Mulberry Gardens | Resident Stories

Quote_5 Transparent reversed.pngWith all the fanfare of more familiar beauty pageants, the annual Ms. Mulberry Gardens Senior Pageant made its 12-year mark, June, 2023.

2023 Miss Mulberry GardensContestants, all residents of the Hartford HealthCare senior living community, were eager to participate. This year’s theme was “What a Wonderful World” and invited each contestant to showcase their uniqueness while being judged on elegance, poise and final interview.

Starting the pageant from the terrace, Paula DePinto, director of finance, Hartford HealthCare Community Network, welcomed the crowd.

“I would first like to thank the residents of Mulberry Gardens for opening up their home for such a wonderful event and welcome their friends, family and the staff who care for them,” she said, pausing.  “But first, a question, and I wonder if any of you feel the same way. Why is it that every time I walk into this building, I always feel like I am walking on sunshine?”

Queued by the song “Walking on Sunshine,” a flash mob of staff members in yellow boas and pom-pom headbands paved the way as DePinto strolled to the lower level.

Friends, family, residents and staff filled a beautifully decorated lobby as this year’s 10 contestants competed for the crown of Ms. Mulberry Gardens. Contestants were sponsored by staff members who helped prepare them for the big day and ushered them into the event.

Scot Haney, meteorologist and co-host of Great Day CT and five-time pageant emcee, listened carefully as contestants shared their most precious moments, quirky facts and secrets to staying young. Talents ranged from gardening to baking to dancing and even professional bowling.

Secrets to staying young included:

“Exercise and have fun,” from Dolores Assar.

“Sleeping late and eating well,” from Elizabeth Lemelin.

“Keep moving and stay positive,” according to Mary Kline.

“Reading and dancing with a chair as my dance partner,” from Candde Sedlik.

“I treat people well,” from Joanne Solimini.

“Have a good time,” according to Kathleen Tanasi.

Returning judges included Kathy Faber, of Kathy Faber Designs, LLC, a judge since beginning; Renee DiNino, radio personality at River 105.9; and Rebecca Stewart, vice present for content strategy, planning and marketing, Hartford HealthCare. New and first-ever male judge, Michael J. Daglio, executive vice president and chief operating officer of Hartford HealthCare, joined the panel. This year’s gold sponsor was Hancock Pharmacy & Surgical INC., and the bronze sponsor was PERFECTEMP INC.

After contestant presentations, the judges deliberated as the audience enjoyed a musical performance by Jerry Limmer, Richard Daddario and Rebecca Russo. Soon, Haney was announcing the contest winner as Jacqueline Polanski, who was crowned with a tiara and draped with the 2023 Ms. Mulberry Gardens satin sash

Polanski was born in 1937 in NY, and raised her two children in Hartford. In one of her stories, she spoke of a rose bush inherited from her great-great-grandmother that offers some of the most fragrant, biggest roses. She was in a garden club, worked at the Cheshire nursery and owned her own design business arranging floral displays. She played golf at Hawks Landing and was also a painter. Some of her paintings were displayed in local boutiques.

Each contestant earned a sash and bouquet from Donna Johnson, recreation director, and Jacquelyn Gaulin, executive director, Mulberry Gardens. Other contestant awards were:

  • First Runner-Up - Joanne Solimini
  • Second Runner-Up - Candide Sedlik
  • Ms. Congeniality – Kathleen Tanasi
  • Nicest Eyes - Burlyne Strom
  • Nicest Smile - Mary Kline
  • Most Elegant - Dolores Assaro
  • Most Charming - Elizabeth Lemelin
  • Best Sense of Humor – Elizabeth Derouin
  • Most Photogenic - Margaret Hampp

Quote_4.pngCaring for her mother as she slips deeper into Alzheimer’s disease has been challenging for Southington resident Liz Fenner. She wants the best for her 83-year-old mother yet it has been difficult to balance work and meeting the older woman’s needs. Fenner and her sister opened their homes for three-month time periods in an attempt to juggle responsibilities but the arrangement only added to the stress.

When their mother, Barbara, finally moved full-time into Fenner’s home, Fenner realized she was in over her head and needed help fast. She turned once again to Hartford HealthCare Center for Healthy Aging, which she had connected with through her physician when her mother was first diagnosed three years ago. 

