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Greendale Seniors Remain Part of the Community at Harbour Village

Week#61: Their address may have changed, but Greendale Seniors have an excellent home at Harbour Village. Al Stuner is one of many who made Greendale a great place to raise kids.

History records and explains past events, while folklore preserves what people widely remember.

History and Folklore!

There is a gem of a place in Greendale that sometimes goes unnoticed._ is nestled in a wonderfully landscaped section of Greendale West of Loomis Avenue and North of Grange Avenue on Mockingbird Lane. It is appropriately called a Senior Lifestyle Community as this statement on their website explains:

 “Harbour Village retirement community in Greendale offers independent living, assisted living and memory care to suit your unique needs. Designed for those who want companionship and amenities in a stimulating environment with a hospitality-centered staff, Harbour Village senior living in Greendale complements the best of Living Life. Relax. It's time to Live Life to its fullest... at Harbour Village.”

If you drop by to check out Harbour Village as I have done several times, don’t stand in the middle of the lobby gawking at the wonderful facility. You’re liable to get run over. These seniors are not sitting in rocking chairs watching grass grow or just playing bingo. They’re going places, attending classes, exercising, getting out in the community and participating just like they have always done. Harbour Village is just their new address, their new home. When I visited one of the residents in independent living, Al Stuner, I walked up to his apartment and rang his doorbell just like I would have when he lived on Apricot Court.

There are approximately 240 residents at Harbour Village, most having grown up and lived in Greendale. They generally move to Harbour Village in their 80’s because of the all-inclusive nature of the community. While many of their activities are provided within the complex, like exercise facilities, a computer lab, movies, classes, meals etc. they are out in the community just as much. You will see them in the Village or at Southridge, at the Library taking computer training, attending Sunday services at local churches, and going on planned trips to wherever they have a fancy to go. If you see the Harbour Village van in the vicinity you know they’re around, like in the Village Days parade distributing candy to the kids.  

Program Director Jessica Hamilton told me a fun story about the participation in the Greendale King Kong of Corn Competition. Three of the residents planted and grew a corn stalk that reached 13 feet 8 ½ inches. But what made it fun was that Jessica could post the progress on Facebook and the families could see and keep track of the progress. Social media is everywhere, even at Harbour Village. Like most Wisconsin residents, they gather to watch the Packer games on the big screen TV and cheer on their team. A couple of other fun facts are that they have celebrated two centenarian birthdays, and two of the residents who met playing bridge married and the reception was held at Harbour Village.

Harbour Village consists of three distinct buildings, the Concord (Independent Living), Harbour Residences (Assisted Living), and Harbour House (Memory Care). Most people remember the Concord because it was first and opened its doors in 1988. Bernice Gainer leased the first apartment in 1988 as part of the staff, later managed the property, and is still there today serving and helping the residents. I asked Bernice what has changed over the years. She said that while services have expanded with the assisted living and memory care options, “We helped the resident then, and we help them now. We continue the pattern of responding to their needs”. There are 130 employees at Harbour Village, including health care, culinary, housekeeping, maintenance and support professionals.

The most intriguing thing to me about the programs at Harbour Village run by Jessica is the ‘Brain Health University’. Jessica said that this is the most exciting new development in senior living and are all extremely proud of it. They have received The International Council on Active Aging® (ICAA) Industry Innovator Award March/April 2012 and the Assisted Living Federation of America (ALFA) Best of the Best Award May/June 2012. 

Brain Health University is an activity-based, lifestyle approach to brain health. The program consists of 30 classes offered in an 8-week period. The classes explore new experiences related to the brain health dimensions:  physical activity, nutrition, sleep, stress management, cognitive stimulation, and social engagement. Jessica explained that research suggests mental and emotional health play a crucial role in extending the quality of life. She said participants who complete 18 of 30 courses receive a Brain Health University certification of completion. But this is not a one and one type of program. Many residents continue to attend classes throughout the year.

