Current Featured Resident

Amber Joy

Amber Joy at Hilltop House Retirement Community

From the time Amber was a little girl, it was very clear that one of her values is justice. She cannot stand to see anyone treated unfairly. She was born in McPherson, Kansas where her father was president of a small Christian college and her mother taught elocution at the college. She was the baby of four children with two older sisters and one brother. It was a town of 2,000 and she recalls that it was a great place for her and her siblings in that they had a great deal of freedom.

She was unaware at that age of the difficulties her dad had being liberal and open minded in a very conservative college setting. He once brought a young man from Nigeria to be educated at the college, but then the young man was not allowed to attend the church and there were dorm issues as well. Her father befriended a woman who Amber remembers as being a tall, elegant woman who smoked and his best friend was a cigar-chewing Jew. Her father got in trouble for that as well. He was a charismatic man and a great teacher. She also describes him as being very inclusive and loving everyone. One might surmise where Amber got her thoughts of social justice!!

Finally, the love/hate relationship tilted in disfavor and she says of her father, "He was run out of town." He was hired at Seattle Pacific College here in Seattle and the family moved here in 1952. He taught economics, became the school photographer, started chapel every day for 32 years and was a fundraiser. For 32 years, he was also the Sunday School teacher at the church Amber now attends as well. The Kansas college recanted and invited him back, but he opted to stay in Seattle.

Amber thought the move to Seattle was a real adventure. She attended North Queen Anne Elementary and Queen Ann High School. She says she was not a good student - actually, she said she hated school, would not study and could not sit still in class. She loves history now, but then dates and places did not interest her - she wanted to know how people lived. After graduation, she was offered free education at Seattle Pacific because her father was on faculty. She knew that would be a problem and an embarrassment for her father, so she declined.

She said that during the years after high school, she had about 500 jobs (her estimate), i.e., salesperson at Prager's Men's Store, Aetna Insurance, mortgage work, bar tender, and go go dancer to name a few. She admits it was a dysfunctional time of life, but she did have a son born in 1964 and a daughter born in 1968.

Amber says that as a young child she was sure that something was very wrong with her or that she was bad somehow. She couldn't sit still and couldn't stay focused. She was either too happy or furious without much time in between. This kind of behavior garnered her a lot of adult glares. When she thinks of her childhood, she thinks of adults rolling their eyes and steeling themselves when she entered the room. Not her parents, thank God, she says. She says that you can see that she is a lot better but not "quite perfect."

She says she has a small cadre of friends here at Hilltop who try to remind her of public decorum. Tom shushes her every time she enters the lobby and Chuck nicknamed her "Whispers." Thanks, fellas, she says. But, she is aware that God alone will be the one to slow her down.

After a lot of headscratching by the medical and religious communities, to no avail, she says that she jumped ship and for those of you who know the term "self-medicating," she found that alcohol and marijuana "took the edge off . . . well, alcohol not so much, it turned me into the "furies." That changed in April, 1979 when she became clean and sober. She went into AA with her daughter's father because he was obviously an alcoholic. Alcohol is toxic to some, peanuts to others. When she drank, she became another person. She attended Alanon, but the treatment facility encouraged spouses to go to open AA meetings and she looked around and realized so much of the stuff sounded familiar. She discovered it is not how much or what you drink, but what it did to or for you. She recognized it was a deep discomfort with reality and she had been willing to do almost anything to escape it.

When she went into recovery, she started working with low income, homeless people. Most people do not recognize the serious side of Amber, just the full of fun and obnoxious, she says. The Operation Night Watch's director Rick Reynolds' mom was in Amber's Sunday School class. She got a job there with Rick. Most of his workers were students and when summer vacation started, they went home. She volunteered for 9 months and then he hired her as supervisor. She worked Friday and Saturday nights for 8 years.

Her day job was at Seattle Public School kitchens. Her favorite school was the Bilingual School which taught all immigrant kids from age 10 to 21. Some children came who had never held a pencil and some were highly educated. She remembers that they all came in scared and in a few weeks had turned into confident young people. Amber learned how to greet the children in 32 languages and they would laugh at her pitiful pronunciation. She hung a Beanie baby pig over the pork and other identifying babies so they would know what they were eating. The Spanish children called her Abuelita which means "little grandmother," and soon all the kids in the school were calling her by that title of endearment. It was a great juxtaposition to work with the children during the week and the clients of Operation Nightwatch on the weekends. She had to retire from school at age 62 because of an injury.