Dementia specialists Patty O’Brian, CDP, and Michelle Wyman, LSW, CDP, recommended the five-part series, “Dementia and Caregiving: Focusing on the Person while Understanding the Disease Progression,” that was held at Southington Library. Fenner and her brother both attended to learn how to best communicate with and relate to their mother to make life a bit easier for everyone.

“It was the best thing I ever went to. If it wasn’t for that program, my brother and I would be clueless. It was such a help with how to deal with mom and we’re using many of the techniques we learned in class,” Fenner said. Of the numerous suggestions that she has incorporated into life one of the most effective has been establishing a daily routine.

As her mother’s dementia progresses, Fenner has continued to turn to the Center for Healthy Aging for additional resources. She said that at least once each day she refers to the Dementia Caregiver Resource Guide, a free comprehensive 80-page book that the Center for Healthy Aging distributes, to learn how best to respond to a situation.

Dr. Sowmya Kuratkoti, a geriatrician, evaluated her mother and her needs, while working in conjunction with the older woman’s primary care physician, Dr. Letterio Asciuto.

Barbara recently began attending adult day center at Mulberry Gardens of Southington, which gives Fenner the time to work from home uninterrupted and gain some respite four hours each day. She knows the situation will only get more complicated over time and said her mother will eventually need full-time care at a memory care community. Throughout the process she will continue to seek the guidance of the Center for Healthy Aging professionals.

“It has truly been a godsend,” she said.

For more information on Center for Healthy Aging services and upcoming events,
call 1.877.4AGING1/1.877.424.4641.

—Hartford HealthCare Center for Healthy Aging

Quote_1 copy.pngDear Perry and the entire Mulberry Gardens staff,

We want to thank you for all the years of special loving care you gave to our father while he was living at Mulberry Gardens. You helped give his last years of life value, at the same time gave him a pleasant environment to live in.

He often talked of the delicious meals he would have, and the bingo games, as you know, he always loved. He spoke of the bus trips he took with other residents during the early years of his stay. He truly enjoyed the musical and singing entertainment and the holiday parties you would have. All made Mulberry Gardens the best possible choice for him to live.

We appreciate all the support and concern each employee gave to us, as he started to decline in his health. We are truly thankful for all you did for him. With grateful hearts, Ralph & Christine Ingriselli

May 5, 2016

—Ralph & Christine Ingriselli

Quote_3 copy.png“My mother, Sonya has been coming to the Mulberry Gardens Adult Day Center for over a year now. I cannot tell you how much it means to us that she is there each day. She comes home glowing, truly enjoying her friends and the staff. Last night, at your holiday party, she was warmly greeted by her friends and most of all, by your caring and wonderful staff who offered hugs and brought us the ornaments she made while there.

I cannot say enough wonderful things about everyone we have come in contact with. Jo-ann is always there to answer my questions and concerns and each driver that comes to our home to get her and drop her off offers smiles, kind words and a helping hand. While I am certain that you know what a caring group of people work for you but you should know that the families of those that attend each day not only know how caring your staff is, we truly appreciate it.

My mom felt beautiful and special at the beauty pageant held several months ago - like a princess. Seeing her face all dressed up with baubles and makeup was so special.

Please share my appreciation with your staff. My mind is at ease knowing she is there each day among caring and loving people who laugh with her, console her, help her and provide friendship. More important, she feels welcome and cared about and safe and I could not ask for anything more.

Wishing you and your staff Happy Holidays along with our heartfelt appreciation.

Very Truly Yours,
—Deb Gaudette

Quote_5 Transparent reversed.pngDoug and Evelyn Monroe, of Prospect, were worried about his mother’s safety. Theresa Monroe, who is in her late 80s, was unable to safely live independently while family members worked each day.

The couple searched for an adult day program that would provide the security, activities and monitoring that their loved one needed. Evelyn visited several programs in the area but wanted a higher quality level of care. Then she came to Mulberry Gardens of Southington located at 58 Mulberry St. in Plantsville.

“From the moment I walked in I was impressed. They treat everyone so nicely. I wouldn’t mind coming here,” Evelyn said.

