Resident Stories

We are blessed to be caring for and supporting the greatest generation of American pioneers and heroes. Please enjoy the resident stories we have below and then reach out to us to schedule a personal tour of our award-winning community.

Phyliss Levy - A Story of Love and War

God willing, come January 15, 2018, Phyllis Levy will have the rarest kind of birthday party, even for the staff and residents of Aston Gardens at Parkland Commons.

On that day, she’ll turn 100, celebrating a century of living that has spanned four continents, a World War, brushes with royalty, a tropical paradise to call home, and a loving, supportive family.

Because Levy is 99, daughter Vanessa took over the interview duties for this article.

Vanessa says her mother has had “quite the life,” which started with a move from her native Jamaica to England for a proper education in the 1930s.

There she met a young man and fell in love. They got married and she traveled the world with her new husband, who was a member of the Royal Air Force (RAF). The British Empire was still quite large in those days, and that meant periods of time stationed in the likes of Singapore, Hong Kong, and West Africa.

While in West Africa, the young couple had a houseguest for two weeks, a man her husband had known in his youth in England. His legal name was Philip Mountbatten, but he was born Prince Philip, Prince of Spain and Greece. Both Mountbatten and Levy’s first husband would fight in World War II - Philip in the Royal Navy, her husband in the RAF.

Philip served in the Indian Ocean and at the Battle of Crete, returning home as a lieutenant. He married Princess Elizabeth in 1947 and ascended to the Duke of Edinburgh when she became Queen in 1953.

Phyllis Levy’s husband did not survive World War II, dying in combat as a fighter pilot for the RAF. Widowed in her early 20s, Levy returned home to Jamaica alone, but at the very least in the possession of the knowledge that her first husband was part of perhaps the most pivotal battle against the forces of Adolf Hitler’s Germany. The RAF defense of Britain marked the first time Hitler’s forces failed to meet an objective, and were commemorated with Winston Churchill’s legendary words: “Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.”

Of course had it not been for the War, Levy would never have gone back to Jamaica and as Vanessa says with a laugh, “been reunited with her parents, met my dad and had me!” Her family immigrated to the United States over time and when Phyllis reached her 90s, Vanessa knew it was time to give her mother’s care over to professionals.

“She moved to Aston Gardens when she was 92,” Vanessa says. “The only reason was that I was concerned she would forget to turn off the stove or have an accident.”

Vanessa appears to have been gifted with foresight, as Phyllis had a mini-stroke shortly after coming to the retirement community. Despite the ailment, she remains strong and vital despite some limitations.

“Her memory is going, some days she does not know where I’ve been or how long it’s been since I’ve been there, but she talks and she is very alert,” Vanessa says, adding the remarkable fact that her mother does not take one single prescription medication.

Both Vanessa, who lives about 20 minutes away, and Phyllis knew they had found the right place when they met the staff of the facility and found at least half of them to be from Jamaica or Haiti.

“We loved the staff. Her face lit up when she heard those accents from home,” Vanessa said. “I think maybe they go above and beyond for her because she’s from Jamaica. She is always smiling when she sees them and talks to them, and that makes me smile too.”

 

Fritz E. Froehlich - Survivor. Soldier. Student. Physicist. Inventor. Husband. Father. Professor.

If you’ve ever used the Internet to connect with an old friend, delve your way through endless amounts of information, or video chatting with a family member a world away, you can thank Fritz E. Froehlich.If you’ve ever wasted time on the Internet cheating at Scrabble, harvesting crops that only exist on your Facebook page, or watching old episodes of  “The Love Boat”, you can blame Fritz E. Froehlich.

 

Survivor. Soldier. Student. Physicist. Inventor. Husband. Father. Professor.

 

It might be easier to say what Froehlich hasn’t accomplished, than what he has. Born in Germany in 1925 wasn’t easy for anyone, far worse for Jewish folk like Froehlich’s family. By 1937, they made their escape to the United States under what Froehlich terms “severe persecution” from Adolf Hitler’s twisted Nazi idealism. His family immigrated to New York and by age 19, Froehlich was on a boat as a soldier in the US Army ready to sail to help put down the reign of terror his native Germany had subjected the rest of the world to. The boat never left however and Froehlich became a speciality computer surveyor. When he left the Army in 1946, he headed for Syracuse New York, where he got a Bachelors, Masters, and Doctorate degree over the next nine years, starting his career in nuclear physics before changing to telecommunications.

“It was a very good choice in many respects,” Froehlich says in what might be the understatement of the 20th century. “I went to Bell Telephone Laboratories, which was the biggest industrial laboratory in the world and I stayed there for 34 years.”

He didn’t hang around for 3-½ decades because he liked the food or because he got a good parking space. No, Froehlich was inventing things, starting with the telephone modem in 1956, which went into service in 1958.

“It was very limited, only 1200 bps and at that time we didn’t have many computers to hook together,” Froehlich remembers. “You could dial up anybody in the country and if they had a computer you could connect to it, but it was a difficult job because the system consisted of so many different carriers and parts.”

