Sisters reform bond they once shared as girls growing up in Korea
For sisters Mary Kliauga and Frances Kim, moving to Seabrook, an Erickson Living senior living community in Tinton Falls, New Jersey, has reformed the bond they once had as young girls growing up in Korea.
"We both grew up in Korea, and we were close to each other. We went through the Korean war together and then when we went to college, we were separated. So we didn't see each other for a long time," says Mary, who studied chemistry in the United States while Frances studied medicine in Italy.
"We lived such a long time in separate places. This is the first time we live in the same place [since childhood]. Every day we talk, talk, talk," Frances, a retired physician, laughs.
It's not all talk, though. They support each other through ups and downs in a way they couldn't before.
"Sometimes you need a lift, or something happens. We have trust that we have each other and support each other," says Mary.
"We love seeing families coming together at Seabrook," says Executive Director Paula Digerness. "It adds to our family atmosphere on campus and truly makes Seabrook a great place to live."
While Mary and her husband, Paul, moved to the Seabrook first in 2013, it was Frances who nudged them in that direction.
"Frances said that if we move here when she retires she will move here too," Mary says.
"We went to look at many places, and I found this one is best for me. The location is good, and comparing it to other communities, this is the best. It's near Asbury Park, and all around here are a lot of activities. It's such an active place," says Frances, who moved with her husband, Heekook, from Edison.
Frances, whom Mary claims is the more sociable of the two, enjoys inviting friends for dinner at the Fireside, one of two dinner restaurants on campus. "All of my friends who come are so impressed, and they come quite often to visit me here," she says.
A few have joined the priority list to reserve their place in line for an apartment home of their choice by making a fully refundable $1,000 deposit and non-refundable $150 application fee.
Aside from introducing friends to her new home, Frances has also joined a singing group that practices once a week. She gardens and influenced Mary and Paul to try their hand at it too.
"We didn't have a garden until Frances came," Mary says. "She has a green thumb. She has a community garden space, and finally, we joined too. Her garden is beautiful, and our garden is beautiful too."
They grow tomatoes, cucumbers, and flowers in their two garden spaces located in the community garden area at the back of campus.
Together, they also take a yoga class taught by a neighbor and often exercise in the campus fitness center. They frequently eat together either with their husbands, Paul and Heekook, or just by themselves.
But they're not always a pair. Mary paints in the campus creative arts center as well as her in-home studio in her apartment. Aside from wall art, she creates enormous backdrops for the Seabrook Performers theater group.
"Seabrook is very good to artists, and we have an annual artists show," says Mary. "There are so many artists at Seabrook, we inspire each other. We paint together. And we critique each other. It's a very supportive arts community."
Aside from the annual Seabrook arts show, Mary participates in juried shows around Monmouth County. In April this year, she received the first place award from Belmar Arts Council Juried Show and had one large painting in the group show at Brookdale Community College exhibition in November in collaboration with the Arts Society of Monmouth County.
For both Mary and Frances, "Coming here has been very happy," Frances says, and Mary agrees. "Anywhere around campus, everyone greets you with a hi, hello, and it's very warm. It feels like home."
"We both recommend it very highly," adds Mary.
About Seabrook: Seabrook, one of 19 continuing care retirement communities managed by Erickson Living®, is situated on a scenic 98-acre campus in Tinton Falls, New Jersey. The community is located in Monmouth County and is home to more than 1,400 residents. Additional information about Seabrook can be found at SeabrookCommunity.com.
Photo: Though they spent most of their adult lives living on separate sides of the world, sisters Mary Kliauga (left) and Frances Kim are reunited at Seabrook, the Erickson Living where they both now live in Tinton Falls, New Jersey
Article written by Julia Collins