Group reunites brother, 91, and sister, 98

Apr. 24, 2014 @ 11:01 PM

A 91-year-old local man staying at Wellington Place got to see his 98-year-old sister for the first time in 10 years last week, thanks to a program sponsored by the senior living community’s parent company and a nonprofit.

George O’Hara and Kathleen Sodowski have remained close even as they moved to different areas to pursue careers and raise their own families. They talk on the phone — he says she does most of the talking — but they hadn’t been together for a decade.

Until last week.

Brookdale Senior Living, which manages Wellington Place, and a nonprofit called Wish of a Lifetime arranged for Sodowski to fly here and spend several days with O’Hara.

“It was a wonderful experience,” O’Hara said.

Sodowski was here from Monday until Friday of last week. She came with two of her daughters. O’Hara, who moved here with one of his daughters, said they went out just about every day. They enjoyed trips to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Dixie Stampede and a number of local restaurant and shops.

They spent a lot of their time reminiscing. “It made me feel like a kid again,” O’Hara said.

Their experiences in their youth likely made them even more close knit than most families. They lived through the Great Depression, and George became the sole provider at 18 years old, when his father died.

He ran the family store until World War II, when he joined the Air Force and served as commander of a B-29 crew, flying nine missions against Japan.

After he returned, he cared for his mother another eight years and earned a college degree before starting his own family. He was manager of several Montgomery Ward department stores.

To this day, he still tends to help manage whatever they’ll let him. Melody Matney, executive director of Wellington Place, said he gives her good advice on how to keep the grass growing in the facility’s courtyard.

“I’ve got a philosophy I had in my job: You strive every day to improve everything under your supervision,” O’Hara said. “My daughter told me to shut up because I’m not in charge of anything, but I’ve always got an opinion.”

Wish of a Lifeteim, the group that organized the reunion, helps seniors reach goals that health or other constraints prevent them from achieving on their own.

To request a wish, they fill out a wish form, which they can find on the group’s website, seniorwish.org.

Brookdale Senior Living has partnered with Wish of a Lifetime to help its residents continue reaching their goals.

“It was pretty endearing to see them talk and hear those stories,” Matney said.