Resident Spotlight: Patricia O’Brien

March 8, 2018

Patricia O’Brien: A Life of Many Seasons

Patricia O’Brien has led a multifaceted life, living in different climates, countries, and circumstances – from young Navy wife to entrepreneur to retired European explorer.

Patricia O'BrienOnce the children reached adulthood and left the home, a new life season began. Tilt accepted an assignment in Alberta, Canada, and he and Patricia made a home there for 5 years. “Sixty degrees below zero was the coldest we ever lived through there. It wasn’t near that temperature most of the time. There was also a lot of sunshine and long summer days,” Patricia recalls. While Tilt worked, Patricia enrolled in various college courses, studying accounting, French, and painting. These courses laid the foundation for their next phase. When Tilt retired, the couple moved to San Jose and Patricia created her own business, the Yarn Studio, and ran it for 10 years. Patricia tells me, “When I had the shop, Tilt said one day, ‘If you ever sell the shop, I’d like to live in Europe for a while.’ Sure enough, the shop sold a month later!”

The couple then embarked on their European adventure. Patricia recalls, “We happened to be in Germany the day the wall came down and Germany was reunited. I remember people lined up at the post office wanting to get the first printing of the new unified stamps.”

Upon returning to California, Patricia put her accounting knowledge to work and started a career as an Enrolled Agent, preparing income tax returns for her neighbors and, later, a full book of clients. During this time, Tilt participated in an active retirement club where he planned group sightseeing trips around the world. “We visited places like Rome and the Greek Isles. It was a wonderful opportunity,” Patricia says.

Now at Sterling Court, Patricia finds herself in a new season of life. She still enjoys painting and recently displayed several of her works in the Sterling Court community art show. Staying connected to family also remains important to Patricia, and her circle has grown exponentially over time to now include 12 grandchildren and 16 great-grandchildren. Closer to home, her sister, Arlene, lives just across the hall. Speaking of her sister, she smiles, “We get along very well. We spend a lot of time together, but we also make a point to meet other people here.”

Read this article and more in our March newsletter.

A Lasting Legacy: Writing Your Life Story

February 23, 2018

UntitledTelling Your Story

Over the years, your words and wisdom have no doubt helped shape the lives of those around you – your children, partner, colleagues, and even fellow Sterling Court residents. Each of us has a unique set of experiences and resulting life lessons, and the practice of sharing these can forge new friendships, deepen existing relationships, and impart insight. One way to share your story is to write it down as part of a growing trend called “life story writing.” 

The Benefits of Recording Your Story

It has been reported that those who write their life stories often find a new appreciation for the people and events that they have experienced in their past. The act of reviewing and recording memories allows you to tell your story from your perspective and, as a result, realize how distinct and important your life has been. You may recall a previous struggle that you successfully overcame or a significant goal that you achieved. The process of reviewing these memories can strengthen your self-confidence and improve your attitude toward confronting new life challenges.

How to Start

The task of writing your life story may initially seem daunting, but there are no rules for how to format or record your tales. The trick is to just start writing. Whether you put pen to paper or use a computer, start by recording a single event, something that sticks out to you, or a story that you have told many times before. Once the words start flowing, writing will not seem as momentous a task, and you can go back and reorder your stories later.

Another helpful tip is not to get hung up on spelling or grammar when first transcribing your thoughts. When starting out, it is more important to open your memory floodgates and get reacquainted with writing than to capture every word in a print-perfect form.

Lastly, another good way to get the ball rolling is to conduct a personal interview – either of yourself or by enlisting the help of a friend or family member to interview you and record your answers. Here are a few interview prompts that may jump-start your memories:

  1. What personal accomplishment brings you the most pride – parenthood, a home you built, a business you started, etc.?
  2. What is one of your best childhood memories?
  3. What advice would you give your 20-year-old self?


The practice of life story writing is expanding as new generations with an interest in preserving their stories enter retirement. There are several resources dedicated to helping storytellers pass on their memories, including books, websites such as A Life Untold and Your Life is Your Story, and even community classes right here on the Peninsula.


No matter how you go about it, the practice of recording your life story is sure to help you gain a deeper perspective on your past, as well as serve as a cherished gift to your loved ones that they can pass down to future generations.

Read this article and more in our February newsletter.

Fun Facts: U.S. Presidents

February 19, 2018

Presidential Trivia

Happy Presidents’ Day! How many of these facts did you know about the former presidents of the United States? Let us know!
Presidential Trivia

  1. George Washington is the only president to be elected unanimously.
  2. John Quincy Adams wore the same hat for 10 years.
  3. Martin Van Buren was the first president born as a U.S. citizen.
  4. James Polk’s wife, Sarah Childress, banned dancing in the White House.
  5. Abraham Lincoln was the first president born outside of the original 13 colonies.
  6. Ulysses S. Grant was once fined $20 for speeding on his horse.
  7. James Garfield entertained friends by writing Latin with one hand and Greek with the other.
  8. Gerald Ford was an assistant football coach at Yale, played football at the University of Michigan, and turned down offers to play for the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears.
  9. William Henry Harrison was inaugurated on a bitterly cold day and gave the longest inauguration speech ever. He promptly caught a cold that soon developed into pneumonia. Harrison died exactly one month into his presidential term, the shortest in U.S. history.
  10. John Tyler fathered 15 children (more than any other president; 8 by his first wife and 7 by his second wife. Tyler was 70 years old when his 15th child was born.)
  11. Often depicted wearing a tall, black, stovepipe hat, Abraham Lincoln carried letters, bills, and notes in his hat.
  12. The teddy bear derived from Theodore (“Teddy”) Roosevelt’s refusal to shoot a bear with her cub while on a hunting trip in Mississippi.
  13. The letter “S” comprises the full middle name of Harry S. Truman. It represents two of his grandfathers, whose names both had “S” in them.

