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Friendship Village Chesterfield Celebrates 40 Years

Lydia Seibert, Board President, Michael Heselbarth, Corporate Operations Director, Chesterfield Mayor Bob Nation

With a plan for the future, Friendship Village Chesterfield (FVC) celebrates its 40th anniversary this summer over multiple days.

The future plan, submitted to the state last month, asks for approval of a more than $14 million new separate building for the Village Care Center which includes assisted living units.

For the anniversary celebrations, the community will generate the personal stories of residents and focus on the year when Neal Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline” filled the airwaves as Bill Gates started Microsoft and mood rings, pet rocks, Rubik’s Cubes and bellbottoms caught other imaginations.

Some 40 years ago this summer, Michael Heselbarth, corporate operations director for both the Chesterfield and Friendship Village Sunset Hills senior living communities, said a group of ministers came together to establish the Chesterfield community. Today, a local board, primarily of community leaders, headed by Lydia Seibert, continues to oversee the operations of the senior living community in concert with their management company, Life Care Services, for whom Heselbarth works.

Planned anniversary celebrations include a community open house, talent show, several anniversary concerts, trivia event and a special worship celebration for the community.

FVC grew to more than 300 independent living units including 39 villas and boasts more than 120 Village Care Center rooms. “Despite the celebration and the fun of the anniversary, as a community, we also want to look forward,” Heselbarth said. He referenced the application filed by FVC last month with the state oversight board for approval of the $14.1 million new building on the 36 acre Chesterfield campus.

Chesterfield Mayor Bob Nation and FVC Centenarians

“Approval of the application and resulting construction will bring us a three-story building of assisted living apartments. We need more assisted living units now for our current residents in Chesterfield,” Heselbarth said.

In the application the community asks for approval of 60 additional assisted living beds in single occupancy apartments in a separate building with 15 of those set aside in a special area for memory care needs. Heselbarth said, if approved, construction completes July, 2017.

“We offer a continuum of care from independent living villas to skilled nursing beds, so seniors can age through the community based on their current needs. And, we offer LifeCare which gives residents unlimited days of quality health care at predictable monthly rates for life,” he continued.

As part of the celebrations, residents and former staff shared their personal histories with the Village. One highlight came with the introduction and acknowledgement by Chesterfield Mayor Bob Nation of the Chesterfield community’s six centenarians.

The mayor introduced Dorothy Stuber, 104; Flora Botta, 104; Ruth Stewart, 107; Luella Bartelsmeyer, 101; Rudi Heider, 102, and Frances Compton, almost 100.

During the depression when many could not attend school, Stuber earned an education degree from the University of Missouri and used it to teach third grade pupils. Born in Brooklyn, Botta moved to Italy as a toddler when her family returned to that country. Later, in her mid 20’s she came to the U.S. and worked in the St. Louis garment industry as an expert seamstress.

A pianist who still plays and plays well, Stewart delighted when her late husband Bill surprised her with a grand piano. They shared 68 years of marriage. Bartelsmeyer, a voracious reader, lived in Ferguson most of her life.

Retired at the age of 70, Heider pursued a career in chemical engineering with Monsanto. Later this month, Compton officially joins the centenarian ranks. Raised in St. Louis, she travelled much.