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For immediate release (October 6, 2017) Media Contact: Judy Abelman Email: Phone: 440.725.8861...

At 82, Joan Brown Campbell can’t think of a better place to live it up than South Franklin Circle in Chagrin Falls

By Holly Hammersmith
Photo by Thomas Skernivitz

The Rev. Dr. Joan Brown Campbell just retired in December, but one would never know it.

During a typical day, Campbell, 82, might cook herself breakfast in her two-story home, go to the gym or take a walk outside, and follow up by visiting with friends and neighbors. In the evening she may enjoy a meal at Radius, a fine-dining restaurant, or use a driver to take her downtown to see a show.

“You begin to become a community of people – that maybe was the biggest surprise for me,” she says. “We all have dinner together. It is actually fun. Older people do much better with companionship.”

This is retirement life at South Franklin Circle, the newest branch of the Judson Services Inc. retirement community system. Founded in 1906, Judson is a nonprofit organization dedicated to programs in communities designed for successful aging. Based in Northeast Ohio, Judson has three living facilities.

Today more than 200 people call South Franklin Circle home, and residents at the Chagrin Falls community range in age from their late 50s to centenarians.

Retirement was something Campbell says she looked forward to. It would provide an opportunity for her to take control of her golden years, ease the burden on her loved ones, and continue doing what she enjoys. Today she does all of that and more.

In addition to the vast activities and events offered at South Franklin Circle, Campbell stays active with volunteer work and traveling. She has just as much independence today as she did during her many years living in Shaker Heights.

“I’ve watched a lot of people grow older, and choices between children and parents are often very testy and difficult,” she says. “It’s so much better when older people make up their own minds. It was very important for me to make that choice instead of having my children make it for me. And I love my children.”

It was at her son-in-law’s encouragement that Campbell first considered a retirement facility for her twilight years. She gained an interest in South Franklin Circle before ground broke and moved in as an official resident in early 2010.

Today Campbell is chair of South Franklin Circle’s programming committee. In this role she organizes and facilitates the South Franklin Circle Dialogue Series, a public forum that brings nationally recognized speakers to the community. This series was inspired by Campbell’s work at the Chautauqua Institution, where she served as the director of the department of religion until her retirement just a few months ago.

A native of Youngstown, Campbell says Cleveland will always be her home. As a life-long racial justice advocate, she has devoted her life to service – from helping elect Carl Stokes as the city’s first African-American mayor, to assisting the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. during his 1960s visit to the city. Campbell has also served spiritually as an ordained minister for more than 30 years for two denominations – the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and the American Baptist Church.

On top of that, Campbell is a mother of three, including Cleveland’s first female mayor, Jane Campbell, and a grandmother of nine. Her grandchildren range in ages from 13 to 27 and were an integral part of her decision to live at South Franklin Circle.

“They are very child friendly and I wouldn’t have wanted to be someplace where grandchildren wouldn’t feel comfortable,” Campbell says.

As someone who always lived in older buildings, Campbell was eager to live in a low-maintenance, new building. Her home also provides ample room for her to host family and cook meals for holiday gatherings. As her physical needs change she will have the option of moving to other facilities within the Judson community.

In addition to South Franklin Circle, Judson operates the Judson Manor, located in the old Wade Park Manor building – Cleveland’s finest hotel in the 1920s – and Judson Park, nestled in the vibrant Cleveland Heights community. Judson offers independent living, assisted living, short-term rehab, and long-term nursing care. Their “Smart Living at Home” program allows residents to receive specialized care in the comfort of their residence, according to Rob Lucarelli, director of communications for Judson.

“The people that decide to live with us want to simplify their lives, to divest themselves of the burden of home ownership, maintenance and the expenses that go with it – so that they can enjoy the things they really want to do,” he says.

For years senior living has been looked down upon by society, as the final step in life, Campbell says. South Franklin Circle has helped change this stigma. “Becoming older in years does not mean that you don’t want to live life fully … to develop friendships or work hard,” she says. “I think older people have a lot to offer.”

This year Campbell will add two more honorary degrees to her repertoire to reach a total of 14. She will continue her travels and her work outside of South Franklin Circle. Campbell serves as the chair of the International Charter of Compassion, continues to work with the Chautauqua Institution on racial justice agendas, and books speaking and preaching engagements.

Campbell admits moving to a senior living community was not a decision to take lightly, but four years later she couldn’t picture herself anywhere else.

“There is an atmosphere of friendliness here that is very rich,” she says. “Honestly I’m very happy here.”

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