It’s no secret that Kendal at Oberlin is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year. It’s also no surprise, given the creative, talented and energetic men and women who call Kendal home, that the celebration is eclectic and extensive.
The pinnacle is a gala banquet on Oct. 6, the day in 1993 that a ribbon-cutting ceremony marked the arrival of Kendal’s first residents.
But the anniversary celebration has spanned the entire year, with theatrical productions and concerts, a home and garden tour, Oberlin College events and more. Many of Kendal’s annual events, such as Spring Fling and Winter Solstice, have incorporated birthday tributes and themes.
“Tons of people are involved, and we are having a wonderful time. It’s exciting,” says Carol Harvey, who is co-chairing the 25th celebration with Kathy Caldwell.
The 25th Kickoff Began in 2017
Celebrations actually began in November at Kendal at Oberlin Residents Association’s annual meeting.
In the fall of 1993, 187 residents moved into the retirement community. These residents are known as the “founders” and the 13 founders who still lived at Kendal were honored during the meeting (there are now 12) and given special “founder” nametags to wear throughout the year.
“Their vision and dedication have made and continue to make Kendal the home we love,” Marjorie Porter told the gathering.
CEO Barbara Thomas and nine other staff members were also recognized as staff “founders,” which prompted founder Alan Gage to add, “One of the reasons we lasted so long is Barbara Thomas and the excellent staff.”
All year residents have been wearing anniversary-decorated T-shirts and sweatshirts and using special shopping bags. A 25th banner hangs over the main door into the Heiser Community Center.
A dozen Kendal residents and staff gathered in February to talk about the community’s early days.
Gretchen Roose, a founder, recalled how people from the city and Oberlin College helped her husband, Ken, and other residents build the clay tennis courts. Later, community residents returned to play tennis.
The tennis courts set a “welcoming tone. It showed that Kendal was a community in unity with our larger community,” Barbara Thomas said.
In March, Kendal was honored during Oberlin College’s Artist Recital Series.
“It’s always a great joy to come to our concerts and see our Kendal community in force. We are greatly appreciative of your support, your steadfastness, your enthusiasm, not just in your concert attendance, but in all the things that you do to make Oberlin a welcoming and warm, vibrant and creative environment,” Andrea Kalyn, Dean of the Conservatory, told the audience.
During LGBT Pride Month in June, Kendal’s gay, lesbian and transgender residents shared their personal stories during a panel discussion called “25 and Proud.”
“Here at Kendal, we feel safe. More than safe—belonging to a community where the stated policy of inclusion and the Kendal values are more than words but run true in the life of this beloved community,” Ardith Hayes said.
The Countdown is Now On
The next few months are packed with anniversary events, both before and after the Oct. 6 dinner.
- A photographic display of Kendal’s early days in the college’s Mudd Library lobby;
- Artwork made by Kendal residents displayed at Firelands Association for the Visual Arts with a reception Sept. 16, 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.;
- Kendal Kabaret talent show (13 acts), with set design by Bob Cothran, in the recently renovated Heiser Auditorium;
- A talk about Kendal’s history by Richard Baznik, who wrote History of Kendal at Oberlin as part of the 20th anniversary;
- A play entitled “Welcome to Pleasant Ponds,” written by resident Don Parker for the 20th and revised for the 25th;
- A dessert reception announcing the final tally of a year-long effort to raise money for the Residents Assistance Fund, which provides assistance to residents who, through no fault of their own, outlive their financial resources;
- “Looking Back, Going Forward” reflection with luminaries on the Sunday before Thanksgiving.
Every year on Kendal’s anniversary residents and staff observe the occasion by eating a “simple supper” and donating money to the Oberlin Community Services.
“We at OCS are deeply grateful for Kendal’s outstanding commitment to serving the larger Oberlin community; we relish our partnership! The Simple Supper, an annual event that raises over $3000 for OCS, is a testimony to how dedicated Kendal and its residents are not only to giving, but to acknowledging the struggle that some in our community face to put food on the table,” said Executive Director Margaret Flood.
While the meal will not be simple this year for the 25th, the donation kettles will be out and undoubtedly filled.
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.