May 2020 Newsletters

The latest in our series…

The People of the Park:

A Visit with Jill Belcher

By Dale Dauten

If you set out to design the perfect background to get along with all types of people and handle all types of situations, you couldn’t do much better than Jill Belcher’s career, highlighted by 15 years managing McDonald’s restaurants. In the photo below, that’s Jill modelling one of the shirts from the days those days.

Jill said of those McDonald’s years, “They offer a lot of management courses, and by the time you get to the highest level, it’s all psychology — it’s about how to deal with anything, with every type of employee and every type of customer.”

No wonder that when Jill came to Silveridge the Activities team was quick to get her involved, and when Sue Arneson was named Activities Director, she immediately recruited Jill to be Assistant AD. Jill did six years in that post, but stepped down when her back problems began to interfere with putting in long hours.

But let’s back up, and fill in the rest of Jill’s story. She was born the day before Easter, leading her mother to tell her, “Most kids are brought by the stork but you were brought by the Easter Bunny.” That was in Chicago, where she grew up and went to Carl Schurz High, located near what was then the Riverview Amusement Park.

(We found some photos of that great old park, including the Aladdin’s Castle fun house and some well-dressed riders of the Water Bug attraction. As for the poster, the May 20th date refers to its opening in 1904. It lasted till the late 1960s.)

After her time in college, Jill ended up running “a one-girl office” for the Ambrosia Chocolates Company, headquartered in Milwaukee. The man who ran the office was named Jack and he’d take her to meet customers and she recalls with a laugh, “he loved to announce that Jack and Jill had come to visit.”

It was during that time that a friend who owned three McDonald’s persuaded her to come and work for him. “So,” she said, “at the tender age of 40, I moved to Garden City, Kansas. At that time, it had 17,000 people; given that I was coming from Chicago, it was a culture shock.” But she loved the job, and she found herself fitting in there in Garden City. After 15 years with McDonald’s she was persuaded to take a job running the office of a credit bureau, but it was during her fast food years that Jill found the path that took her to Silveridge.

It was at one of the McDonald’s coffee groups that Jill met Gladys Boyd. The two became friends — such good friends that Gladys invited Jill to drive with her to Arizona and stay with her at her winter place at Silveridge. That first trip, Jill spent two weeks with Gladys, then flew home to Kansas, returning in the Spring for the drive together back to Kansas.

Of that first visit, Jill said, “I loved Arizona. I loved the heat. It can never get too warm for me.”

(That’s Jill and Gladys touring Silveridge on Gladys’s bike.)

And on a subsequent visit, Jill began daydreaming of her own place at Silveridge. “I was out walking around the park and I stopped to get fliers from the units for sale. One was By Owner and it had a huge Arizona room and a big storage area and I thought, ‘If I’m going to move all my worldly possession out here I’m going to need a big storage area.’ So I prayed about it.  Then, when I talked to the owners, they said it was for sale but I couldn’t have it till April, which was perfect. And then I went home and called a friend who always said that if I was going to sell my house to let her know, and she bought it without it ever going on the market. And while in Kansas packing, I got a call from Sue Arneson, who’d just been promoted to Activities Director, asking me, how would you like to be the Assistant Activities Director?

Shortly thereafter I moved. It was on June 21st of 2011 and it was 110 degrees, which wasn’t easy on the movers from Kansas, but was fine with me, and in October I started work in Activities.”

Even though her back problems caused her to step down from her fulltime role, she remains active, especially during the off-season. She points out, “It’s over the summer that we are truly a family.”  So she took over the leadership of summer activities, including putting out a monthly calendar. That’s going to be on hold for a while, but she’s ready to jump back into action as soon as activities can resume.

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We plan to profile other residents in our upcoming issues. If you’d like to volunteer to be the subject of an article, or have someone you’d like to suggest, please let me know.

Or, if you have photos you’ll like to share in upcoming newsletters, please send them.

Dale Dauten, Editor


Text: 480-297-6244