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Dorothy & Joe Luciano



For Dorothy and Joe, March 17, 1987, is the birthday of Kendal at Oberlin. That is the date the original group first got together to make it happen. As Dorothy says, “Together they were better than any one individual. They drew on each other's strengths and molded it into what we are now celebrating.”


Karl Heiser asked Dorothy if she would meet with others to discuss the possibility of building a retirement center in Oberlin, taking advantage of her background in helping the elderly. Dorothy was part of choosing the site – her dream was to have Kendal close to town and the college, within walking distance. She remembers hiking with her mother in high boots as they explored the area before it was developed. A sad memory is that a 200-year-old tree was cut down by the brother of the man who sold the land to Kendal – he was mad at his brother for selling the farm. 


They knew that it would be important to keep building costs down to make Kendal affordable. Dorothy loved how the board worked together, arguing but not letting egos get in the way, since they had a shared goal. It was a great working relationship.


Dorothy served on the Board of Trustees from the start. Her mother, Helen Schwimmer, moved in during October 1993 and planted an incredible rose garden at the base of Wildflower Hill – now in a preserve in Amherst. Not long after, Joe and Dorothy decided that this was what they wanted for themselves. They moved in November 1994, “in time for Thanksgiving dinner.”


Joe didn't retire from pediatrics and working at the Oberlin Clinic until 1998. He has continued to work with the community, and formed “Joe's Class,” now morphed into a special pool therapy program for community members, which became one of Kendal’s first outreach efforts. Dorothy has also continued to stay active and has her “office” at Slow Train. She has also been on the Ethics Committee for Mercy Hospital and Oberlin College’s Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee. They both volunteer at the Hot Meals Program and at their church. 


A funny memory was when, shortly after they moved in and Joe was still in practice and on call, they overslept and didn’t respond to the phone or alarm. They found themselves awakened by someone at the foot of their bed making sure that they were all right. What a welcome!


Letting go of the imprint of Kendal at Longwood and appreciating what we have here has been important. The changes since 1987 are incredible across all areas – medicine, the Quaker influence, economics, and technology. Dorothy hopes that, before any changes are made, those original values, goals, and ideals will be balanced against today’s and tomorrow’s realities. She is very glad that what has stayed the same is the great people.


Their three daughters are a great joy, and all are focused on helping others. They include a nurse practitioner, a postural rehabilitation specialist, and a full-time mom! Looking forward, as one of their daughters says, means that “Dorothy and Joe are still trying to get their s**t together!”


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