When you hear “father,” do you think of taking in 20 foster children over 25 years, many of them teenagers? … adopting seven of them in addition to three biological children of their own? How about putting them all through college?
Ben*, 85, a member at our Montecito Center, is this father. He and his wife, Genie*, now also have 13 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren!
A native of Santa Barbara, Ben married Genie in 1958, moving into their current home in Montecito in 1967. “His heart’s always been in the outdoors,” says Genie. “He planted our yard with ferns and made rock features and trails to resemble the Sierras.”
Their son Dave remembers lots of fishing, hiking, camping, and road trips across the country with the family. “Dad loved seeing people enjoying themselves and making memories,” he says. He shares that Ben had high expectations of his kids, but also set them up for success with plenty of support and encouragement. Ben’s motto: “Have fun, with boundaries.”
Five of Ben and Genie’s children had children of their own in close succession, resulting in ten grandchildren close in age. Ben set up a “Cousin Camp” in the summer in their backyard so the young cousins could all spend time together.
“As a family, we worked first and played second,” his daughter Mel tells us, “But then we played hard. And Dad always made time for us kids.”
Over the 40 years he was a partner with his CPA firm, Ben wrote introductions to each company newsletter, humorous and heartfelt life advice, later compiled into booklets of his “Ben-isms.” A granddaughter recalls fondly the personalized birthday and holidays cards he made by hand, with photos, for all family members as he stayed busy into retirement.
According to his family, Ben has always been a “kid at heart,” and with their children, built a tree-house and 75-foot zip-line in their extensive backyard.
“Gardening has long been his hobby,” says Genie. Now that Ben spends his days at Friendship Center, he enjoys our outdoor courtyard and raised garden beds. We want as many of our members as possible to enjoy this experience too.
To this goal, the Friendship Garden Project aims to create a renewed “sensory garden” in our courtyard. This model has been used all over the world for people with dementia, and is proven to be calming while also mentally stimulating. Improved walkways, new outdoor furniture, and dividers planted with succulents will help us better utilize our space and allow for privacy and reflection, as well as different social groupings. While we’re not planning to install a zip-line, we look forward to making our outdoor space as enjoyable as possible for our members.
The Friendship Garden Project is an opportunity to contribute to the quality of life for all the fathers like Ben and other wonderful members who spend their days with us. When you make a gift to the Garden Project, the name of your family or a special loved one will be displayed in the courtyard as a lasting memory.
Recently, Ben and Genie hosted the rehearsal dinner for a granddaughter’s wedding in the backyard he takes such pride in. What a tribute to his success as a father—a celebratory gathering of his extended family in such special surroundings.
As we approach Father’s Day, won’t you support Friendship Center with a gift in memory or in honor of your father or loved one?
p.s.—To see developments on our Garden Project and share this story with a friend, “Like” us on Facebook at Friendship Adult Day Services
*Names have been changed