Her next job was with Interfaith Hospitality which worked with families with children. There she met Craig Darling from Companis. Craig placed her at Boomtown Café which failed after two years and then to ROAR where she was the receptionist and ran the drop in center. When that recently closed, she was unemployed for a few months but now Companis has placed her as a "one on one coach/companion" for working disabled. She will be associated with seven or eight different people/week, all at different locations. Most will be two to four hour shifts. One is a 50 year old man who has Cerebral Palsy and works at Children's Hospital. He uses his computer to speak but prefers his ABC board operated by his foot where he has the most control of his body. She says he works so hard. He makes deliveries for the gift shop and she shadows to help. He retrieves abandoned wheelchairs from the parking lot. When he sees the automatic door is clear, he thrusts the wheelchairs through, she calls "strike", then enters and puts them in place. She has to read his subtle signs and is really looking forward to this job!!

Amber moved into Hilltop in March, 2008. She goes to Seward Park at 7:00 a.m. every day with rare exceptions. She has met three other women who walk at the same time and they now meet after checking in with each other. She picks up the trash on the path and makes it into collages. Perhaps you remember her display in the art show last year. If not, maybe we can convince her to show it again. She is member of the Friends of Seward Park and they have contacted her to bring in the collage for their Centennial.

Amber has a standing three-hour weekly appointment with her seven-year old great granddaughter, whom she adores. She is also an active participant in life at Hilltop House and the hostess at the First Friday social. Her creative flair is evident there as well because she is always attired in an outfit to match the color (tablecloth) of the month. It is really a delight to have her here and we admire the way she lives her life.


Bob Porter

Bob Porter at Hilltop House Retirement Community

In 1978, Bob Porter accepted a teaching assignment at the Tehran International School, teaching German and English to high school students and in the evening, he taught English to junior college students a little outside the main part of town. Six weeks into the school year, the revolution began. Everywhere you went, students were excited and all Iranians were tuned into their transistor radios. Bob lived on a street where the revolutionaries went by for hours, armed with pitchforks and any other items that could be used as tools of destruction. Part of his job was to administer the Graduate Record Exam and he was picked up early in the morning and when there was no one around anywhere. This particular morning, as he was waiting for his ride, a carload of revolutionaries roared up and screeched to a halt in front of Bob. He thought this was it! The heavily-armed guy in charge came to him and asked in Farsi, "Is this a certain street?" as he understood and told them, they went on their way. Whew!

The last day of exams, he was running up the stairs with the exams and he fell and had to be rushed to the hospital as his foot was turned a 180 angle. A very kind doctor who spoke American English told him he could get by without a cast if he "hopped" and used crutches. He was living in a basement and very kind neighbors helped him and when he would go shopping, all the shopkeepers were solicitous and always offered him Coco Cola.

Next stop on his teaching career was Sri Lanka. He was at Jaffna and the school had been an American mission school but now belonged to the local church. Every time he went into a department store - usually he travelled by bus or bicycle - the very kind owners brought him coffee or Coco Cola. They were Muslim. Again, not long after arriving in Sri Lanka, the Tamil Eelam (Tigers) sought liberation from the government. The Tigers feared that the Muslims were not backing their movement, so they forced all Muslims to leave town with a two-hour notice and as far as Bob knows, they never returned. This started in 1983 and Bob stayed until 1998, so he had 15 years of this bloody mess.

During this entire time, chaos reigned and the government made things inconvenient for him. Once he was on a train going back to Jaffna from a meeting. The army stopped the train and said that no foreigners were supposed to be in Jaffna. A big burly officer took him off the train because "he did not have a permit." Bob was put on a train back to Colombo. Then he began the adventure of finding a permit. He spoke to a school principal whose friend headed the Office of Secretary of Defense and he directed Bob to another general who gave him a permit.

