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The Leavenworth Times - Leavenworth, KS
  • Lansing assisted living center helping residents stay in touch

  • This isn't a traditional love story, though the classic elements are certainly there.
    A man and woman.
    Foreign locales.
    Lives intersecting throughout the decades.
    And, of course, genuine love and respect.
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  • This isn't a traditional love story, though the classic elements are certainly there.
    A man and woman.
    Foreign locales.
    Lives intersecting throughout the decades.
    And, of course, genuine love and respect.
    But, Jack Gobble, 84, a resident at the Golden Living Center in Lansing, and Tess West, 79, a woman in Grimsby, England, said the friendship that began between them in the early 1970s in Algeria has never moved beyond the platonic.
    That's the way they both want it.
    "I love her as my friend," Jack said.
    "We're very good, platonic friends, and I think it'll always be that way," Tess said. "… He's just a really nice man. Great sense of humor."
    Jack and Tess have maintained their friendship throughout the years through letters and telephone calls. There was also a week in the early 1990s, when he visited her in England.
    However, though mostly separated by thousands of miles, the two have recently been able to see each other regularly with the help of Living Center staffers.
    Executive Director Bruce Moreau said the idea to connect Jack and Tess in an improved way came late last year.
    He said staffers knew Jack wrote or called Tess regularly. Staffers decided to help him streamline the correspondence through email. It wasn't long after that they connected the two using Skype, a free service allowing users to communicate online with a microphone and webcam.
    Living Center personnel surprised Gobble one day in December 2013 by having Tess waiting for him on Skype.
    "We told Jack, 'We've got someone who really wants to talk to you after lunch,'" Moreau said. After Jack saw his friend for the first time in numerous years, "He about changed colors," the executive director said.
    Jack and Tess talked using Skype on Thursday.
    "What have you been up to today, Jack?" Tess asked.
    "Oh, not much," he said. "It's nice to get to talk to you. I like this as well as talking to you on the telephone."
    "Yes, it's better with Skype, so I can see what you've been up to," she said.
    "I stay out of trouble, for the most part," Jack said. "Sometimes you can't do it, but I try. I'm a jokester here. I tease with all of the people."
    But, before Thursday's call could take place, three Living Center staffers had to work through technical problems to facilitate it.
    Moreau said the effort made Thursday and other days to help a resident is typical.
    "That's the core of what we do," he said. "We really don't go the extra mile — this is just what we do here.
    Page 2 of 2 - "It may make a difference in someone's life. … It's just a way of life, in general, to be able to make a difference, especially when (residents) depend on you for it."
    The Skype assistance isn't limited to Jack, Moreau said. The Living Center helps other residents set up calls with loved ones, too.
    Still, Jack is the one who the calls perhaps benefit most.
    "He talks about her and how she looks and her hair," Moreau said.
    "He just … it gives him more joy and something to look forward to," activities director Noel Black said. "It's something that makes all the difference to him."
    Jack, who is originally from Monroe, La., has lived at the Lansing center for about nine months. A bad back limits his mobility and requires him to use a wheelchair or walker. He spends a lot of his time in his room, Black said.
    She said he talks to Tess once or twice a week, and he's always grateful to center staffers for their help.
    "He's always talking about it, and always thanking me every single day," Black said.
    But, Jack and Tess aren't the only ones who get something from the interactions.
    "It's just fulfilling," Black said of helping the two connect. "You get to watch something so small that you've done make a big difference in someone's life."
    "They become like family," Moreau said of the center's 58 residents.
    Toward the end of Thursday's call, Jack and Tess remembered a time years ago, when communication between the two was a bit patchier. Luckily, they don't have that problem today.
    "I was anxious to talk to you, make sure you're alright," Jack said. "People around here can't understand we've been friends for this long.
    "You called me out that one time when I didn't call when I moved. You said, 'Don't do me that way again.' I said, 'I won't do it," and I'll make sure I don't."
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