Residents say that one of the best things about living at Blue Skies of Texas in San Antonio is learning about the rich experiences of the people around them, and we couldn’t agree more. That’s why we’re featuring two residents who live on the East Campus and have each found new beginnings, lasting friendships and the joy of music.
Meet Steve Wilson
Like many people at Blue Skies, Steve Wilson served as an intelligence officer in the Air Force for 21 years, retiring as a Lt Colonel. After a brief stint as a writer, he went into environmental business, assessing old gasoline storage problems at Air National Guard bases. Later, Wilson earned his PhD in counselor education and supervision and became a dean at a San Antonio university where he brought new technologies into student learning. These days, though, Wilson is most well-known for his videography skills and for playing bass guitar in the oldies band at Blue Skies.
As an amateur videographer, Wilson has spent the past year creating a video series called The Archives of Our Lives that is a treasured collection of residents’ life stories. Each 30-minute piece chronicles a person’s life with some surprising findings, such as how one resident was an Olympic runner, and another was a young piano prodigy (Nancy Spak, featured below) who appeared on the Lawrence Welk Show. The videos are featured on the closed-circuit TV channel on campus.
“I’ve also produced health care orientation videos about assisted living and long-term care so that residents and family members can get a sense of what a typical day is like there,” Wilson says. Having cared for his first wife who developed Alzheimer’s disease at age 55, he deeply appreciates how these neighborhoods are filled with love and the high-quality care that staff provides.
Meet Nancy Spak
Retired lawyer Nancy Spak moved to Blue Skies with her husband, Chuck, in February 2020 just before the pandemic set in. “I was caring for my husband who was becoming progressively worse with Parkinson’s disease and Lewy body dementia,” Spak says. Spak came across Blue Skies, which she had never heard of, but it was the highest rated community in the region. “It suddenly occurred to me that Blue Skies is where we needed to be and I was going with him,” she says.
It turned out to be one of the best decisions she ever made. Sadly, her husband passed away peacefully just three months after moving to Blue Skies. Spak grieved his loss, and then adjusted to what has developed into an unbelievable new life. She loves the cordiality among the residents at Blue Skies on both campuses. She knew from Chuck’s military career that military people tend to envelop you as family, and simply followed her intuition that Blue Skies would be a good place to live. “At this age, you can understand the totality of your life and it starts to make sense,” Spak says. “We share a lot of joy, and we care about each other.”
Restarting the music
Before earning a master’s degree at the University of Michigan and obtaining a law degree from the Illinois Institute of Technology, Spak majored in piano in undergraduate school and dreamed of becoming a pianist. After she got married, she put that dream on hold and thought, oh well. “There were all of these pieces I had wanted to learn, and I always said I’ll do it later, later,” Spak says. “Here it is 55 years later, and I woke up. It’s the fourth quarter in the game. If not now, when?”
So, at the age of 76, Spak bought a quality keyboard with weighted keys that simulates the touch of a regular piano and started playing again, learning the songs she had put on hold all those years ago. She calls her apartment Studio 457, and it serves as a music studio and practice room. “I’m planning to give a recital in the next year or two,” she says. It’s been like rekindling a long-lost love that she had buried deep inside her, which has been awakened and encouraged by the people around her. “Music is a language that transcends other spoken languages – it’s nature’s language and it appeals to all people.”
With Wilson on the bass guitar and Spak on piano, the M.O.B., aka the Magical Oldies Band, keeps everyone entertained. “We’re like a flash mob, we pop up every now and then,” Wilson jokes. The M.O.B. plays music sets on both the East and West campuses – Peter Paul and Mary, the Beach Boys and more hits from the sixties and whatever else gets people up singing and dancing. They play a lot of music by ear and love doing it.
Great people and a great place to be
One of the great things about Blue Skies is that “you can be as involved as you want or not,” Wilson says. He was in the bicycle club on the West Campus for many years, was in the Blue Skies ukulele band and was a founding member of John McIntyre’s walking group.
Spak’s daily routine includes going to the fitness center each morning where she walks two miles on the treadmill and then takes a relaxing dip in the heated pool. “It’s a great way to start the day,” she says. Spak finds the dining excellent with great choices and appreciates that the management seeks input from residents through a committee. Having a housekeeper to clean her apartment makes her feel terribly privileged. She still drives but notes that many people don’t and therefore make full use of the shuttle bus service on campus. “With all of these things here at Blue Skies, how can you beat it?” she says.
Spak enjoys her time with the Sew and Sews group, which meets twice weekly. Anyone working on a project can come, sit down and chat while they work. “What I love about it is the conversation never turns to politics or religion; it’s always lighthearted,” she says. “It’s been a sanity-saver.”
Smart design for easy living
Spak’s mid-rise apartment is the F floor plan. This one-bedroom apartment is the perfect size, and she shares, “It’s perfectly designed.” One of her favorite features is the 30-foot balcony off the living room with a view of the horizon to the northwest. She has customized her space with her keyboard set up in the living room and a desk and recliner in her bedroom, plus everything else you’d expect to find. You can really maximize space in this floor plan.
Wilson and his wife, Brenda, first lived in a duplex in the Oaks on the West Campus when they moved to Blue Skies in 2010. Then, a few years ago, they were visiting a resident in one of the new Hills apartments on the East Campus and realized they really liked it. “It’s a really neat place that’s full of light. We have a spacious balcony with chairs and umbrellas, plus a great view,” Wilson says. Initially, they worried about leaving the friends they had made on the West Campus but found that wonderful people reside at both campuses, and they were able to expand their circle of friends.
Let the good times roll
Both Wilson and Spak say that the friends you make at Blue Skies are for life. “I don’t even want to travel anymore,” Spak says. “I found the place I want to be for the rest of my life.”
“People have done amazing things with their lives and the socialization is what keeps everyone engaged and going strong,” Wilson says.
Learn more about Blue Skies of Texas and see what everyone is talking about. Call 210-962-5641 or complete a short form and we’ll call you.