In Vaddu Koddai at Jaffna College, he taught English and directed combined high school choirs. They asked him to teach German at the university until the situation got so bad that his head professor had to flee with his family. He also taught for the TOEFL test (English as a Foreign Language). He taught that class in the library of a private citizen who built it in honor of his wife. After her death, he gave it to Jaffna College. Bob taught that class early on Sunday morning. Some people objected because they thought he should be in church. One morning, the people in the library told him not to go to his classroom on the second floor because the bombers were flying. They directed him to the bunker in the garden. However, he had to go to the outside restroom. That is when the bombing occurred. Happily, the library was not hit!

Robert was born in Richmond, California to Seattle natives who were there because his father worked at Standard Oil. It was depression time and the father became disenchanted with the layoff policies of Standard Oil and he quit. He enrolled in San Francisco Theological Seminary at San Anselmo, California and after student pastorates and a church of his own in Walnut Creek, he was hired to be the director of Westminster House program at the University of Washington.

Bob and his sister attended Roosevelt High School and the family had two cousins living with them along with their paternal grandmother and two or three boarders. There were usually ten people at the family dining table.

He elected to be a conscientious objector in high school but was deferred through college. He attended Pomona College, majoring in English literature. After graduation, he performed his alternate service with the Brethren Service Commission and he was sent to Germany to work at administering a work camp program. After two years of service, he worked for the World Council of Churches' Refugee Resettlement processing program papers for emigration to whomever could be found to sponsor the refugees.

The next stop on his life journey was a return to the University of Washington to obtain a Master's in German and English and a subsequent return to Germany where he did post graduate work under a German program called Dankstipendium, taking German and organ.

Upon his return to the U.S., he taught high school English and German in South Bend, Washington; then German, French, English at a Church of the Brethren college in McPherson, Kansas, and migrated to Rice in Houston, Texas where he received a Ph.D. in German. The head of the department had been one of his professors at the University of Washington, and he completed the course work and dissertation in three years. His dissertation was the early works and non-fiction of Thomas Mann. All the work was computerized.

At Elizabethtown College in Pennsylvania, he was head of the Modern Language Dept; in Germany, he participated in the Education Exchange and taught English and German in Detmold (this was close to the NW German Music Academy which pleased him very much), then to Marburg for the Brethren College Abroad. While there, he led two student trips into East Germany to Leipzig, Erfurt, Weimar, Dresden and Meissen. The preparation for the trips was "hairy" and he had to make all the calls himself. The Communist government kept them in suspense until the last minute when a telegram arrived including all the names and visas. He continued his teaching career by teaching German one year at Oregon State University.

Bob fills his retirement ?? days by working with Multifaith Works and is on a team caring for individuals who live at Beighle House and have AIDS. He sings in a choir at Northminister Presbyterian and he continues working with the Lions Club which he joined while living in Sri Lanka. He was the Zone chair last year and is on the Governor's Cabinet for International Relations for the coming year.

He is very grateful that he had all his worldwide experiences. It taught him that of all the things you do professionally, it is the people you come into contact with that mean the most. He is lucky to have friends all over the world and we are lucky to have him living at Hilltop House.


Dr. Charles Reid

Dr. Charles Reid at Hilltop House Retirement Community

Our neighbor Charles Reid was born in Hartford, Wisconsin. He was an only child. His father did leather and upholstery work at Kissel, a car manufacturing plant. The company produced top of the line cars and employed some 5,000 to 6,000 workers. The "crash" occurred in October, 1929 and by Christmas of that year, the plant closed and Kissel was never produced again.

His father went back to building houses but became bedridden for several years after a heart attack. His mother and other relatives were the caregivers, taking care of him until his death around the time Charles entered high school. His mother worked as a secretary at the Red Cross to support the family.

Charles' interest in music started early. When he was a child, his aunt and grandmother would place his hands on the piano to guide his playing. He started taking lessons at age eight. A woman named Miss Klink from off in the farm country started him on the piano. When he went to 7th grade, he took lessons from one of the nuns, Sister Virgil, from the College of Music in Milwaukee for a couple of years. Somehow he managed to scrape up $1.50 every two weeks to pay for his lessons. Charles does remember that during those years, he had an endless open book and read everything he could about composers.

