position of General Manager, she tried her hand in a few other roles across the region.
“I got my real estate license and lived in Dallas for a while,” Forst said. “I felt like a duck out of water and really was not happy.”
Forst decided to apply for Texas Christian University’s Farm and Ranch Management Program on a whim. She received a phone call the next day for an interview.
“When things just start falling into place perfectly, you know it’s God’s plan,” Forst said.
Shortly thereafter she got her son Clay enrolled in a local school and her youngest son, Robert, into a day care close by. When everything began to fall into place, Forst knew she was headed in the right direction. After graduating first in her class from the Farm and Ranch Management Program in 1992, she and her sons returned home to the ranch for good.
“We will be 150 years old next year,” Forst said explaining the history of Stuart Ranch. “I am the fifth generation, my son’s Robert and Clay are the sixth, and my grandchildren are the seventh.”
The Chisholm Trail Museum in Duncan, OK comes up in conversation between Forst and her visitor.
“Do you want to see it?” Forst asked.
“The museum?” the visitor asked.
“No the actual Chisholm Trail,” Forst said. “It runs right through our land. I’ll take you to see it!”
She climbs into her white Ford Expedition, looking over her grandkids’ car seat as she backs out of the drive. Dixie, a brown and white Welsh Corgi and Forst’s chief traveling buddy, takes a back seat for the ride.
A white cloud of dust trails the car as Forst drives down Jefferson County roads reminiscing on the history of the ranch – a subject that Forst is a scholar on.
The ranch, which was founded in Caddo, OK in 1868, is the oldest in the state of Oklahoma under continuous family ownership. To help the reader grasp the age of the operation, it was founded a few months before Ulysses S. Grant was elected President, five years before barbed wire had been designed and half a century before World War I broke out.
“Caddo is the oldest part of the ranch,” Forst said. “Daddy bought this place [Waurika] in 1993. When he died in 2001, we started realigning to make this our headquarters. It just made more sense and we’ve been here since 2004. It’s a very new move relative to our operation.”
The operation of 46,000 acres has now expanded into an area just east of Waurika, OK where their headquarters is located today. The ranch is separated into three categories: horse, cattle and outfitting divisions. Much to Forst’s delight, her two sons followed her footsteps and made the choice to live and work on the ranch.
The horse division is managed by Forst’s younger son, Robert, and has a history and tradition as deep as the ranch itself. The horse operation has had worldwide success over the past century taking home several world champion titles. Stuart Ranch received the American Quarter Horse Association’s Best of Remuda award in 1995 for their quality of working horses.
“We bred a little under 50 mares this year,” Forst said. “We do all of that in-house with artificial insemination.”
This is just one of many ways Stuart Ranch has diversified and adapted to ensure their success and growth.
The cattle division is comprised of 60 percent Black Baldies and 40 percent Herefords. Cows calve in one of two 60-day calving periods; February through March and September through October. Forst oversees the cattle operation and has four “camp men” that reside on the ranch to ensure things are taken care of properly.
The hunting division, Stuart Ranch Outfitters, is an Oklahoma Agritourism destination managed by Forst’s oldest son, Clay. The outfitting operation offers package hunts at both Caddo and Waurika locations. Hunters have an opportunity to hunt whitetail deer, turkey, waterfowl and feral hogs on 46,000 acres ranging from tallgrass prairies to rolling rocky hills.
Between the three divisions of the Stuart Ranch, no one would argue that Forst has a full plate when it comes to work. With 150 years under their belt, you can bet that Stuart Ranch has weathered a few storms and fought their fair share of uphill battles as well.
Forst has a way of dealing with those difficult times in life.
“I told my boys at a young age that sometimes all we can do is put one foot in front of the other, pray and keep trucking,” Forst said.
Forst goes on to talk about her love for the agriculture community. While that community encompasses thousands of families, she has never hesitated to help her neighbors – even if they’re 300 miles away.
When wildfires struck farms and ranches in northwest Oklahoma and southwest Kansas this March, Forst hurt with them. She rounded up 11 volunteers, 11 miles of fence, skid steers, trucks and countless tools and headed north.
“You’ve gotta help when you’ve gotta help,” Forst said. “The neat thing to me was seeing thousands of trucks loaded with hay and then you see one old man with a stock-rack pick up hauling two bales. Everyone just gave all they could. I can hardly talk about it.”
Forst has also received many awards and held positions that one simply does not attain without a strong work ethic and impeccable leadership skills. She served as the first female President of the Oklahoma Cattlemen’s Association and was inducted into the National Cowgirl Hall of Fame in 2007, just to name a few.
Although, if you want to hear about Forst’s accomplishments, don’t go to her. Her humble attitude can make obtaining information about herself a challenge. She will, however, brag on and on about those who have helped her along the way and shaped her into who she is today.
“I have been very blessed to have some really, really, really great friends,” Forst said. “The list goes on and on.”
May 19,, 2018 is set to be the ranch’s 150th anniversary celebration. Some may wonder how the ranch not only stayed above water, but thrived through 150 years of trials and hardships. Forst is quick to attribute the ranch’s success to God’s grace and, as long as Terry Forst has anything to do with it, the ranch will be around many generations to come.
“It’s interesting what God will do and how he’s orchestrated things in my life,” Forst said. “My whole life has been faith, totally and completely. I tell Him ‘I’m not quitting, so don’t quit on me, Lord!’”

