Lynne and Charlotte Find Home

October 5, 2021

Lynne Leahy didn’t think this interview was about her – she thought it was about her dog, Charlotte – and that should tell you a lot about Lynne. After Lynne describes the sweet yellow Labrador who came into her life from a rescue that brings dogs from Texas, where they’re scheduled to be euthanized, to new homes in Portland Oregon, she’s ready to talk a little about herself. It turns out Lynne’s life has had a few ups and downs too.

After Lynne was born in Oakland, her parents – dad, a merchant marine and mom, a secretary – moved them to Walnut Creek, where they had two more children and Lynne got a dog named Posey. “The only creature I got along with,” says Lynne. “Mom and dad had problems.” Her dad was an alcoholic and had to go to prison, so Lynne’s mom moved the rest of the family to Salt Lake City to be near relatives. While Lynne admired her mother’s survival instincts, she knew SLC was not the place for her.

At 18, while working as a carhop at the A&W, she met a clean-cut young man who seemed dependable and different from the usual guys she dated. “I was dating guys who rode Harley Davidsons,” she says. Best of all, he was from California, and she was itching to get back there. After they married and moved to California, her husband joined the Navy and they had two boys. But their marriage broke up and Lynne learned something about herself, “I am truly an alcoholic.” By 29, she didn’t think she was going to make it, but a friend took her to a 12-step support group meeting in Belmont and she has been sober ever since. She found herself single with two young sons. “It wasn’t easy, but we stuck together. The support group was essential.”

Then, Lynne learned something else about herself, “I am a great salesperson!” She began selling office equipment and became the first woman to be named Salesperson of the Year of the international company! Lynne later used those same skills when she started her own successful company selling drinking water systems to offices. She remembers an early client, a little Mountain View startup that needed to order the system on credit. Luckily, Google turned out to be an excellent client!

During this time, she met a man, and they were together a long time, living in the San Carlos hills. They both made good money and her kids thrived. He was a skilled plumber, leading to one of her sons becoming a plumber too. He’d been sober for 20 years but when he started drinking again, he couldn’t stop, so she moved to a condo near downtown San Carlos. A good friend, a retired interior designer, helped her decorate. Together they visited estate sales and thrift stores and they made her place look great!

Around then, she met a new man who had a studio apartment in Sausalito and another apartment in London, and he wanted her to come live with him, so she put her condo on the market. They were great together for 8 years. She had sold her company and retired so they traveled a great deal. When she had to go back to work temporarily, he didn’t want a working wife and left her in Sausalito.

Lynne, who admits she is prone to impulsive decisions, moved to Portland, Oregon, where she stayed for 7 years, and Charlotte came into her life. But the recent political events changed Portland and she knew she had to move.

“I asked my heart, ‘Where do I belong?’ I knew I needed to come home and I thought of San Carlos.” She went online to review the area and Sterling Court stood out. “I wanted a place to grow old, where they’d cook for me, and I’d have companionship.” Her one worry was that Charlotte, her dog, wouldn’t be allowed (not to mention Sheba, her little stray kitty). But they assured her, that if Charlotte was trained, she would be fine at Sterling Court. And they were right.

In the future, Lynne is looking forward to starting art projects and helping other single moms, which is a big part of her own recovery program. But currently, she and Charlotte have settled into a great routine. They go to Peet’s, run errands, and for 20 minutes a day, Lynne rides her Peloton stationary bike. Then they head down to dinner. “People line up at my table – not to talk to me but to pet Charlotte and get love from her!” And you can tell by the way Lynne laughs when she says it, that’s just fine with her!

Around the World with Arleen & Ed Johnson

November 24, 2020

If you’re ready for a fun and fascinating conversation with Arleen and Ed, ask them about their travels. They have made 76 overseas flights, taken cruises, and driven an RV up and down the coasts, and when you talk to them, their enthusiasm is catching!

Ed grew up primarily in South San Francisco and Arleen was raised in San Mateo. They both say they had wonderful childhoods. Each went on an international trip when young and caught the travel bug early.

The couple met working for Pan American World Airways. Ed worked in engine overhaul and Arleen as a secretary. “There were 200 mechanics – and me in an office with the boss,” laughs Arleen. It will be 59 years together this month and both agree, they are still best friends.

In the early years, Pan Am gave employees a free ticket each year. Arleen and Ed’s first trip was their honeymoon to Mexico City. The next year it was Germany. When they landed in a new country, they would rent a car and never worry about speaking the language. Ed was an excellent driver and Arleen read the map. They drove in every European country, including the UK, Sweden, and Eastern Europe. Already avid skiers with a Tahoe cabin, they skied beautiful villages in Austria (getting tipsy on mulled glühwein), Switzerland, and Italy on the side of the Matterhorn. “It was so exciting and one of my best memories,” says Arleen with Ed’s agreement.

“We flew to Greece where we got lost in the countryside and were helped by a non-English-speaking man who got us back to the main highway with his pointing at our maps!” says Arleen. They flew into Iran and walked the streets of Tehran. “It was a blessed time to travel. The world was peaceful,” says Arleen. “Beirut was a beautiful city. ‘The Paris of the Middle East’ it was called and it really was,” says Arleen. Other travels included Iran, Syria, Australia, New Zealand, China, Japan, and South America including Peru’s Machu Picchu and Southeast Asia to Cambodia and Vietnam. “The people of Vietnam were probably the friendliest we’ve met anywhere,” says Arleen.

