When people talk about a place in Michigan, they have that thing they do – they hold up the hand, the “Michigan-mitten,” and point. But in the case of Chuck and Nita Dressel, they’re not only from many points on the mitten, but Chuck even had to employ the other hand to represent the Upper Peninsula.
Rather than try to keep all those points straight, let’s just say both Chuck and Nita are from Michigan and met when they were both 16 year-old counselors at a 4-H camp called Camp Vining, north of Grand Rapids.
If you’re like me, you assume that 4-H camp meant a farm background, but Chuck explained that they were suburban kids and Nita’s 4-H experience was centered on sewing and crafts and Chuck’s on electrical projects. After that first summer camp, the two also began seeing each other during the school year – they each went to Catholic schools, and the boys from Chuck’s school got invitations to the dances at Nita’s girls’ school, as well as school plays and other activities.
After they completed high school, Nita went to Baker College in Muskegon, while Chuck headed off to seek an engineering degree at Michigan Tech. That sounds like the two wouldn’t far from one another, but Tech is located on a spot way up on second hand atop the Michigan mitten, an 11-hour drive.
Still, the romance survived the separation, and the two married. Nita supported the couple while Chuck finished his last year of college and then she worked as an Executive Assistant while Chuck put in 20 years at General Motors, followed by a career at a company that would become part of General Dynamics. In that latter job, he led Field Support, taking care of customers around the globe who used GD’s military vehicles (like the M60 tank, pictured below).
Early in their marriage, they had two sons. (Both those sons have taken up interesting careers. The older son owns a media company in Chicago, one that creates interactive exhibits for the Field Museum, the NFL and many others, while the younger son splits his time behind being a groundskeeper at a golf course and collecting artemia, better known as brine shrimp, from the Great Salt Lake, where they become food for fish farms.)
This past year, Chuck and Nita celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary, and took a river cruise through Europe to mark the occasion, joined by friends from Silveridge.
Nita (nee Juanita Valerie) and Chuck, Then and Now
Coming to Silveridge…
After they retired in 2004, they sold their home in Michigan and took up living fulltime in a motorhome. One of their trips brought them to visit friends in Apache Junction, and they spotted a special three-night bargain offer at Silveridge. They figured those three days would give them time to shop for somewhere to spend the winter. It turned out that there was a dinner/dance at the clubhouse their first night at Silveridge. Chuck tried to beg off but Nita talked him into attending. They made their first friends at Silveridge that night, and they never did look elsewhere. This coming winter will be 15years at the park — first, in the motorhome, then winters in a park model, and now year-round.
The Decision to Stay Year Round, and Summer Care
Nita says that residents who only come for the winters often ask incredulously, “What do you do in the summer?” She responds, “I lead water aerobics three times a week. I play tennis three mornings a week. And golf, usually two mornings, and then there’s pickleball. All that’s in the mornings. By afternoon, I’m ready for a nap, and that’s when I do my quilting.” Then there’s happy hour by the pool, and the potluck dinners.” Chuck added, “In the summer, it’s a different park, but even then, people can be as busy as they want to be.”
There’s one other way the Dressels stay busy in the summer – they keep up neighbors’ homes by being part of a summer-care business. That was especially important last summer, as the big storms rolled through. They not only helped with the cleanup, and with tasks like helping move all the food in the park’s freezers to those at The Resort, but got adjusters and contractors to do the repairs on the homes they maintained
That Special Event at the End of Summer
But then, when the days start to turn shorter and winter residents are just starting to find their way back to the park, there is one special time each year for the Dressels: Halloween. That is Nita’s birthday, and the couple go out of their way for the annual party at the clubhouse, and count on friends to join in for their costume themes – they’ve been zombies and Minions and characters from “Gilligan’s Island.” Nita passed along a photo from their year as prisoners of Sheriff Joe, pink boxers and all.
(Left to right: Chuck Poulton, Jerry Colling, Alex MacLellan, Verta Martell, Chuck Dressel, Nita Dressel, John Allensworth, Jaci Allensworth, Joyce Poulton, Barb Colling)
Chuck summed up the Silveridge experience this way, “We have such a good time with the people here. That’s why we’re still here, 15 years later.”
STATUS UPDATE ON HDTV/INTERNET & THE CLUBHOUSE
The work may not be done, but everything is working.
That sums up Rhonda’s report on the HDTV/Internet project. There are still improvements to the “head-ins” (where the Cox cable meets the park’s system) going on, and while there are green pedestals to be replaced and cables to be buried, the main construction is done and the remaining finishing-up construction should be completed over the summer months.
RECONSTRUCTION OF THE CLUBHOUSE
Ask George Igualt, head of the park’s management company, about the reconstruction work at Silveridge, and you could hear the frustration in his voice as he recalled the completion dates he has been given: “It was mid-January. It was mid-February. It was mid-March. Why is it always ‘mid’? Because they don’t want to be tied down to a specific date.”
Why so many delays? “There was a bigger issue with the gas lines then they originally thought. They kept finding new problems. They even wanted to re-close the ballroom to do part of the work and I said, ‘No way. We are not closing the ballroom. We are not doing that to our residents.’”
The construction crew figured out how to keep the ballroom open while getting the work done and now the last piece is getting the lobby, library and offices reopened. George brightened at the thought of what’s to come: “It’s going to be great. Not only are we making upgrades to the offices, we’re going to have a new look to the lobby. People use the lobby for the wifi and to meet friends, so it’s going to be more café-style, more like an upscale Starbucks – very user-friendly.” We’ll have photos as soon as the work is finished.