Photo above- left to right - Joel Burcham, Nicole Van Every, Barbara DeMaio, Kevin Eckard.

Photography and Text by Terry “Travels with Terry” Zinn

Oklahoma’s own senior, Dr. Barbara DeMaio, has returned to Oklahoma City after a successful singing career in Europe. As current Assistant Professor of Voice at the University of Central Oklahoma, she has expanded her opera influence to being the Executive Director of the year old Painted Sky Opera company. The company recently secured residency at the Freede Theater at Oklahoma City’s downtown Civic Center Music Hall.
It seems appropriate for DeMaio to return to her opera roots in Oklahoma City where she earned her Bachelor’s Degree from Oklahoma City University School of Music.
“I grew up here, went to Northwest Classen high school,” says Demaio, “and I still have many, many friends here. I go to breakfast every Friday morning with my best friend from high school and my best friend from college. Their children call me “Aunt Barbara.” I love this state and this city. Although Italy will always be my second home, and I miss it every day, this is where I want to live and teach, and UCO is my dream job.”
DeMaio recalls, “The Painted Sky Opera originated in a casual conversation between co-founder Rob Glaubitz and me. We found it strange that Oklahoma City didn’t have its own professional opera company considering the popularity of opera in other regional cities and the diversity of the OKC artistic scene. We founded the company in 2015 along with co-founder Mikayah Fox.”
The Painted Sky Opera Board of Directors was formed in September 2015 with Joel Burcham as the founding president of the board.
Painted Sky Opera’s Mission is stated as “presenting innovative, inspiring opera through performance and education, featuring emerging professional artists in Central Oklahoma.”
“Our biggest challenge is to introduce opera to those who don’t know it and don’t realize how wonderful it is yet,” says DeMaio. “If we can get someone in the theatre, we are convinced that they will fall in love with this magnificent art form. The first opera I attended was at the Civic Center, many years ago; and it was Tosca. I’ve sung the role many times, and now I am thrilled that we are producing the opera and giving others the opportunity to sing this incredible music”.
The company’s first year season consisted of, La Canterina by Joseph Haydn, produced at the OKCMOA Samuel Roberts Noble Theater, then in June 2016 in collaboration with the Oklahoma Haydn Festival. It was followed by a double bill of Chabrier’s An Incomplete Education and Menotti’s The Medium in September 2016, which included a new libretto of the Chabrier comic opera written by Rob Glaubitz. Our first season ended with Verdi’s La Traviata in February 2017.
In this year’ s production of Tosca in the photo above, is Nicole Van Every, as one of the Toscas, Joel Burcham, who is one of the Cavaradossis, and Kevin Eckard, who is Sacristan.
The new season includes: Tosca, opera by Giacomo Puccini, on Oct. 6, 7 at 8pm and 8 at 2pm, in the Freede Little Theatre; Souvenir, play by Stephen Temperley about Florence Foster Jenkins Feb. 22-24, March 1-3, in the CitySpace theatre and concluding with Three Decembers, opera by Jake Heggie based on a play by Terrence McNally (Oklahoma Premiere) May 11 and 12 at 8pm, May 13 at 2pm, in the Freede Little Theatre
