At 72, Art Dorval thought his high school days were long behind him. But after a chance encounter with his high school geometry teacher and former basketball coach John Gregory turned into a budding friendship, he was reminded life is full of surprises.
Art and his wife Nancy always knew one day they would sell their Bel Air condominium and move to a retirement community. After an exhaustive search for an amenity-rich lifestyle, they decided on Oak Crest, the community managed by Erickson Senior Living in Parkville, Md.
“Coming from Bel Air, all of our connections were on this side of town, so we thought it made sense to move to Oak Crest,” notes Art.
Meeting new neighbors
Leading up to their move to Oak Crest in 2019, Art and Nancy were invited to many on-site events at the community. While attending one of those events, Art struck up a conversation with an Oak Crest resident named Carol Ann Ruth. Unbeknownst to Art, Carol Ann and John were good friends.
“Carol Ann was one of the resident ambassadors who was volunteering,” says Art. “We had met previously at other events and were talking to her in the lobby of Crestview Station. A gentleman was standing next to her and I noticed his name tag said, ‘John Gregory.’”
At that point, it was clear to Art just who John was. “I told him, ‘I knew a John Gregory 50-some years ago at Dulaney High School,’” says Art. “I introduced myself and we talked for a bit. Before we left, he and I exchanged numbers, and then I went home and got out my yearbook and found some photos of us on the basketball team.”
It was the 1960s, and it was John’s first year teaching at Dulaney High School in Timonium, and Art was one of his students. John’s recollection was clear despite the five decades that had passed.
“I taught geometry, and Art was in my class. He is a tall guy, about 6’5”, so it was no mistaking him. When he told me his name, I knew exactly who he was,” says John. “He didn’t look too much different than I remember him. I remember coaching him. He played center and was a good rebounder.”
John coached basketball at Dulaney for four years and then left to fulfill his commitment to the Air Force. Upon his release, he returned to teaching at Loch Raven High School, where he also coached baseball.
“I taught for 35 years, and by the time I retired in 1998, I had taught at five or six different schools,” says John. Meanwhile, after graduating high school, Art attended college in Williamsburg, Pa. “I had a clear direction after high school; I had hundreds of them,” jokes Art. “I knew I was going to have to do something, I just didn’t know what it was going to be.”
Ironically, Art ended up majoring in math. “After college, I had some student debt and I discovered I could reduce that debt by teaching. I taught in Baltimore City for four years and then went to work for an insurance agency, USF&G, for over 30 years,” says Art.
Now neighbors, Art and John have connected on a new level. “We get together with John, Carol Ann, and another couple on Tuesdays for drinks and hors d’oeuvres and just sit around and talk and then we go to dinner together,” says Art.
“You never know what is going to happen when you meet someone again after 50 years,” adds John. “But it all worked out. We have a lot in common, and we get along great. Art is a big basketball fan and likes sports, and so do I. It’s been a lot of fun getting to know him.”
Adapting to new roles
Art and John continue to adopt their roles as coach and player, but this time on the bocce courts instead of basketball. “At first, Art wouldn’t call me, ‘John,’ he would call me, ‘Coach.’ He still does from time to time,” says John. “He is getting much better at bocce. He’s starting to get a good feel for it.”
To learn more about the amenities and socialization opportunities at Oak Crest, click to request a free brochure or call 1-800-584-5929.