In 1960, due to a shift in operations, Ed went to work for Coca-Cola, but Arleen stayed at Pan Am for 35 years. At 25 years, they gave her a free trip to anywhere. “Others chose Hawaii or New York. I wanted to go around the world,” says Arleen. The airline flew them first class and they were treated like celebrities during a three-week trip. They saw Bangkok, New Delhi, and Singapore, staying several days in each place to absorb the countryside.

They even took weekend trips to Hawaii, London, and Paris. To avoid jet lag, they flew on the newly introduced and nearly empty 747s sleeping on an empty row of seats. (Though they confess that on one trip they fell asleep at the Folies Bergère.)

Ed is quick to say that they know how lucky they were to have these opportunities. He adds that by traveling standby, in the off-season, and avoiding tourist spots, they traveled very inexpensively. Their favorite places to stay were little inns in small towns barely on the map. Usually, they were the only Americans in town.

When they got a little older, they drove an RV all over the coastal U.S. and into Canada. They’ve also cruised the Black and Baltic seas, to the Caribbean islands, Cuba, and the Panama Canal.

They may no longer travel as much, but still act internationally by sponsoring two children, one a 16-year-old girl in Albania (since she was just 4) and more recently a little boy in Romania, via an organization called World Vision. They love staying in touch with them and following their progress.

Before moving to Sterling Court a year and a half ago, they’d had a home in the Belmont hills for 46 years and keep a framed panorama of its view. They love their 2-bedroom apartment here, filling it with mementos and decorating every wall with photos of their travels. “I look around the rooms and hallway,” says Ed, “and I see all of the places we’ve been.”

They loved every country and said there isn’t one they wouldn’t love to see again. When you talk with them, it feels a little bit like you’ve been there too!

Lois Murphy: A Farmgirl with a Big Heart

April 14, 2020

Lois Murphy didn’t think she had a story to tell until she started talking. It turns out she has met three U.S. Presidents, won awards, plus had a life of caring for others and working hard.

“I was always a person who liked to work. I was born in the Depression and wanted to get a job,” says Lois. She grew up in Winters, California – farm country. “By the time I was 7, I had a job picking up figs off the ground. Then, I packed figs until I was 10. I was really a farmgirl!”

Working in between school, Lois’s jobs added up. “At 12, I got a job at the dime store. At 15, the drug story lady took me away from the dime store. Then I went to work in the ice cream parlor,” says Lois. Next, it was to the insurance business up the street. “It was so much fun because I knew everyone in town.”

One of the town people was Tom, a high school football and basketball star. “He was like, unattainable,” says Lois. Nevertheless, he asked her out. After she left to attend college in Sacramento, her mother had a nervous breakdown and Lois came home to look after her. It was then that she and Tom decided to get married and Tom got called up for duty in Korea. They upped their wedding date from spring to January.

Lois was 20 when her husband came back. Unable to have children, they adopted two – a brother and sister. Then 18 months later, she had a baby! When her youngest was 5, Tom was killed in a car accident and her father was dying of cancer.

Her dad ran the Paradise Park Masonic Club in Santa Cruz, so Lois and her 3 children moved there to help. One day, her children met two children whose father, Frank, was a widower. “He had heart problems, had been given five years to live, and needed someone to look after his children.” Frank asked her to marry him. Still depressed about her dad and Tom, Lois said yes. They met in July, married in September, and then got to know each other. Frank worked in San Francisco, so they bought a house in Belmont and Lois enrolled her 5 children – aged 6 to 13 – into school.

Still a farmgirl at heart, Lois started a local 4H chapter. Soon the chapter had a farm, 150 members, a dance, and a scholarship program. She ran it for years and won many volunteering awards! Through connections at 4H, she was hired by then Supervisor and later Congressman Bill Royer to run his office. She had fun in that job and met President Regan, first President Bush, and President Carter. She was also on the San Mateo Fair Board, their Livestock Advisory Committee, and the Board of Directors for the Cow Palace.

Her husband Frank, who had expected to live 5 years, lived 11 and then one morning, he didn’t wake up.

Time passed and Lois met a man named Joe. He invited her out and they hit it off. “Then I married him!” exclaims Lois. “He was the sweetest man. I called him the love of my life.” She and Joe bought an RV and traveled all over the US. Joe had a surgery and never fully recovered, then quite suddenly passed away from an aortic aneurysm. “Thank goodness I’ve always had my children close,” says Lois.

“In 2012, I met this man online. And what a cutie!” She and Cliff got along beautifully, and Lois’s daughter encouraged her to move in with him. “When he heard he said, ‘Oh great! You want to get married?’ And I said ‘No, my attorney told me if I ever got married again, he’d shoot me!” laughs Lois. They traveled all over. Cliff’s daughter said he’d never been happier. Just last, year he died of pancreatic cancer.