Tickets are on sale now, at the Civic Center Box Office. Season tickets are: $80 – one season ticket with reserved seating at all three of Painted Sky Opera’s shows – a savings of 20% off of full ticket prices; and $90 – season ticket with Gold Circle seating in the first six rows of Freede Little Theatre for Tosca and Three Decembers
Tickets available at the box office and online:
“In addition to productions, Painted Sky Opera has also made a commitment to education and outreach,” says DeMaio. “In Painted Sky Opera’s first year, we connected with more than 700 students at in-school outreach events. We also sang for retirement and hospital communities in Oklahoma City and even connected with opera lovers in Lawton. “
DeMaio’s repertoire includes all the great roles of a Puccini and Verdi soprano, performed in theatres in Italy, Swizerland, Germany and France; Tosca, Lady Macbeth, Turandot, Aida, Abigaille in Nabucco, and also Amelia in Ballo in Maschera, Elvira in Ernani, Lucrezia in I Due Foscari, Leonora in La Forza del Destino and Odabella in La Scala’s Attila directed by Riccardo Muti. She is also a noted interpreter of Norma, the Bellini heroine. Since returning to the United States she has added new shows to her repertoire; Bolcom’s Medea and Hoiby’s Bon Appetit! as well as the Witch in Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel , Domina in Forum and Costanza in the play Enchanted April.
DeMaio is currently an Asst. Prof. of Voice at the University of Central Oklahoma, teaching both Opera and Musical Theatre styles, Executive Director of the American Singers’ Opera Project, Executive Director of Painted Sky Opera and a Level III Somatic Voicework© teacher. In October, 2016, she was honored to be named as a Member Laureate by Sigma Alpha Iota. Her DMA Vocal pedagogy degree at Shenandoah University included dissertation research on the effect of menopause on the elite singing voice that she has since presented in the form of workshops and presentations across the US, and also in October, 2017, at La Voce Artistica in Ravenna, Italy.

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

he Fountains at Canterbury, a continuum of care senior living community in Oklahoma City, welcomes Dustin Thomasson as the assistant director of nurses in rehabilitation and skilled nursing at The Springs and Heather Justice as the program director for assisted living at The Inn and memory care at The Gardens at The Fountains of Canterbury. Thomasson brings more than 22 years of nursing experience to the position, and Justice adds 16 years of experience to her position.
“The Fountains at Canterbury relies on exceptional associates to provide quality care that allows our residents to thrive,” said Cody Erikson, executive director of The Fountains at Canterbury. “Dustin and Heather bring valuable experience and compassion to these positions. They will be vital to the future of The Fountains of Canterbury.”
Thomasson became a registered nurse in 2002 and has worked for The Fountains at Canterbury for three years in other capacities. He was previously the director of nurses at Meadowlake Estates in Oklahoma City and a clinical director at Brookdale Bradford Village in Edmond, Oklahoma.
“I hope that the work I do each day betters the life of people both living and working in the community,” said Thomasson.
Justice has been a registered nurse since 2011 with experience at Quail Ridge Senior Living in Oklahoma City as the director of nurses and was previously a registered nurse care manager at Providence Home Care in Oklahoma City.
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

