It was an unseasonably warm day when I had the pleasure to meet with David and Rosemary Zimmerman. A few days after the holidays, I was welcomed into their apartment to talk life, interests, art and hobbies and was able to get an inside look at these two wonderful people.
Upon entering, there was a picture of the lovely “Miss Kitty,” who the couple rescued when she came into their yard in 2011. Seeing that she had been spayed and declawed, David and Rosemary took her in, knowing she would have trouble surviving if they just left her be. They had always had animals in the home and couldn’t imagine life without one. Their home was adorned with baskets and cross stitch projects made by David, and the office space adjacent to the living room contained all of David’s train set building projects.
Rosemary and David met while at college, and when asked for their “love” story, I was told that Rosemary didn’t much care for David when they first met, but after seeing each other regularly through extra-curricular events and groups at their college, Rosemary found it within her heart to give him a chance, and nearly 60 years later says, “it just worked out well and so here we are,” with a laugh. She remembers going to ball games with him, playing bridge, and remembering that “somewhere down the line, I guess I had a change of heart.” David shrugged, visibly relieved that she did have a change of heart, and said, “Our marriage has always been a partnership, it’s never just been me or just Rosemary, we work together.”
When asked about what they were each studying, Rosemary stated that she majored in sociology and psychology, and David was majoring in psychology. David proceeded on to obtain his master’s degree in social work and received additional education at the University of Nebraska and the University of North Carolina. The couple has one child, a son, currently living in Raleigh whose name is Michael, as well as 3 grandchildren and one great grandchild who is 8 months old. Rosemary made mention that she was pregnant in college while trying to obtain her master’s degree, but didn’t finish so she could raise their son. She said she has no regrets about staying home with her little one and “wouldn’t have traded it for the world.”
David was working in the Public Health Sector and Rosemary in the child-welfare sector in an administrative position, where she later became the interim director in Cumberland County. David has also been involved with Habitat for Humanity.
I noticed that there were two pictures on the wall in their living room that I hadn’t seen just yet, both of race horses, and Rosemary riding one of them. When asked about the photos, Rosemary stated proudly, “The one on the right is me going to the Preakness! My maiden name is Jones, and the horse up there [that I’m riding] we called “Smarty Jones.” Both the horses went on to win the [Kentucky] Derby and the Preakness, but never went on to win the Belmont.” She motioned to the photo next to the photo of her and the horse, and then said, “that is a photo of one of my favorite Jockeys, Gary Stevens.”
A fun fact about Rosemary is that she used to race thoroughbreds starting back in 1997, and rode through the Preakness one year. When asked how she got into racing, she said that she had a friend she worked with who lived up in Baltimore who had three sisters, and their father always took them to the racetrack and she was a huge horse racing fan and, “…fell in love with it. It was just great to go to the races and be there with all of the excitement and everything, but I wasn’t too fond of the dressing up!” she laughed.
Rosemary has fond memories of heading to the racetrack and proceeds, “there was a place in Baltimore called Friendly Farms that we would always go to as sort of a traditional place for us to eat on Thursday night before the Black-Eyed Susan on Friday. Saturday we would head to the Preakness [.…] I thoroughly enjoyed the company and we would go to the racetrack and Maureen [her friend] would always place bets on the horse that had a jockey with green silks. If there was no jockey that had green silks, we would bet on horse number 4 because the 4th horse always has a green saddle blanket on…Maureen had three sisters, and we would pool our money together, and sometimes we would get something and other times we wouldn’t. One time I was so proud of myself, I bet on the long shot and the long shot won; and we collected over $300 on that rest and only bet $2 each and split it three ways between us [Maureen, Rosemary and Maureen’s sister]!”
One of the toughest things the couple ever went through in their lives was a move to a place they never would have thought to moving to.
Hearing some negative things about Fayetteville, NC, Rosemary and David were not too excited to be heading there initially. David had been offered a job with the North Carolina Division of Public Health, and although the move started out as what felt like a bad thing, Rosemary stated that, “it ended up being one of the best things that ever happened to us, his job, and oh, did he love his job…I was fortunate that I started out in Cumberland County as a social worker and became the Interim Director. It helped us get involved in church and other community activities which we may not have been able to do otherwise, and it was a move that initially, neither one of us really wanted to make that turned out to be great.”
They lived there for nearly 40 years until they found themselves at Ardenwoods in 2017.
Everywhere they lived, the only condition is that they had to have a separate room that could accommodate David’s model railroad.