In a not unusual dilemma, Charles and his mother differed on a choice of his college. She wanted him to attend Marquette, a Jesuit university located in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He was already enrolled and then he found out he had to take four semesters of religion and he wanted to study music and history - Marquette was not for him. So, he enrolled in the University of Wisconsin at Madison and attended five years, with a major in music and a minor in social studies. There was no tuition and he is still amazed that he could get all of this education with so little money.

After graduation, he could not find a job teaching music. He worked two years doing clerical work on a navy base and saved his money to travel in Europe.

His travels took a different turn when in 1952, he received greetings from the President of the United States who enclosed a draft notice and a free ticket to Korea.

The trip took a detour and for the first six months, he was stationed at Fort Monmouth, New Jersey where he studied photography. A perk for Charles was that he got to travel to New York City every weekend. He attended a concert at Carnegie Hall every weekend and was privileged to hear many famous conductors and performers. One artist he recalls was Myra Hess who performed Beethoven's Fourth Concerto with notes only, no score.

At the end of six months, he finally used his ticket to Korea where he was supposed to serve another 18 months, but was discharged two to three months early. His job there was photographer working with the news media. When they found out that he had the extra qualification of having studied French, he started translating. As a PFC, he censored British, French and American documents. His task was determining if it was okay and then the Colonel stamped it on his say.

When the Armistice occurred, Charles was sent to Panmunjom to observe the signing by a North Korean representative and an American general and to report back what had happened. During his time in Korea, he took three R&R breaks, the first to Tokyo, Japan and the other two to southern Japan, where he enjoyed staying Karatsu Seaside Hotel. He witnessed the terrible devastation in South Korea but was later pleased to see an unbelievable recovery.

When he left South Korea by the South China Sea, they travelled in a dense fog and his vessel was hit by a commercial vessel, causing his boat to sustain a huge dent. They made it to Sasebo, Japan, a U.S. Navy base, and remained in that port for two and a half weeks for repairs. Unfortunately, that extended his time in the repair dock and he could not leave the boat. When he arrived back in the states at Ft. Mason, San Francisco, he was met by his aunt and uncle and he was so grateful to be home.

After the war, he tried unsuccessfully to get a job as an art and music critic. He attended Berkeley and studied music and took advantage of the proximity of relatives to become acquainted with them

His mom died in 1954 after a long illness and after he settled her estate, he followed his longtime plan of traveling in Europe. First country on his itinerary was Spain where he lived for a year. Then in England, he attended the University of London where he used the G.I. bill to study art and music. He visited Tangiers, spent a month and a half in Italy exploring Naples, Rome, Florence, Verona and Venice. In Austria, he spent time in Innsbruck and Salzburg and ended his journey in Munich, Germany.

Back in the U.S., he took another year of education courses and got a teaching certificate which allowed him to begin substitute teaching. He substituted in the Oakland and San Luis Obispo School Districts in hopes of obtaining a fulltime job. His subjects were music, social studies, Spanish and English. Continuing this program for five or six years, he was able to support himself to continue his studies. He was awarded his Ph.D. in Education from the University of California at Berkeley. During these years, he was also composing music and working as a professional musician.

From 1970 to 1973, he was Director of Secondary Education at Iowa Wesleyan College. Things became bleak financially. The school revamped its system to avoid bankruptcy and as part of the restructure, they eliminated a dozen professorial positions which decimated the education department. Charles' job was one of the dozen.

He then served as Assistant Professor of Music Education at Fayetteville, North Carolina State University where he guided student teachers. The students were a mixed clientele, many good hardworking students from poverty. The problem was an administration that had a lock hold on everything. It was a hopeless situation and although a close friend who taught at Wake Forest said that he was leaving and he would make sure that Charles was the #1 candidate for his job, Charles declined and resigned in 1978 and moved back to California.

He was out of work for a couple of years and he had relatives in Fremont who had a ranch and he stayed with them. Ohlone Community College was nearby, so he took some classes. They asked him to join the faculty which he did, and he taught computer classes until he retired when he was 65. After retirement, he moved to Seattle in 2000 when he moved into Hilltop House. Charles chose to move to Seattle because his cousin Mary Louise and her daughters were living here and he had visited them many times prior to his move.

Charles is also an author who has written several books on education and published a number of scholarly articles in educational and music journals.