Lois’s daughter did not want her living alone so they visited Sterling Court and it was just right. The apartments were bigger than other places and her youngest daughter lives just up the road. Now, in her cozy apartment, Lois is looking forward to her 88th birthday.

Lois is right. She didn’t have a story to tell… It is an epic!

Springtime Salutations!

April 2, 2020

What “springs” to mind when we think of April (besides, of course, that it’s National Adopt-a-Ferret Month?! Instead, let’s go with “April showers” – sprinkling tidbits of all-things April, ushering in the month by highlighting special days, sharing a few wonderful quotes, and suggesting fun events to enjoy. A lovely April to all!

April 1: April Fool’s Day and National Walking Day.

Don’t be a fool! Put on your walking shoes and take a stroll through nature today. And if today doesn’t work for you, you can always join the Sterling Walkers on Fridays at 11am to enjoy some fresh air!

April 2: International Children’s Book Day and National Peanut Butter and Jelly Day.

Cat in the Hat? Where the Wild Things Are? The Little Prince? Gather a few friends and reminisce about your most beloved books as a kid – or that you read to your kids and grandkids. And what could go better with childhood memories than a P & J sandwich!

April 7: Full Pink Moon.

This will be the closest – and thereby the largest – supermoon of the year. Make sure to go outside tonight, take a look up at that bright lunar orb in the sky, and enjoy what’s sure to a be a beautiful evening.

April 9: Happy Birthday, Winston Churchill!

“We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.”

April 13: Scrabble Day.

Yay! Who doesn’t love a good game of Scrabble! And it just so happens to be Game day today at 1:00 p.m. in the Bristol Room. Come on down, spell out some words, and get your game on!

April 22: Earth Day.

Whether it’s sitting out in the lovely courtyard here at Sterling Court or going for a walk in one the many gorgeous parks here on the Peninsula, be sure to treat yourself to some fresh air and spend some quality time with this beautiful, precious planet of ours.

April 23: Shakespeare’s birthday.

Happy 456th, William! Get thee to the library – or Google – and celebrate this brilliant scribe by reciting a sonnet or two!

April 27: Babe Ruth Day.

“Never let the thought of striking out get in your way.”

April 29: Honoring Alfred Hitchcock.

Alfred Hitchcock was one of the most influential filmmakers of all time – Rear Window, Vertigo, The Birds (filmed right here in Bodega Bay in 1963) to name a few. Which is your favorite? Strike up a conversation with friends, perhaps even suggest having a Hitchcock movie night!

George Pappas: From Brooklyn to Berkeley and Beyond!

March 16, 2020

Born in Brooklyn, George Pappas still has a hint of a New York accent, but he has come a long way since then. He did most of his growing up in Manhasset, a small town on the North Shore of Long Island, during the Great Depression and World War II. In fact, he had expected to go to war.

“The high school built an obstacle course and we did 45 minutes of Navy calisthenics every day. We were all prepared to go into the service,” remembers George. Instead, the war ended and a year later when he was 18 his family moved to San Francisco. His parents had already lived there.

George’s father Louis was born in Greece. When he was just 13, he traveled alone to meet a cousin in Virginia and learned to be a candymaker. In 1907, the year after the earthquake, Louis moved to San Francisco and opened a candy store. Eventually, he wrote to his father back in Greece to say he was ready to marry. The next year, Louis went to Greece and married a young woman named Panagiota (Pauline, once she was here). They came to California for a while but Pauline wanted to live near family out East, so they moved to New York and raised their three sons.

Once the family was back in San Francisco, George decided to take some time before starting college and worked assisting a candymaker at his uncle’s store, The Red Poppy Candy Story on Polk Street. “They made all kinds of candies, jellies, and chocolates,” remembers George. After three years, George enrolled at UC Berkeley studying business administration and finance. He graduated in 1954 with an MBA in Finance. He then spent two years in the service, first in officer training and then at Nike Missile Bases in Washington State as a finance officer.

Back in civilian life, George went to work at Wells Fargo in San Francisco analyzing stocks and bonds, got married, and moved to Orinda. George and his first wife had two wonderful children: Andrea, an Art History Professor at Santa Clara University, and Clark who has three children and is a National Director at Canine Companions for Independence in Sebastopol.

After Wells Fargo, George joined Lawrence Berkeley and Livermore Labs where he became Budget Director and later Associate Laboratory Director for Administration. He stayed there until his retirement.

George and his second wife Nancy traveled the world. They went to England, Europe, Asia, Australia, British Columbia, bike tours of Brittany and Normandy, plus took seven cruises. On an 8-week trip to France and England, they rented a cottage in the Cotswolds and had friends visit. George enjoyed one of his passions: playing tennis against highly competitive team players. George and Nancy were married for 30 years and shared many unforgettable moments. She passed away just over three years ago.

When it was time to move again, George chose Sterling Court to be closer to his Peninsula friends and received excellent recommendations. “The food is good. And the people are pleasant and interesting,” he says. George may be retired but he still has a full computer setup and well-used desk for staying involved.

George’s life advice? “Live in the present and enjoy every day.” It’s obvious that this world-traveling Brooklyn Boy has lived by those words.

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