Joan Buchanan- Faithful Connections to Porter Hills
Cook Valley Estates resident Joan Buchanan has had a decades-long association with Porter Hills. It began with her family’s connection to Eastminster Presbyterian Church, a satellite of Westminster Church, started by Pastor Ed Brigham. In the 1980s, while serving the church as a deacon, Joan was asked if she would volunteer to visit residents at Porter Hills. In particular, Pastor Brigham’s wife knew Edith and Lou Ella (Lou) Butler, sisters who were the first to move into Porter Hills in 1970. Joan began calling on them once a week and a trusting friendship ensued. Eventually, Joan started helping them with their finances and was appointed their Power of Attorney.
Edith, the oldest Butler sister, was born in the late 1800s; Lou was born in the early 1900s, according to Joan. They never married. Edith was an artist and taught art at Michigan State University. Joan shares that, at one point when she was helping the sisters with their finances, “there were some issues with the IRS because they didn’t believe Edith had worked prior to the establishment of Social Security in 1935!” Lou became a social worker and, during World War II, worked in the Japanese internment camps.
When Edith retired from teaching, the sisters became the first residents at Porter Hills upon its opening in 1970! They remained at Porter Hills until their passing in 1985. Each left Porter Hills in their estate plan.
Joan, who was a stay-at-home mom with three sons, says that volunteering at Porter Hills through her church “was a very rewarding experience. I learned a lot about Porter Hills.” It’s no wonder, then, that Porter Hills was the first choice for retirement living for Joan and her late husband, Jim.
“We didn’t look at any other places to move to when we retired,” says Joan. “Jim and I attended some early invited meetings about Cook Valley Estates in 2000 when Phase I was underway. We walked around wearing boots to see where the homes were to be built.” At that time they felt they weren’t quite ready to move, but, three years later during Phase II of the project, they made the decision to move to Cook Valley Estates which has been Joan’s home since June 2003 (her husband passed away in 2012). Joan has been living there independently ever since.
“I love it here!” says Joan. “I love the location – I’m in the neighborhood where we raised our kids, but I have less responsibilities than living in my own home. I feel protected here. There are activities if I want to participate, but I don’t have to. I especially appreciate the prayerful, faith-based aspect of the Porter Hills mission and the religious connection of Porter Hills. I love the chaplains, including Chaplain Melody Johnson.”
Joan also has a unique connection to The Thome Rivertown Neighborhood in Detroit, a UMRC & Porter Hills affordable assisted living community for low-income older adults in the city – the first and only one of its kind. After graduating from Michigan State University in 1957 with a degree in business, Joan worked for two years at Parke Davis on Jefferson Avenue in Detroit’s riverfront area. This same pharmaceutical laboratory was renovated in 2013 to create Rivertown as part of the city’s redevelopment efforts!
Joan has been a long-standing member of her church and its women’s circle, as well as a 40+ year member of the PEO (Philanthropic Educational Organization) Sisterhood. Until recently, Joan also walked one and a half miles each day. She also enjoys visiting with her three sons who live in Michigan, North Carolina, and Massachusetts – these days via Zoom.
Joan says she appreciates the Porter Hills Foundation’s Benevolent Care Fund. “It is the reason I support the Porter Hills Foundation,” says Joan. “I appreciate the help it provided to the Butler sisters, and it is reassuring to know it is available – both now and in the future.”