“The house we built always had to have that room for his model trains. Before you know it, his model railroad was slipping out into other parts of the house at which point we decided we were never going to move, and then built up the house to ensure his model train could have its own space.” Rosemary stated.
After Rosemary’s sister passed away from Lewey-Body dementia, they began to start thinking about where they wanted to age in place. Although their home would have been great for this part of their lives, the location of it did pose an issue because it was relatively far from just about everything and that was starting to become a concern. They also didn’t want to put their son through making some of those tough decisions, thus that landed them here at Ardenwoods. They wanted to make their own decisions and where they wanted to be as they grew older. They made the decision early enough so that they could enjoy their retirement and have what they needed for the future.
According to David, they viewed [coming to Ardenwoods] as another “adventure”.
They still own their home in Robbinsville, NC, so that they would have a backup plan if necessary. Rosemary and David now both have family within a couple hours of them and that was a big determining factor when they were looking to the future and where they wanted to spend their golden years. They still do as much as they can, and take pride in still being able to do most things they used to do, due to their good health.
Towards the end of our conversation, David took me in his “office” to view the model train and I was able get an up-close look at his work. Fragments of an artist’s work lying about the desk, shelves, just about every surface you could imagine! The amount of art in one place was truly astounding; a creator at work.
He told me about how long he had been building (since he was about 8 years old) and gave me a tour of some of his work in progress pieces.
As we were scanning his model train room, he explained that he enjoyed playing with trains as a boy, and prefers to “build the structures and capitalize on the intricate details and the detailed structures”, and then continued with a chuckle, to say that building these train kits-including painting and constructing them; keeps him “out of trouble,” and then he allowed me to take a few pictures of his work.
He currently still builds and designs kits for a local manufacturer. He chooses trendy colors and the paint scheme, and figured out how to fix little parts of the models if needed, and cuts them down to size when requested. He does this and takes notes on his work to relay information about the sets to the manufacturer he works with, and then the manufacturer writes the complete instructions for building the models aimed at customers when they are sold.
David thoroughly enjoys creating these models and also has several other hobbies- cross stitching, or needle-pointing, and cooking for example. He also teaches basket weaving classes at Ardenwoods twice a year, and creates some of the most beautiful woven baskets you’ve ever seen!
David was also a part of the North Carolina Basket Weavers Association and has been involved in that for a number of years. When asked if he ever tried to sell his work, he said that he had, but they unfortunately didn’t sell as well as he would have liked, but did attend craft shows where he set up shop and did sell a few baskets. Both he and Rosemary believe that if they had been in a different locale such as Nantucket or Cape Cod, they would have had more luck selling his work. When asked about how he got started with his interest in basket weaving, he said that he had worked on baskets during his stint in the U.S. Navy, and enthused about the history of basket weaving.
Rosemary commends his patience with his hobbies and interests, and said, “I could never have the patience he does for doing things like that. He’s a perfectionist and I see that he gets frustrated…but he keeps at it. I could not in a million years do what he does. If you ever wanted to take a lesson in retirement, well; he retired and he’s got more hobbies than he knows what to do with, and he has a lot of skills,” a testament to his persevering nature.
When asked about Rosemary’s hobbies, she made mention that she enjoys playing guitar and performed for the “Ardenwoods Christmas Show” a few weeks ago. She has been playing the guitar since 1981 where she played with her church and remembers doing a performance for a church retreat one year. She said she hadn’t picked up the guitar much since 2016, but is happy to have gotten back into it recently, as she recalls it being “a lot of fun,” and saying, “I’ve actually got calluses on my fingers now from practicing!”
She also knows how to play the flute and attempted to play the piano but said that reading music wasn’t exactly her strong suit so she parted ways with the piano; resorting to turning the music pages for friends at Ardenwoods as needed. She remembers growing up with musicians, and talked about how her sister played music, as well as many of her sister’s friends, noting that it, “wasn’t unusual for there to be guitars, and banjos and mandolins in the house” however, she didn’t start playing until she was an adult in the 1980s.
The couple also discussed the hobbies they enjoyed doing together. Some of the hobbies they enjoy as a couple are square dancing, going on picnics and outdoor activities such as hiking, as well as traveling and exploring historical places such as Gettysburg together.
A fun fact about them is that during the COVID-19 quarantine, David and Rosemary entertained staff and other residents by creating a comic about a penguin named “Super Penguin,” and his side kick, “Dust Bunny.” They would draw the adventures of Super Penguin and Dust Bunny on their meal menus to help keep spirits bright in the community, to which they succeeded.
They look forward to their future, and are happy to have ended up at Ardenwoods!