After all I’ve learned and seen at Harbour Village I know what my opinion is, but I’ll let Jessica have the last word. When she considered coming to work at Harbour Village eight years ago her main criteria was “Would I want my parents to live here?” Her answer was yes.

People, Past & Present!

It’s 1945 and Al Stuner is up to bat for the Greendale Theatre baseball team. The left fielder moves in expecting to cut off a shallow hit, when Al connects and hits one over his head for a triple. That same year the Greendale Theatre team wins the Championship.

When I met with Al for the first time at Harbour Village, where he lives, he showed me the picture of the team. He’s the third one from the right on the bottom row (see attached picture). Many of you will remember the picture. It was hanging in the Kohls Department Store at Southridge Mall until 2011 when the store was remodeled. Now it is displayed outside the Greendale Historical Society office in the basement of the _ building.  

I listened to this interesting baseball story and then continued on with the interview. About half way through I asked him how he lost his left arm. He tells me he lost it when he was 12 years old. Huh? “What about this baseball picture and the story you told me?”

He explains he hid his arm behind the next player for the picture, and he played baseball with one arm. He would quickly move the glove from his hand to under the stump of his left arm and back to throw and catch. He would bat holding it with just his right arm. Now I’m just sitting there and listening in wonderment.

Al Stuner was born in 1917 near the small town of Jump River, WI (Northeast of Chippewa Falls). When he was 12 years he was helping with the building of a barn. The floor of the hayloft gave way and he fell injuring his left arm. His dad drove him 30 miles in his Model T to the nearest doctor. That doctor put his arm in a cast and sent him home. Two days later his mother grew concerned because his fingers were black. So they went back to the original doctor who said everything was fine. His mother did not believe him so they drive another 60 miles to Chippewa Falls. The new doctor cut off the cast and what he saw I couldn’t delicately describe in this story. Immediately it was a question of whether Al would even live. Al reminded me that during this era there was no anesthesia, only nasty ether. Once when he was conscious he heard the Doctor tell his mother that he was going to live or die in the next 30 minutes.

He lived and went back home. He made do with what he had, continued working on the farm, went to school, and was the pitcher on his high school baseball team. Around 1938 he and about another dozen other young men were bussed to Greendale, WI as part of the National Youth Administration (NYA) to work on the building development of Greendale. They were housed in farm buildings west of Dale Creek. This government program gave youths some income in exchange for work. This lasted about a year and then Al went back to Jump River. He earned enough money to buy a Model A car for $39. So he and four of his friends headed off driving east. They had no money but worked at odd jobs along the way for food and gas. At night they would pull over to the side of the road, roll up in a blanket and sleep. They made it all the way to Washington DC before heading back. The times certainly were different back then.

After a few years of working in the local area, he and his girlfriend Betty travelled to Milwaukee to find better work. He worked at Cutler Hammer as an expediter, at Hot Point performing machine maintenance, and in 1943 married Betty.

This is when the Greendale part of the story picks up again. He was hired by the Greendale Co-op as a pick-up man. He drove a Dodge panel truck and picked up stuff for the Co-op. He did not remember where he lived and rented originally, but does remember he eventually purchased a three-bedroom original on Apricot Court for $9,000.00. There Al and Betty raised three children Barbara, Pamela and Randall.

Al heard of an opening with the Greendale Schools in the Maintenance Department, applied, and was hired by the Superintendent Jack Ambruster, first on a part-time basis and then full-time. I did not have time to check out the exact years he worked for the Schools, but it had to be at least 40 years. He was the one who discovered the boiler fire at the new _and called the Fire Department. And he was there for the building and also for the demolition of Ambruster School.