Not one to rest on his laurels, Froehlich was soon working on the first data satellite, broadcasting information from New York to London and New York to Paris from an orbiting satellite. Next came the first machine that let customers insert credit cards at a store and have the cards connected to a bank for instant purchases.

“The unit was not that much different from the one today,” Froehlich said. “It was a box with a telephone next to it.”

With seven papers and 50 publications, Froehlich retired from Bell to become a full professor at the University of Pittsburgh.

“We started a graduate degree program in telecommunications, and eventually Master’s degree and a doctorate degree,” he said. “My wife never moved to Pittsburgh so I commuted every second week from Florida.”

It takes a good husband to commute 1,200 miles twice a month, but considering Froehlich has been married to his wife Eileen for almost 68 years, she’s obviously worth it. Eileen was a nurse and became the head of a nursing association. The pair had three children.

When Froehlich retired from the University of Pittsburgh, he still didn’t quit working, helping putting out an 18-volume Encyclopedia of Telecommunications. He retired from that (for real this time) in 2001.

The Froehlichs have lived at Aston Gardens at Parkland Commons for 10 years and have stayed remarkably busy. Despite all his success, Froehlich has stayed true to his roots and remembered where he came from.

“It’s been a good stay for us,” he says. “I’ve been president of many different associations, but the one that is the most special is the Jewish War Veterans. I read books and until a few years ago I gave volunteer lectures, and we just take it easy and enjoy our days here.”

 

Frank Cavaioli - A Master’s in History and Political Science, a Ph.D in American history and political science, and veteran of the Korean War

Science has yet to develop a time machine to let us go back to see days long gone, but Frank Cavaioli already has his first stop selected should the occasion arise.

“I’d liked to have lived during the Federal Period of the 1780s,” the 87-year-old resident of Aston Gardens at Parkland Commons says. “I’d like to have seen the writing of the Constitution and the great heroes like George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and James Madison. We have the world’s greatest constitution and oldest written constitution still in use. It’s been copied by people all over the world.”

If you think Cavaioli might know a little more about history than your average person, you’re wrong. He knows a lot more than just about anyone when it comes to history, because that’s his great passion in life.

You see, Frank, the affable, well-spoken Parkland Commons resident you might see enjoying a lecture or socializing with friends, is actually Frank J. Cavaioli, Professor Emeritus, Farmingdale State College, SUNY-NY.

A native of New York and a father of six, Cavaioli always loved history, and his specialty through the years became the founding of our nation and the drafting of the US Constitution. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in American Civilization from the University of Tennessee, a Master’s in History and Political Science, and a Ph.D in American history and political science, both from St. John’s University.

Cavaioli’s own history includes growing up in Queens before moving to Long Island with his wife in 1957. The pair raised six children while Cavaioli began his tenure at Farmingdale, a state college of just over 9,000 students

A veteran of the Korean War, Cavaioli gave his students one of the most unique perspectives on American life - he was a child during the Great Depression, a teenager during World War II, an active combatant in Korea, and now then professor, teaching them about how it all started for the US.

“The greatest asset in every class I taught was the students,” Cavaioli said. “They kept you on your toes. Things changed a lot over the years I was a professor, and even more so after I left. There is a lack of discipline on campuses from professors becoming too partisan when it comes to political science. It makes the students become too partisan in turn, which makes it difficult to agree on anything.”

As Cavaioli’s academic career grew, he began to be recognized more and more as one of the top names in his field. He won the SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching, the Freedom Foundation George Washington Honor Medal, and many more awards for his service.

 

When he retired in 1991, he and his wife moved to Pompano, Florida, and lived there for 22 years. But Cavaioli’s passion for history never waned, evidenced by his 2007 publication of “Pompano Beach: A History”, one of 11 books he has written.

In 2012, Farmingdale celebrated its 100th year as a university, and who better to write that 100-year history in book form than one of its most celebrated academic minds? Cavaioli gladly took the position.

After leaving Pompano, Cavaioli moved to Aston Gardens at Parkland Commons and found it an ideal fit for his passions and his needs.

“The food is good, the staff is excellent, it’s a very caring staff, they make very sure that we are well served,” Cavaioli said. “What I really enjoy is the people. They are very friendly, sociable, intelligent, and warm.”

Intelligence and academia remain Cavaioli’s two biggest contributors in keeping Father Time at an arm’s length.

I’m very active intellectually and academically,” he says. “I go to lectures and I participate in conferences. I walk and exercise and socialize with the other residents here very well.”

And as the community’s go-to expert on history and politics, he gets plenty of questions about the current situation in Washington, but draws on history as a reassurance for himself and for others.

“It’s unfortunate that we can’t get together on anything, but things will turn out OK. We’ve had issues and problems in the past: major wars, civil wars, you name it. The thing to know is that we’ve always been a reformist nation. We always correct the problem.”