The Mulberry Gardens Adult Day Center gave the couple peace of mind knowing that Theresa was well cared for and enjoyed the activities, including the music and arts and crafts. The staff was very knowledgeable and caring in working with older adults, Evelyn said.

Soon the transition was made for Theresa to move into the community, which Evelyn said impressed her with its cleanliness and home-like atmosphere. “All the things that are hard for us to do are being done for her. She is functioning and looking better,” Evelyn said. “She is thriving.”

Mulberry Gardens’ close proximity to Prospect makes it easy for Doug to visit his mother each day. “You look around and people are doing things. It’s a community.

“Mulberry Gardens is a blessing,” Evelyn said.”

—Robin Michel interview with Evelyn Monroe of Prospect
Quote_4.pngDear Staff of Mulberry Gardens,

For people so nice and compassionate, there are no words to express our gratitude, when it came to the care you generously provided for our uncle, “JOHN”.

It was such a comfort to know that “UNCLE TOMMY” was so well taken care of and happy at the home your staff lovingly shared with him and the other residents.

Please give our special regards to Dawn, Shirley and all the nurses who helped our uncle.”

—Annetta Laye

Quote_1 copy.pngDear Perry,

Our heartfelt thanks are extended to you and your staff for all of your kind expressions of sympathy for our dear mother, Carmella (Millie) Longo.

It was on a cold January day in 2010 that we arrived at Mulberry Gardens. This was a place very foreign to an eighty-nine year old woman who was virtually independent. In her lifetime she did all the caring and now she was in need of care. With much apprehension she agreed to a trial period at your facility. We arrived late morning, and were warmly welcomed by smiling faces and open arms. She, in turn, admired the surroundings, the festive Christmas decorations and, of course, the cleanliness (which was of utmost importance to her) of the building.

Naturally, we are a bit biased about “Yellow,” however, everyone from the lower level up made a sincere effort and beyond to fill the void of having to leave a lifetime home. What transpired on that January day continued until July 16, 2011. The smiles, the hugs, the assistance from all departments, the encouragement along with the love and concern soon put any concern she had to rest.

When it became necessary for her to have her own permanent aide, she was never forgotten. As a matter of fact, it was your staff that continued to be responsive and accommodating. Much so, we believe our Mom thought of them as her adoptive daughters. She was always concerned about how they felt, if they were working too hard, and if their children and families were O.K. They displayed a love for her, and she truly loved them back. It was even in her darkest days, that she was able to give them a smile. To us, her family, this was all telling. Not only was everyone supportive to “Millie” but they fully understood and recognized what we were experiencing. It was here, at Mulberry Gardens, that our Mom was able to enter the final stage of her life with the love and dignity she deserved. As a family we thank you for your professionalism, kindness, and your friendships.”

—Francine and Bob Holm, Nanciel and Louis Sarno, and family

Quote_3 copy.png“I'm finally reading the January Newsletter, which I enjoy so and the "Note to Family and Friends." I can't thank you enough for the wonderful pictures you sent me in the mail of mom during the Christmas brunch. Also, thanks to you and the entire staff for bringing us such a joyous event during the holiday. We loved being able to share the holiday with mom and all of you. When I received the pictures in the mail - it put such a smile on my face, which I can now share with all my family. Thank you so very much. Any additional pictures and updates of mom you can share via email would be so helpful so I can keep my family updated on how great mom is doing and how happy she truly is. Thank you again and the entire staff at Mulberry Gardens for all that you do. It is so appreciatted by all of us. We've noticed such a positive change in mom and it's because of people like you who really care about the residents you care for. You've made such a difference in our lives and we thank you for that. My best to you Lori and to Perry and all the wonderful staff at Mulberry Gardens for a wonderful New Year.”

—Arlene M. Geneau 

Quote_5 Transparent reversed.png“My husband Richard and I want to tell you how wonderful it was attending your "Forever Young" dance yesterday. Your staff should certainly be commended on a tremendously successful event. We have never seen our parents, Elvio and Eunice so happy. My mom hasn't danced for years but she certainly had her dancing feet going yesterday. Everyone looked so happy, you had to know that you rekindled many happy memories in your residents. We are so grateful and honored to have our parents under your outstanding and loving care.”

—Elvira and Rich Howard

Mulberry Gardens