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.

Vanya Neer - Soaring Through The Skies

Although she’s traveled and lived all over the country, something has always called Vanya Neer back to Florida.

Born in Brooklyn, she first headed for the Sunshine State at age 19; she had an aunt in Miami and wanted to see what the world looked like outside of New York.

As it turns out, she got to see a whole lot more than Miami in the years to come. Neer found work as a stewardess for southeastern power National Airlines in the late 1940s.

“I worked the line from Miami to Tampa to Valdosta, Georgia, to New Orleans,” Neer remembers. “Back then, Tampa’s airport was a tiny little pink building, and I worked on a Lockheed Lodestar, which was a 14-passenger airplane.”

It was more than that. The Lodestar was the backbone of National’s fleet, with more than 625 models in use at one point. Prior to that it had served in World War II as the C-60 in the Army Air Force and the R50 in the Navy. With its endurance and reliability, the Lodestar opened up the whole East Coast to Lockheed, which also became the first American airline company to fly into Cuba on a regular basis.

While she loved the work, Neer had one strict rule about mixing business and pleasure.

“I had sworn off marrying a pilot,” she recalls. “We weren’t supposed to really fraternize with them and I knew it was just a bad idea.”
So what did she do?

“I married a pilot,” the 88-year-old resident of Aston Gardens at Pelican Pointe laughs. “I turned around and married a pilot, and we were married for 54 years which just goes to show you that you never know what’s going to be good for you.”

Neer’s late husband was an airline pilot for a commercial charter outfit, and the pair wound up living all over the country as their careers took them to the likes of Pennsylvania, Virginia, Ohio, Alabama, Tennessee, and New Jersey.

Not surprisingly, Florida’s warm climate and friendly folks kept Neer and her husband coming back. She lived in Bradenton for 30 years and Vero Beach for another 10.

After her husband’s passing and with no children of her own, Neer’s affairs were in the charge of her niece who lived in Placida. With Vero Beach more than three hours across the peninsula, Neer decided to make a change.

“I got this idea that I was getting a little bit older, so I should be closer to her for her sake, if not necessarily for mine. I knew Venice a little bit from decades ago, so I went online and looked around,” she said. “I came over and checked it out, then drove everywhere with a friend to check out two or three other places. The best one was Aston Gardens by far; it had a full kitchen and a washer/dryer in your apartment, and that just makes things a whole lot easier.”

As it turned out, Neer’s intuition to move closer to family was a blessing in disguise.

“I’ve been pretty active since I moved here, but I”m losing my eyesight,” Neer says. “I used to be a quilter and an artist and was really quite busy, but my sewing and artwork days are over.”

The loss of her vision hasn’t come anywhere close to slowing Neer down, however.

“I’ve learned to play Mahjong and Euchre; I’d never played either of them before in my entire life,” she says. “But I find the very best thing about Aston Gardens is that there are a lot of wonderful, interesting people here; everyone is from someplace and has some kind of a story from all walks of life. They’ve lived in different places and done all kinds of interesting things.”

There’s so much to talk about in fact that Neer spearheaded an effort to form a women’s discussion group.

“The men had started a discussion group, and a few of us asked if we could join it, but they wouldn’t let us in!” Neer recalls “So we went and started our own. And the rules are: No politics, no religion, no Aston Gardens, and no body parts. Everyone has a problem or they wouldn’t be here.”

The best part is, they never have to enforce the rules, not even once.

“We’re women,” Neer says with a chuckle. “It doesn’t take much for us to find something to talk about.”

Rose Saperstein - Spirited Entrepreneur

Rose Saperstein was born and raised in the sprawling metropolis of New York City, but found that the small-town life was more her speed.

She learned that when she moved with her husband to Walton, New York, to start a business in the 1940s. Back then, Walton’s population topped out a little less than 4,000, or about 0.5% of the Big Apple’s 7.9 million souls.

“I was born in New York City and lived there all my life until I married my husband,” Saperstein says. “I was working for his uncle when I met him, and we moved to Walton, where he was from. He worked as a furniture store manager and we settle down and had our two children.”

Like a lot of people of their generation, the Sapersteins were determined to do it on their own. Rose’s husband had worked for family members at two previous jobs, but wanted to make his own name. The two opened a department store in Walton.

‘We went into business, and we didn’t know anything about business, and learned the hard way for 22 years,” Saperstein says.

Despite growing up in the urban jungle, Saperstein found herself charmed by Walton’s earnest, Anytown USA appeal. “I loved just going downtown and walking, greeting people and saying hello,” Saperstein recalls. “I’m a people person and I’d never had an experience like it.”

That is, until she came to Aston Gardens at Pelican Pointe.

She had lived in the Venice area for a while, and a friend had spent three years trying to convince her to make the move. She finally did in the summer of 2016.

“You get that same small-town feel here, that people know your name, they care about you, and the are interested in you,” Saperstein says.

Saperstein’s husband had passed away more than a decade ago,and she had remained resolute about living on her own for quite a while.

“My son lives in Naples, and he was concerned about me living alone, but he didn’t urge me,” she says. “A few years ago, I wasn’t ready to move to a place like this, but i just decided it was time.”

Moving to Aston Gardens at Pelican Pointe has taken Saperstein back to those small-town days of her former life as she spends time with friends inside the community and outside of it, enjoying her pastimes.”

“I always tell people that living here is as close to Utopia as you get,” Saperstein says. ‘It’s a lovely place to retire. I love meeting new people when I go downstairs. The sociability of this place is one of its very best features. There’s no cooking unless you want to, no cleaning, we’re fed beautifully at night, and the young people in the dining room are well trained and the nicest kids you’ll ever want to meet.”

Saperstein might be one of the oldest residents of Aston Gardens at Pelican Pointe (we promised to keep her age a secret) but she’s also one of the busiest.

“There are innumerable things to do here,” she says. “There’s an entire variety of activities throughout the community. I have friends on the outside i visit to play mahjong, and when I’m here I tend to do the lecture series and the musical programs that come once a month.

We have a gentleman, a minister, who comes once a month to talk about what’s going on in the world - he doesn’t take sides, he just has a very general view of things.”

While not everyone can have as positive an outlook on life in retirement as Saperstein does, she offers one bit of advice for newcomers to the community: “If you come in with an open mind and the ability to try and be comfortable, you’re going to love it.’

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