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Issue Date: My Turn NE February


New train of thought

A former physician engineers his favorite hobby. Don and Joyce Parker (below) enjoy this time of life. Above, Don makes a preliminary study of his garden railway.

Steve Herrick

While most of us can only count the days until spring, Don Parker is already fully immersed in the season. When the first leaves fell last fall, he began perusing nursery catalogues, keeping an eye out for the miniature Eastern white cedar trees, hardy pink geraniums and spirea that will soon fill the garden behind his home.

Five months ago, Don and his wife, Joyce, decided to downsize from their house in West Salem and make the move to Kendal at Oberlin.

As they relax in their one-bedroom cottage, Don, 74, and Joyce, 72, share their philosophy about this point in their lives.

“We believe everyone can make a difference in the world, and that helping others should continue after retirement,” says Joyce, a former nurse who fills her days engaged in sewing projects and other charitable endeavors for her church.

The continuing-care community’s commitment to the environment is particularly appealing to Don, who received his certification in master gardening from The Ohio State University Extension in 1998.

“Many of our new neighbors are also involved in recycling projects,” he says. “Those are principles Joyce and I are committed to. We’re also pleased about the fact that we can leave a smaller environmental footprint by living in a smaller space.”

A retired nephrologist, Don finally has the time to pursue his favorite hobby: building miniature garden railway systems. Four trains, each with cars the size of a loaf of bread, will soon be winding past scale-model-sized mountains, bridges and streams. A focal point of the intricate setting is a train station modeled after a turn-of-the-last-century landmark in Joyce’s hometown of Brookville, Ohio.

“As a kid, I was interested in trains, and then in my adult life, I became interested in gardening. When a friend gave me a copy of Garden Railways Magazine, I hooked the two together,” says Don, who writes a column about horticulture for the bimonthly publication.

As the daylight hours lengthen, Don looks forward to sharing his outdoor pursuit. “Kendal at Oberlin is a close community of people who have a variety of interests,” he says. “That’s one of the reasons we decided to move here.”

The couple value the cultural lifestyle Kendal offers. The close proximity to Oberlin College gives residents easy access to classes, lectures and musical performances.

“We’re glad we made the move at this stage of our lives,” says Joyce, “when we can enjoy it to the fullest.”


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