Published: November 29, 2023
Kendal at Oberlin is home to more than 300 men and women in their 60s and well beyond. They come from near (Oberlin and Cleveland) and far (Hawaii, Canada and elsewhere). The residents share many common values, such as sustainability and lifelong learning, and many have ties to Oberlin College. But each resident has his or her own unique story. Here is Grace Tompos’ story.Grace Tompos arrived at Kendal driving “Big Red” and wearing clothing decorated with animal prints. She didn’t know anyone but after visiting nearly a dozen life plan communities was sure Kendal at Oberlin was the right place for her.
Now, 11 years later, she still drives the red Prius and wears animal print clothes and more importantly warmly calls Kendal home.
“I am so thankful for my friends here,” she says, listing names of men and women who have become “my Kendal family, that’s what they are.”
Life at Kendal
Last year she stepped down as chair of Kendal’s Philanthropy Committee, which had been a good fit for Grace given her 35 years in development at the College of Wooster. She continues to serve on the Kendal Charitable Funds board.
She also volunteers as Facility Services co-liaison with Randy Wagner, a job that is also a good fit.
“I walk all the time – 12,000 to 14,000 steps a day according to my Fitbit,” Grace says. “So today I’ll walk down all the covered walkways looking for lightbulbs that are burned out. And Randy is a perfect team partner for me because of his engineering background. I love this job.”
Projects at the top of the liaison list are new garages on Lot 3 and ongoing cottage renovations - about three dozen cottages still need to be renovated and that occurs as people move out. The community is also replacing outdoor lighting with lighting that is energy efficient and reduces light pollution. Kendal hopes to become the first life plan community to be certified as a “dark sky community.”
During many of Grace’s walks, residents stop to tell her of a problem or concern, which she brings to the attention of Rey Carrion, Facility Services director, during their weekly Zoom meeting. Along with attention to detail, Grace says the liaison position also requires “keeping quiet” when concerns are private.
Off campus, Grace is a volunteer at the Allen Memorial Art Museum and is working to revive the Museum Guild, founded by Kendal resident Mary Louise VanDyke, who died in 2021.
Life before Kendal
During her years living in Wooster, Grace learned how to fly a Cessna 172 and had a pilot’s license for many years. Now she enjoys the occasional flights with her son Michael at the helm, especially over the Mississippi River in his home state of Minnesota.
She was also an avid traveler – throughout the U.S. for work and overseas for pleasure. An African safari and an elephant ride in Thailand cemented her love for animals – and animal prints. “I would say half of my wardrobe is animal prints,” she laughs, along with many home decorations, such as a coffee table sitting atop three giraffe neck carvings.
For her 87th birthday in April, Grace’s good friend Ruth Ann Clark found a baker to make a cake decorated with leopard print icing. Her friends knew some piece of Grace’s clothing – on this night a vest- would undoubtedly match the cake.
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In the past, Molly Kavanaugh frequently wrote about Kendal at Oberlin for the Cleveland Plain Dealer, where she was a reporter for 16 years. Now we are happy to have her writing for the Kendal at Oberlin Community.
About Kendal at Oberlin: Kendal is a nonprofit life plan community serving older adults in northeast Ohio. Located about one mile from Oberlin College and Conservatory, and about a 40 minute drive from downtown Cleveland, Kendal offers a vibrant resident-led lifestyle with access to music, art and lifelong learning.