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Our Lady of Life apartments allows 101-year-old Dorothy Hess enjoy life

Dorothy Hess, 101, enjoys life at Our Lady of Life apartments

She survived the Depression and now, thanks to Cardinal Ritter Senior Services, Dorothy Hess is on easy street.

Born 101 years ago, Dorothy Hess grew up in south St. Louis. Her father had a grocery store in the 2700 block of Chippewa Street, and she recalls getting free cookies when she was old enough to walk into the store. It was a German neighborhood, and the German-American women enjoyed listening to her because she spoke both German and English as a toddler.

The Hess family attended St. Thomas of Aquin Church, and she attended the old Loretto Academy grade school and high school, except for a short stint in the elementary years in a public school. The academy was fairly small, and everyone knew each other, Hess said. “It was a happy time,” she said.

But the Depression started, and it wasn’t easy to survive. Hess’s mother put her talents to work to make ends meet, making the family’s clothes herself, for example. Her father died, and her sister had to quit college and get a job. “It was tight,” Hess said. “I had to find a job also.”

Her sister introduced her to her boss, and he hired her. She made $12 a week for 46 hours, Hess recalled.

She did office work there a few years before the company moved its operations out of the area. Hess then got a job working with Internal Revenue Service lawyers, staying there until she retired at age 65. “I always worked with nice people,” she said.

She lived in a house in University City and attended St. Joseph Church in Clayton.

Hess moved to Our Lady of Life apartments in 2000. Her older sister had a serious stroke and had moved to Mary Queen and Mother Center on the Cardinal Ritter Senior Services campus. Hess met a woman at the nursing home whose husband was a resident. The woman had moved to Our Lady of Life on the same campus and raved about it. That’s when Hess ended her commute to Shrewsbury to visit her sister by moving to the apartments.

“I just walked over every day, spending most of the day with her each day until she passed away,” Hess said of the convenience. Hess’ sister moved to Our Lady of Life when her husband died. She’s now 93.

“It’s very, very comfortable here,” Hess said, heaping praise on administrator Ann Jones. “We are treated very well. And the entertainment keeps everyone happy.”

She took advantage of the shuttle service and organized outings, including various mystery trips to sites in St. Louis. One favorite site was Bussen Quarry in south St. Louis County.

Also advantageous is that “I don’t worry about a thing,” Hess said. If there’s a problem, she reports it and someone comes to fix it. “That’s the beauty of living here. I’m just so fortunate this was recommended to me.”

Most residents don’t pay attention to the latest in technology advances, she added. “If they need anything, they just call their daughter,” she said.

The residents are a nice group of people, Hess added, with a number of them having lived there since before she arrived. Residents play cards, attend bingo and daily Mass.

In all, she said, “it’s been a rather peaceful life except for the Depression which put a big wrinkle into everything. How my mother pulled us through those bad times we’ll never know.”

>> Cardinal Ritter Senior Services

Cardinal Ritter Senior Services is the largest agency of Catholic Charities. It provides services to elderly people in St. Louis City and St. Louis, St. Charles, Jefferson, Franklin and Warren counties. Its purpose is to improve the quality of life for older people through comprehensive social, health and senior services.

The agency specializes in “creative care for the elderly,” with programs not only for older adults but also for employees who take care of its residents and other older adults, the families of residents and others who seek help and the communities Cardinal Ritter serves.

Cardinal Ritter assists people to remain in their homes but also provides assisted living, skilled nursing care, affordable low-income and mid-income housing and more. Its programs provide volunteer opportunities, care for children who need help from a grandparent-aged adult through the Foster Grandparent Program, adult day programs, a homemaker program and more.

For information, call (314) 961-8000 or visit www.cardinalritterseniorservices.org.

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