Out of curiosity I started to ask around about Al and found out that everyone knew him. Without prompting the comment most often made was “He was such a nice man.” I checked with Ted Mainella for his recollections of Al. Ted is a Greendale High School graduate and President of the Greendale Historical Society. You can count on Ted to add a little humor to his comments and this is what he had to say about Al:

“Al “Shorty” Stuner is a well known and liked person in Greendale. My recollection of him is as one of the chaperones at the weekly ‘Friday Night Dance’ in the basement of what was then the High School in the late 50s. He would roam the perimeter of the dance floor and also make sure the soda machine had an adequate supply of Sun Drop Cola. Teenage boys get awfully dry, especially when it's ladies choice.”

A little over a decade ago Al and Betty moved to The Concord at Harbour Village. Several years ago Betty passed away.  The last question I asked Al was “What was it like living in Greendale?”

He replied, “You couldn’t have gotten a better place to have kids grow up in. The teachers and the schools are good. You never had to lock your door. Everyone would help you with anything you needed.”

Let me conclude by saying that Al Stuner was one those people that made Greendale a special place for kids. I’m sure a lot of those kids (now adults) will enjoy reading this story and hearing that he is still in Greendale and about to celebrate his 95th birthday in December. 

(Year each graduated from Greendale High School: Barbara-1963, Pamela-1966, Randall-1967)

But did you know?

Peter Gray, born in 1915, was the only person to play professional baseball with one arm. He played for the St Louis Browns in 1945 despite having lost his right arm at age six when he fell under a train. He became an inspiration for disabled servicemen returning from World War II. He appeared in newsreels, visited army hospitals and rehabilitation centers telling veterans they could lead a normal life.  His glove is in the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, New York.

Al Stuner knew about Peter Gray and when he told me the story it was the first time I had heard it. But it is unlikely Al was influenced by Peter Gray. They were both playing ball with one arm from an early age and both were playing organized baseball in 1945. However, it is obvious both men were an inspiration to many others.   

Greendale Trivia Question and Answer:

_ Answer – Last week’s question was stated incorrectly, so I apologize. The question should have been: How many original parks were there in the Village? There were eight:

  1. Basswood (East of Bluebird Court)
  2. Willow (now Pioneer Park on Northway)
  3. Apricot (South end of the court)
  4. Center (East of Mercantile Building on Broad Street)
  5. Conifer (West end of Conifer Lane)
  6. Picnic Woods (North of Greendale High School
  7. School Park (playground with a wading pool west of the Community Building)
  8. Memorial Park (off of Schoolway)

Week#61 Question – Are there any alleys in Greendale? The question suggests there are, so how many are there and where are they?

** Week #61 contributors Sally Chadwick, Greendale Historical Society, Ted Mainella, Bernice Gainer, Jessica Hamilton.

RANDALL STUNER June 08, 2012 at 04:23 PM
That's my Dad! He an Energizer Bunny! "Handicapped" was a word never used in our household. He would always try to do something himself before he'd ever ask for any help. He's such an amazing guy. The things he did for the youth of Greendale are legandary...supervising "open gym", "open swim", high school dances, skating rink, after-school youth center, and more. He's a hard act to follow! I'm proud to be his son. Randy Stuner
Alan H. Strauss June 12, 2012 at 12:32 AM
Al was our next door neighbor for many, many years. It always amazed me to watch him shovel those heavy snows we had. Being our neighbor we always had to behave ourselves at the Friday Night Dances. He is an awesome person to know. Al Strauss
Cyndee Such (Witt) June 20, 2012 at 02:56 AM
I found this article by accident looking for some info on Village Days. I saw the name and I knew of a man when I was in grade school named Mr. Stunner. Could it be the same person - the janitor at Ambruster? I kept reading. It was pretty simple after that--one in the same. I only remember his green uniform and him pushing a broom. His sleeve where his arm should have been was always carefully folded up to mid-upper arm. All these years I thought he lost his arm hanging it out the window and was crushed and amputated after a car accident. All the Ambruster kids of the 60's grew up with that story. All my life I have never hung my arm out the window. Thank you Mr. Stunner...funny how you touch people's lives!

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