He continued traveling and since retirement, he traveled to Germany, England and France at least four times in the 1990's and last visited there in 2002. With his German friend, he toured the southeast United States, western Canada several times and made almost annual automobile tours of Utah, Arizona and Texas. He has continued to enjoy the arts and we at Hilltop have been grateful to have had the benefit of all his years of musical education when he plays the piano for sing-a-longs, some special events and as a former part of a duet team. It is evident that he is a professional pianist!! Charles has also been an involved resident and served two terms as the Resident Council president. We are very happy to have you living at Hilltop and that we can enjoy and appreciate all your many talents.


Phil Mervin

Phil Mervin at Hilltop House Retirement Community

Phil Mervin's father was born in Britain and immigrated to Canada on his own at age 14. Due to various disagreements in the family, the only two sons in the family left England - one to Canada and one to Australia. The two brothers never saw each other again.

Phil's father joined the Canadian army and was sent to Europe during World War II. He met Phil's mom at an army dance in Aldershot, a British army town, and they married in 1942. His father was sent on a military campaign to Italy and Sicily and was wounded and sent to recover in Malta and North Africa for a year. Phil was born during his tour of duty and he was 14 months old before he met his father.

After the war, his father returned to Canada and Phil and his mother followed in 1947. Phil attended school and university in Canada where he majored in English and German and eventually studied accounting through New York City Business College.

Phil met his wife when they both worked for the Canadian Pacific Hotel at Lake Louise. At that time, the hotel was only open in the summer months and run by mainly students. It was a summer job for both of them during college.

After college, they moved to the Bahamas where Phil worked for Sheraton Hotels for 18months. In 1969 he applied to Westin International Hotels and began his career with Westin at The Bayshore in Vancouver. For the next 30 years he worked out of the international corporate office based in Seattle but living internationally for part of that time. He was responsible for internal audit for part of his career and ultimately had financial and administration responsibility for properties in South Africa, Germany, Malta, Mexico and Asia.

Phil has three sons - one of the boys was born in Canada and two were born in South Africa.

Phil took early retirement in 1999 after 30 years. As an adjunct to full retirement, Phil consulted in both hotel and banking industries but then only travelled domestically. This work took him to Denver where he consulted with First Tennessee Bank out of Memphis at their credit card processing center.

He finally completely retired in 2002 and went back to England to look after his 90 year old aunt. Following her passing at age 94 he decided to stay in London and began several volunteer positions with charitable agencies supporting people with health issues related to HIV. These agencies provided support in housing, medical services and counseling services to underprivileged and sometimes homeless individuals as well as funding medical research in the greater London area.

During his time in London Phil commuted often to Seattle to visit family. In 2011 he made the decision that it was time to return to Seattle permanently and began looking for permanent housing here. After several months of frustration in trying to find suitable housing, a friend of Phil's spotted the Hilltop House sign on the parking garage at Boren and Broadway. He called, came in and interviewed and realized he had found what he was looking for. Luckily an apartment came available in early 2012 and Phil flew back to England, closed up his affairs and moved into Hilltop House.

In his initial intake interview for Hilltop House Phil indicated an interest in keeping busy and volunteering. Thanks to a referral from Darla, he immediately became acquainted with Craig Darling, Executive Director of Companis Mission Workers Association and has been involved with that organization ever since.

Phil volunteers as the Office Manager for Companis four days a week and he also works with The Pride Foundation one day a week assisting with database management. He says "It is a marvelous experience working with Companis and to be able to be a part of an organization that provides essential services to those in need in our community. I look forward to getting up every morning and being part of the Companis team."

All three of Phil's sons and their families live in the Seattle area. One works for Microsoft, one is with Paccar and one is an independent film producer. Phil is able to spend a lot of time with his sons and their families which include four grandchildren - three boys and one girl.

Phil loves traveling, both domestic and international, the symphony, theatre, classical music and museums - especially the National Gallery in London. He travels to Phoenix often to spend time with extended family.

It is such a treat to have Phil here at Hilltop House with his wicked sense of humor and his yearning for a new adventure, balanced by the fact that he is a very kind man with a strong sense of humanitarianism. We are grateful you are here!


Yohosha Costello

Yohosha Costello at Hilltop House Retirement Community

Yohosha Costello, known to us as Yoshi, refers to himself as a card, a fool on purpose, one who tries to joke with people and does not always succeed. He also claims to have the ability to get one's goat easily. So, watch out!