Generations of David Thompson’s family have met the rehabilitation needs of Oklahomans at Bellevue Health and Rehabilitation since 1954.

by Bobby Anderson
Staff Writer

David Thompson remembers 30 years years ago when patients drove themselves to Bellevue Health and Rehabilitation.
Now, more often than not, they arrive in the back of an ambulance. And the diagnoses they bring with them include IVs, feeding tubes and care plans that look more medical surgical than rehabilitative.
But for generations now the Thompson family has answered the call to take care of Oklahomans.
And in a healthcare environment that’s pushing more and more care outward and away from a traditional hospital setting. The family-owned business doesn’t plan on changing its mission anytime soon.
“I’ve been in this business a long time and … there’s been a paradigm shift,” Thompson said. “We’ve got to be ready so we have to have good quality nursing and they need to be more like the hospital nurse.”
“They need to identify things before they become a problem.”
Thompson has been in the family business for 32 years. Back when he started there was no Medicare or Medicaid payments.
“Everyone paid their own way,” he said. “They were really the assisted living patients. Residents had cars and then over the years it just progressed.”
Thompson’s mom and dad started the business in the early 1950s.
Four of the children including David still work at Bellevue. Five grandchildren also work full-time throughout the center.
It takes some 230 staff members overall to get the job done.
“We staff really well. My dad always told me patient care comes first,” said Thompson, who notes Bellevue is among the top one percent in the country in terms of staffing ratios.
Founded in 1954, Bellevue is a 220-bed facility located in Oklahoma City, in close proximity to all local hospitals. Through the years, Bellevue has continued to grow and evolve to meet community needs, and today offers a full continuum of care, from temporary respite stays, to short-term rehabilitation, to long-term skilled nursing care, as well as a broad array of specialty programs and services.
Thompson remembers when Bellevue did 100 admissions a year.
That occurs in a month now with an almost equal number of discharges.
The number of skilled beds has blossomed from 20 to 62.
IVs, wound vacs, Stage IV wounds, specialty beds and peg tubes are now commonplace.
TPN will come soon.
“For whatever reason Medicare is pushing everyone to skilled,” Thompson said. “We’ve stepped our game up a whole lot.”
The continued money crunch from the federal government has demanded facilities like Bellevue become higher-skilled facilities. And with increased scrutiny on readmission rates the responsibility for end patient outcomes has also shifted.
“I see Medicare putting such strict guidelines on the LTACs now. (Patients) have to have three midnights in an ICU. We used to be able to send a patient to an LTAC,” Thompson said. “I think Medicare is pushing everyone to skilled because it is probably less expensive.”
According to CMS, hip and knee replacements are the most common inpatient surgery for Medicare beneficiaries and can require lengthy recovery and rehabilitation periods.
In 2014, there were more than 400,000 procedures, costing more than $7 billion for the hospitalizations alone. Despite the high volume of these surgeries, quality and costs of care for these hip and knee replacement surgeries still vary greatly among providers.
The Comprehensive Care for Joint Replacement (CJR) model aims to support better and more efficient care for beneficiaries undergoing the most common inpatient surgeries.
The CJR model holds participant hospitals financially accountable for the quality and cost of a CJR episode of care and incentivizes increased coordination of care among hospitals, physicians, and post-acute care providers.
“It’s a lot of pressure on everyone because we can’t send someone home with multiple co-morbidities that still needs skilled care,” Thompson said.
That’s why Bellevue has invested heavily in people and technology. The massive new AlterG Anti-Gravity treadmill stands out in the therapy room as testimony.
The treadmill removes up to 80 percent of a patient’s weight, allowing them to focus on joint mobility and strengthening without fear of fall or reinjury.
It also shortens the road to recovery.
But overall, the focus has always been on people.
“It comes down to helping people,” Thompson said. “The patient comes first.”