George Fox University (GFU) students typically are not thinking or learning about retirement and senior living. Well, unless you’re Sam Farmer in the 1950’s and in need of a wedding officiant. Sam’s journey to Friendsview started at GFU (George Fox College at the time) with a providential conversation. Here’s his story…
As a freshman on the first day at George Fox College in 1952 Sam was not expecting to meet his future wife. But his drama professor set everything into motion when she cast him and another student, Dorothy, as leads in the play A Table Set for Himself. Sam says, “Our drama professor didn’t think we showed the proper affection for one another.” This resulted in private tutoring and many more solo rehearsals, for which they were grateful as it provided the impetus for them to fall in love.
Sam and Dorothy shared a lot in common including faith. Sam followed the Quaker traditions (also known as the Friends Church), a Protestant movement founded by George Fox in 1652. Sam grew up in a flourishing Quaker “colony” in Greenleaf, Idaho, where his grandparents were one of the founding families.
By 1954, and after several successful theater productions, Sam and Dorothy were ready to make a lifetime commitment. Sam knew right away who to ask to perform the ceremony: the minister at Newberg Friends Church, Charles Beals, a family friend from the Greenleaf community. “I’ve known Charles and Mildred, his wife, all my life. Mildred’s father married my parents and my mother attended Pacific College—which is now George Fox University—with them.” The connection between the families ran deep.
As a longtime Friends minister, Beals was very familiar with officiating weddings. But he also had a new passion: retirement that offered “gracious, independent living that would provide active people” affordable senior living, particularly for seniors who were not able to set aside funds for later in life. It was this passion that Beals expounded on before Sam could even make his wedding request.
“I had to look at the plans for Friendsview and listen once again to his dream—before he would even talk about the wedding. Frankly, I didn’t care a bit about it. I was not interested in retiring at that point!” Decades later, this conversation would come to the forefront of Sam’s mind, but before that it was time to get married!
In March of 1955 they exchanged vows and began a wonderful adventure that included three sons, transplants to the Oregon coast, California and Illinois just to name a few. Sam’s career launched with the Carnation Company, a large dairy operation, and then with a food ingredient manufacturer in Chicago.
After over 40 years in the food industry, GFU offered him a unique opportunity. The university leadership asked him to return to Newberg and help them grow. He was tasked with raising funds and buying property so the school could expand. He served for five years as Vice President and then another 12 as Assistant to the President for special projects, including partnering with Friendsview.
Sam says, “George Fox and Friendsview have had a close relationship throughout all of the last 60 years. Not only do GFU alumni come to Friendsview to retire, but students work here, and residents participate in and volunteer with various programs at the University. It is amazing.” His time growing the campus of his alma mater also was a great reminder of the long-ago conversation with Charles Beals. Just as Beals became passionate about senior living, so did Sam. He had served on the board of a retirement community in California and eventually joined the Friendsview board.
As a board member he played a role in the planning of a brand-new neighborhood at Friendsview—Meadow Way. Also like Beals, he encountered skeptics who weren’t sure about these new duplex homes, so different than the apartments in the original Manor. This skepticism quickly changed Sam and Dorothy’s future. “We made the decision that we would sign up and move in early even though it wasn’t a part of our original plans. We wanted to move in to encourage other people to look at independent living homes at a younger age.” By the time they became one of the very first residents of Meadow Way on March 12, 2004, all 20 duplex-cottages were sold. Their plan had worked!
And it’s continued to work. Since living at Friendsview Sam has given almost 150 tours to potential residents. He is most proud of how he participated in helping build the resident computer lab and developing the Employee Recognition program which gives, “Residents an opportunity to thank staff in a personal way.” Sam also served as the Chair for the Residents’ Association for two terms as well.
He says one of the best things about living here involves both staff and residents. “There’s concern for each other, a feeling of community.”
Friendsview’s not-for-profit status is also important to Sam. Over many years he watched how different businesses handled retirement and seniors, especially as a board member at more than one senior living community. He observed that Christian retirement communities, “Did such a marvelous job of taking care of people as opposed to for-profit organizations.”
On March 12, 2021, Sam and Dorothy celebrated 17 years of living at Friendsview. It was also a celebration of another accomplished goal. “We didn’t want to become a burden on our children.” Residing in a Life Plan Community has ensured that his children have peace of mind about their future care.
They celebrated a different milestone in March too: 67 years of marriage! Sam shares that, “Dorothy has put up with me a good many years. You have good days and bad days. You just have to remember that there’s a good day coming after the bad day!”
With residents like Sam leading the way we are confident that Friendsview has plenty of good days ahead too. As we also mark a major milestone, 60 years on April 1, 2021, we recall what Charles Beals and others wanted Friendsview to become: a Christ-centered community that offers gracious, independent living at an affordable cost. This vision laid the foundation for Friendsview and has helped us remain true to our mission and values amidst a changing and complicated world. Something Sam is proud of and we are confident Charles Beals would be too.
Nikki Deckon has been on staff at Friendsview since 2018 in various roles and in long term care for several years. Before working with seniors, she wrote/produced hundreds of talk radio programs and vignettes; was published in a couple of editions of Chicken Soup for the Soul and other print publications including The Oregonian, Kids NW, The Sun and more. After twenty years of marriage she feels that she’s still in the “honeymoon” phase and is enjoying raising her teenage boys in Newberg, a mere two miles from Friendsview.