Lifelong Melvindale resident makes easy transition to nearby community

Photo courtesy of Oakwood Common. Irene Rutkowski (left) visits with her daughter, Rose Ann Wooldridge, who helped her make an easy transition to Oakwood Common.

Photo courtesy of Oakwood Common. Irene Rutkowski (left) visits with her daughter, Rose Ann Wooldridge, who helped her make an easy transition to Oakwood Common.

DEARBORN – Born and raised in Melvindale and a proud graduate of Melvindale High School, Irene Rutkowski moved as a young bride with her husband Stan to Toledo.

Family ties soon brought the couple back to the Michigan community where they raised their son, John, and daughter, Rose Ann, also graduates of Melvindale High School.

Years passed, the children grew up, the neighborhood changed, and Stan passed away. The family home became empty for Irene.

“We always had wonderful neighbors,” Rutkowski said. “It’s just that people just don’t come outside and talk like they used to. I was lonely and sitting in the house too much.”

John Rutkowski, who works for Ford Motor Co. and lives in Carleton, was always the first person Irene called when she needed anything even though cousins and nephews offered to help. He was also the one called to the hospital when Irene fell this past spring.

Rose Ann Wooldridge, a California resident, quickly boarded a plane for Michigan.

“My brother was doing it all, and we both realized our mom was no longer safe in her home.” said Wooldridge, who urged her brother to take a much needed vacation. “I told him that I’d somehow convince her to move. He wasn’t confident she would agree.”

While Rutkowski was at Beaumont Health and Rehabilitation in Dearborn, Wooldridge talked with the staff at Oakwood Common about the best way to ease her mom into a new residence in the senior living community. Prepared with more insight from the community, Woolridge began the process of slowly convincing her mom of the importance of moving to a place that offered the socialization and nutrition she needed as well as make it easier on her brother.

“The staff was so helpful and made it possible for me to move everything my mom would need from her Melvindale house to Oakwood Common within just a few days,” Wooldridge said. “My brother returned from his vacation, and he couldn’t believe it.”

When Rutkowski was ready to leave rehabilitation in April, her children took her directly to a lovely apartment.

“It looks just like my house,” said Rutkowski, who saw the familiar furnishings and photos, and agreed to stay there a few days until she got better.

“I didn’t go back to California until I could see how comfortable she was,” Wooldridge said. “It didn’t take long, because she was surrounded by a wonderful community of friendly residents and staff. They gave her so much TLC.”

Back at work in California as assistant to the head of a private school, Wooldridge frequently talks with her mom by phone and gets regular updates from her brother who continues to help with grocery shopping and other needs.

“It’s so nice to see that she’s no longer lonely,” Wooldridge said. “I think she’s already gained 10 pounds since she moved in. All the things she used to enjoy are coming back. She dresses up every day, puts on jewelry, and walks more.”

Rutkowski agreed that she never sits alone in her apartment. Instead, she goes to exercise class and visits or plays pinochle with her new friends. Now recruiting former neighbors, she tells them, “If you’re lonesome, come here.”

More recently, she told her children that it’s time to sell the house. “This is home. I love it here.”