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Standing Out

Standing Out

As far as Mary Doyle was concerned, all retirement communities were the same. They all offered the same features and amenities, the same care and assistance. That was before Mary visited Vinson Hall Retirement Community, the community in McLean, Va., that she now calls home, and met the remarkable people who live there. Vinson Hall provides apartments for independent seniors who are commissioned military officers and their immediate family, as well as government workers of an equal rank from select agencies. As part of a continuing care retirement community (CCRC), Vinson Hall Retirement Community also includes Arleigh Burke Pavilion, which offers assisted living, short-term rehabilitation, long-term nursing care and healthcare, as well as The Sylvestery, which provides memory support assisted living. Military affiliation is not required for the assisted living, rehabilitation or memory support residences.

A native of Iowa, Mary grew up in a tiny town of just 600 people. Her family, however, was anything but small; she was one of eight children. Early on, Mary showed some athletic prowess and received a scholarship to play basketball at a nearby business school.

“Playing basketball was the main source of entertainment for girls in Iowa in those days,” Mary recalled. “When I went to business school, we played basketball all over the state and all over the country.”

After graduating, Mary worked for just a year before joining the Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Services, or WAVES, during World War II. “I worked in the Personnel Office on Naval Base Coronado for awhile. When most of the girls started getting married, I decided to go back to college,” she explained.

Mary went on to attend the University of Iowa. After graduating, she moved to Columbus, Ohio, and worked in the Dean’s Office at a University there. When Mary joined a community church group, she met Fred Doyle, the man she would eventually marry. “He was from Chicago, and he had been in the Army, but he was a scientist by then,” she remembered.

Fred was a photogrammetrist, a scientist who makes measurements using photographs that can be used to determine distances and pinpoint exact locations. Fred’s work took the couple to the Washington, D.C. area. After living in Arlington, Va., for several years, they eventually settled in nearby McLean.

“In 1960, when we first came to the area, McLean was like the boonies. There wasn’t much here,” recalled Mary. However, the growing family grew to love their neighborhood and their home. The Doyles went on to have four children, two boys and two girls. Mary now has ten grandchildren.

Through the years, the Doyles traveled quite a bit. “My husband was the President of the American Association of the Photogrammetry Society. He was one of the most renowned scientists in his field, and he was always in demand,” Mary said. “He had to travel abroad a lot, and I traveled with him, so we got to go to Russia, China and Brazil together.”

After Fred retired, Mary tried to convince him to move. “I knew all about Vinson Hall. I was always interested in eventually living in a community like this, but my husband was not ready,” she explained.  

Several months after her husband passed away, Mary began to seriously consider moving. “My children encouraged me to decide what I wanted to do—stay in our home alone and get help or move to a community,” she said. “They would have supported whatever I decided, but I wanted to move while I was still physically active and could choose where I wanted to be.”

Mary visited several nursing homes near her daughter in California, but she didn’t like what she saw. “They just weren’t right for me and the lifestyle I wanted,” she said. Closer to home, Mary visited a retirement community in Catonsville, Md., where her mother-in-law previously lived. “It was very nice, but I never felt ready to move,” she said.

That all changed when Mary came to Vinson Hall Retirement Community as a prospective resident. “I came to visit thinking, ‘I guess a retirement home is a retirement home; they are all the same,’” she recalled. “Boy, was I wrong. I have been so pleasantly surprised.”

Mary was immediately drawn to the lifestyle that Vinson Hall offered. “By this time, I had spent a whole year in my home by myself. I didn’t have anyone to eat with or talk to. The house was so empty,” she said. “I was ready to lead a full life again.”

Since moving, Mary’s life—and social calendar—has certainly been full. “We’re always doing things together. It’s so great to have such a nice circle of friends,” she noted. “We eat together and go to happy hour together and participate in activities together. It’s just wonderful.”

When she’s not busy socializing with her friends, Mary enjoys attending the Catholic Mass that is held for Independent Living residents once a week. She also likes playing games with other residents, participating in a scripture group, and using the community’s bus and valet services.

Vinson Hall’s Independent Living residents have access to a valet service that takes residents to doctors’ appointments, as well as a bus service that transports residents to popular nearby destinations, including grocery stores, banks, shopping malls and many other places.

“If you want to go somewhere, it’s no problem. The bus and valet services are amazing,” Mary said. “They also plan nighttime outings to plays and concerts and other things. It’s really up to you how much you want to do; there is just so much to choose from.”

While Mary’s schedule is busy, her life is most enriched by the friendships she has developed. “The people here are truly wonderful. I have made some great friends,” she said. “It has also been an honor to get to know so many remarkable people, who have given so much for our country. Many of these people have done incredible things during their military service.”

Now after living at Vinson Hall for several years, Mary admits she misspoke when she said all retirement communities were the same. “I made a mistake. All retirement communities are not the same. Vinson Hall is more like a club. It’s just incredible,” she concluded.

At Vinson Hall, Mary and her many new friends continue to enjoy an active lifestyle. From exciting activities to remarkable people, Mary Doyle found a retirement community that not only stands out—it is truly outstanding.

By: Christy Brudin

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