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Emiko Custer



Emiko and her husband Benjamin moved into Kendal at Oberlin, on October 4, 1993, the first day it was available for residents. For Ben, an Oberlin College alumnus, it was returning to his roots after years in big metropolitan areas like New York, Los Angeles, and Washington, DC. They were thrilled with the accessibility to music and the other arts, and to the libraries offered in Oberlin. Adding this to lifetime health care, Quaker ethics, and stimulating intellectual friends and neighbors, it is no wonder that they chose Kendal at Oberlin to be “Custer's Last Stand!” (That’s the sign at their cottage door, made for them by Max Morgan.)


Since they moved in before Emiko turned 65, she had to arrange for separate health insurance. Ben died the year after she turned 65. It was lucky that she had already made friends and that the Midwest was so friendly and supportive. She has found great friends both in the city of Oberlin and within Kendal.


Emiko volunteered half-time at the Oberlin College Library as a professional cataloger for ten years. She is a member of the Nineteenth Century Club and also volunteers for the League of Women Voters. She loves the Artist Recital Series at Oberlin College, and attends the Cleveland Orchestra’s Sunday Matinee Series every season. Her nephew from Minnesota, who now performs with the St. Louis Orchestra, attended Cleveland Institute of Music and got to perform with the Cleveland Orchestra as a substitute cellist.


At Kendal she enjoys bird watching, particularly the hummingbirds that come to her feeders and to the beautiful red trumpet vine at her cottage, as well as volunteering at the Cardinal Shop. Emiko says the shop is just getting better and better and shows how many talented artists we have here.


She still loves to travel and spend time with her daughter and grandson in Berkeley, California. While her mother was alive, she traveled regularly to Tokyo. It is hard when friends and loved ones lose vibrancy, she says, and she hopes she goes before that happens to her. Emiko’s younger sister died this January. It is important to look after friends and to be there for each other. As a city kid, Emiko feels it’s liberating being here in a warm community, and she loves how we care for each other. She is very glad to be here.


Before moving to Kendal, Emiko and Ben came to Oberlin several times from Washington, DC, because Ben served on Oberlin College committees. On one of their visits they were just standing in front of the Oberlin Inn when a group of young women students stopped and greeted them. That would never have happened in Tokyo, DC or LA. The friendliness, music, and flowers here are wonderful. It is a comfortable and nice place as we get old.


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