He was born in Spokane, the oldest child in his family. He has a brother four years younger and a sister 12 years younger. Their father was employed by the SSI, forerunner of the CSI, in other words, he was a spy. He took secret trips and one in particular, Yoshi remembers when he was an Irish neutral, although really a U.S. citizen, to Greece when it was under Hitler before the U.S. entered the war. Yoshi never knew the reason for these trips, but he found out when he joined the military. He received a very quick clearance because his family had been under surveillance all of Yoshi's life.

His family moved to Wenatchee and then back to Spokane when Yoshi finished second grade which he had to repeat because he missed a lot of school while he was sick. He attended Spokane schools from third grade until he was a junior in high school. At that point, the family moved to Kellogg, Idaho where he attended his senior year of school and then matriculated at the University of Idaho where he majored in liberal arts with an emphasis on art. He received a full scholarship from his church because he was being groomed for the seminary. He became angry with the bishop and quit school, losing his scholarship.

The U. S. Air Force became the recipient of his services and he was employed by them for 11-1/2 years. He was on duty in Korea, Viet Nam, the Indian subcontinent and he saw most of Southeast Asia. His final assignment was Luke Air Force Base in Phoenix. After he terminated, he became a motorized patrol policeman in Glendale, Arizona.

While he was in Korea, he did not spend all of his time being a service man and there he met a wife. They had a son and when it came time to leave, she decided not to leave her home and they were divorced. Yoshi is still in contact with that son.

In 1963, he married a Japanese woman and they had three children, a son and two daughters. After they came to the states, he did odd jobs, cooking, owned a cleaning business and they moved around a lot. Those locations were Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, Hillsborough, Oregon and to Walla Walla, Washington. It was there that he walked out on his family in 1979.

Yoshi's path led to Houston, Texas and it was there in 1981 that he became sober. A Salvation Army major asked him when he was going to stop running. He started attending A.A. and the Salvation Army treatment. In 1982, he started as a peer counselor in Drug and Alcohol Treatment. Sober and now a full-fledged counselor, he worked in Phoenix, Houston and then to Seattle where he was employed by Union Gospel Mission.

While he was working for them, he connected with his two daughters in Walla Walla. His wife (they were never divorced) had just moved there and lived with their eldest daughter. His daughters and their families took his wife and him out for a Spanish dinner. They arranged it so that Yoshi and Toyoko had a table to themselves. They started talking and the youngest daughter transported the rest of the family home. When she returned, her parents were closing down the restaurant and when they went back to the older daughter's home, the wife moved Yoshi's things into her room and they remained together until her death from a heart attack three years later.

He continued working for Union Gospel Mission and lived at the Union Gospel Lighthouse Apartments until it burned down a few months ago. That is when we were lucky that he decided to make Hilltop House a home for him and his books.

Yoshi's spiritual life has been as peripatetic as his physical life. He moved from Buddhism (Japan) in the 1960's to a Wicca in 1974 and then became an ordained evangelical minister. He studied Sikhism, Islam and Muslims and Animism. Now, he is "just a Jew."

His grandfather was a Messianic Rabbi. He studied in Germany and when he returned, he could not find a Messianic synagogue, so he sold Willies and horseless carriages and taught Hebrew at a German Lutheran Seminary. When Yoshi was born, his grandfather made sure that he was circumcised and received a Jewish name, Yohosha which means Joshua. He lived with his grandfather a couple of years and remembers that his grandfather always read the Bible at dinner - a Jewish trait. Yoshi did not understand the teachings then, but now he does.

Three years ago, he started practicing Judaism. He had always had it hidden from him because his father hated the religion. Yoshi found First Fruits of Zion, a publishing group, and became involved in weekly Torah study. His grandfather's teachings came back and he started understanding. He attends Biet Haushofer Synagogue in Tukwila. He has been shown that no matter how much he thinks he knows, he knows nothing. It sounds like Yoshi has come home spiritually and is grateful.

His parting comment was that although 1981 was his sobriety date, today is the day he has to worry about.

We are so happy you found your way to us, Yoshi, and appreciate your thoughtfulness and kindness.