Read this article and more in our February newsletter.

Resident Spotlight: Arlene Murphy

February 5, 2018

Arlene Murphy: City Sophisticate

Arlene Murphy is a city person, that much is clear. When I meet her on a balmy California day and comment on the warm weather, she indicates that while she appreciates the temperate climate, cold weather is OK, too, especially when it’s accompanied with all the amenities of a bustling city. 

Born and raised in Pocatello, Idaho, Arlene started off working for the Union Pacific Railroad until junior college, and eventually set out for the University of Michigan to pursue a degree in nursing. Though she ultimately decided against a nursing career, the move was still a success, since it brought her one step closer to moving to Chicago, where she really hit her stride.

“I really enjoyed Chicago,” she tells me. “I worked for a big manufacturing company first, then moved to a little candy company for several years after that,” Arlene says. “While I worked, I finished my bachelor’s degree in the evening, and then took a job in hospital personnel. I stayed at the hospital and eventually worked with the nursing students while I obtained my master’s degree.”

When asked what attracted her most to city life – the shopping, scenery, museums, or something else – she enthusiastically replies, “All of the above! I liked the variety, it was just fascinating.”

She continues, “When I first moved to the city, I shared an apartment with two other ladies right downtown. It was so elegant. We were near the Palmolive Building and I remember seeing its beacon shining and how impressive that was. Now that building is dwarfed by everything else around
it! It was amazing to see the city change over the years that I lived there.”

Regarding her Chicago neighborhood, she says, “I lived in Near North, a tight-knit community where I knew my neighbors. We worked for several years to have it recognized as a historical district, which it eventually was.”

Her Near North home was a labor of love. “At that time, rehabbers were buying old houses and fixing them up. I didn’t set out to do that, but I
found an 1880s house that I liked, and it needed a lot of work. I bought it and spent 5 years fixing it up.”

Asked about making the transition from busy urban life to calmer California, Arlene muses, “I had been in and out of here to visit on holidays and I always quite liked it.”

Arlene spent 50 years in her beloved Chicago before relocating to San Jose, where she lived close to her sister Patricia. After several years in San Jose,
the sisters decided to move to Sterling Court to be closer to Patricia’s children.

While her urban landscape has changed, Arlene’s upbeat attitude and thirst for variety remain the same. Now, she does her downtown exploring on Burlingame Avenue and says, “It’s changed a lot here, too. It’s lovely in its own way. I’m enjoying downtown Burlingame and meeting everyone here at Sterling Court.”

Read this article and more in our February newsletter.

Hat History

February 1, 2018

The History of Hats


People have covered their heads with various materials to protect themselves from, heat, rain, or other elements since ancient times. The first recorded use of a hat with a brim was in the 5th century B.C. in Greece. The felt petasos was a wide-brimmed hat worn by huntsmen and travelers for protection from the elements. This hat was popular into the Middle Ages.

Another early hat was a brimless hat made out of felt shaped like a truncated cone. The Greeks copied the design from the Egyptians and named it pilos, which means “felt.” Over the years, there were variations throughout Europe. With the rise of universities in the late Middle Ages, the pileus quadratus, or four-sided felt hat, became the head covering for scholars. It later became known as the mortarboard worn by graduates.

Throughout history, men have worn hats and it was acceptable for them to keep them on indoors, even in churches. In the 16th century, men wore false hair and wigs. As the size of the wigs grew, it became impossible for most men to wear hats. As the fad of wigs declined towards the late 1700s, men started wearing hats again and new customs included men not wearing hats indoors, in church, or in the presence of women. In addition, hats for men were considered important items.

In contrast, women wore soft head coverings such as veils, kerchiefs, and hoods, but not hats. Bonnets were known as small, soft hats. Most European women wore plain caps indoors and hoods outside. In the late 1700s, women in the upper and middle classes, as well as country women, began to wear hats decorated with ribbons, feathers, and flowers.

During this time, a bonnet became known as a particular type of large, brimmed woman’s hat that tied under the chin and was decorated with gauze and feathers. Milan, Italy, became the bonnet capital of Europe, and other Milanese hats were in great demand. As a result, the word “milliner” became synonymous with hat makers. Hats became fashion items for women.

Read this article and more in our January newsletter.

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850 N. El Camino Real San Mateo, CA 94401 Phone: (650) 344-8200 Fax: (650) 344-7395

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