While many people think of retirement as a time to slow down, that has not been the case for Marion Kayhart.
In the 14 years that the retired college professor has been a Luther Crest resident, she has actively volunteered her time and talents in a variety of ways.
Choosing to step outside her comfort zone, she agreed in 2010 to edit the newly created resident newsletter, Luther Crest News Notes.
“It was a great opportunity for me to learn about the place and the people,” says Kayhart, who continued as editor for six years. “I had done some writing in my professional life, but nothing like editing a newspaper. I enjoyed it very much.”
While Kayhart also has volunteered in the Luther Crest administrative offices for many years and served on the Resident Association’s Executive Committee, the argument could be made that her work in support of the association’s Environment Committee has had the most impact on the Diakon campus.
“The whole idea for the committee, of course, was to do what we could to enhance our surroundings, both inside and outside,” she explains. “We wanted to create an environment that was attractive for current residents and enticing for prospective residents.”
One of the committee’s biggest undertakings was the identifying and cataloging of the 620 paintings hanging in the retirement community’s hallways.
“It seemed to me that if we labeled them, that people would walk the halls and take an art lesson on their way,” says Kayhart, who as the committee chairperson at the time organized teams to help with the year-long project. Together the volunteers identified the artists, painting titles and dates completed.
“We wanted to create an environment attractive for current and future residents.”
They also developed booklets that describe the artwork and serve as a guide for residents and visitors alike.
“In general, people were pleased to have that emphasis placed on what we think is a splendid asset on the campus.”
The committee also focused its efforts on campus improvements, recommending a series of landscaping ideas that eventually led to the development of Luther Crest as an accredited arboretum–one of only 20 in the state and the only one in a retirement community.
“The campus had undergone a vast reconstruction effort between 2006 and 2010. As a result, they cut down many of our trees,” Kayhart remembers. “It seemed to us that one of the important things we should do was reforest the campus.”
While the plans began with a memorial tree project initiated by resident Kermit Roth that raised more than $35,000 and led to the purchase of 31 trees, Kayhart cautioned that before planting the trees, they should develop a master plan.
“It further occurred to me that maybe this was a good time to plan an arboretum,” she says, adding that it took about two years to complete the preliminary work and application before the Luther Crest Arboretum was officially accredited in 2015.
“With 105 labeled trees representing 75 species, it is truly a treasured resource for the Luther Crest community,” she says.