When seniors at Holly Creek Retirement Community wake up, they rise to the sound of words from a chaplain and “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
In the afternoons, they listen to oldies and big-band music, and two days a week, they tune in to interviews with their fellow community members that delve into their life stories. In evenings, they hear a closing prayer and the military song “Taps,” and the radio station signs off for the day.
But they’re not listening to a golden oldies station. They’re listening to Holly Creek Radio, an entirely in-house station run by residents, for residents.
“It’s my wife’s fault,” said Dick Gustafson, a former radio DJ who has lived at Holly Creek since 2013. “I was asked what my hobbies were” when I moved here. “Wendy interrupted and said, `He’s interested in radio.’ ”
Gustafson, 82, worked for a radio station in Vail from 1972 to about 1980 and volunteered for a station called Radio Free Minturn from about 2007 to when he arrived at the senior living community in Centennial.
He brought some equipment he owned when he moved — microphones, a mixing board, speakers — and an anonymous donation provided the rest. Initially, an effort in part to broadcast community announcements to visually impaired residents, HCRK became a full-fledged radio station as more people joined in with no radio experience at all. It’s one of the only stations run by a retirement community in the nation.
“Since Aug. 12, 2013, that’s the day we broke ground,” Gustafson said.
Jayne Keller, Holly Creek’s executive director, had the idea to have music and announcements for those who struggle with sight. There are about 18 residents who are in some stage of blindness, said Bob Strong, a volunteer for the station in his 90s.
The station plays a mix of country and western music, gospel, classical, oldies from the 1950s and further back — and of course, Glenn Miller, whose hit “Moonlight Serenade” serves as the station’s theme song. Programs include Broadway musicals, “Dick’s Big Band Show,” comedy and a show run by Keller.
Marty Lamm, an 84-year-old resident, runs a program called “Wanderings” with resident Priscilla Stenman, which features interviews with people who live in Holly Creek.
“We’ve interviewed all the people who were in the second World War, and other people who have lived here for over a year,” Lamm said. “And we’ve had some very interesting stories ... we take the interesting parts of their lives, such as if they were missionaries or in the (military) service — a lot of people have done a great deal of travel.”
Lamm and Stenman give the interviewees a recording of their interview, which also benefits their families when they pass away, Lamm said. Chuck Montera, a community relations official for Holly Creek, mentioned plans to potentially put the station’s programs on the Holly Creek website — hollycreekretirementcommunity.org — which would allow the general public to listen in.
“We’ve had 98 interviews over a three-year period,” said Lamm, who lived in Denver for 65 years and taught at a school in the city more than 50 years ago. There are “a million stories” at Holly Creek, Lamm said.
Unlike other volunteers, Gustafson got his start in radio a long time ago. When asked why he got into radio, he said, “Oh, I had a good voice, and I wanted it on the air.”
Gustafson, an Eagle County commissioner from 1984-93 who lobbied in the Washington, D.C., area to eventually turn what is now the Eagle County Regional Airport into a commercial airport, runs HCRK with help from a supporting cast.
Dan Parker, an 86-year-old retired minister, runs the big-band music show with Gustafson and does the announcements for him on Tuesday — Parkinson’s disease has made speaking more difficult for Gustafson. But he still leads the team as manager, with Strong as his co-manager.
Under that leadership, the station has become a vibrant part of the community’s fabric.
“This is a program where residents take charge of their lifestyles through their own initiatives,” Montera said. “They share their life experiences and talents with others for the greater good of the community.”
When asked what Holly Creek would be like without the station, Gustafson didn’t hesitate.
“I’d be out of here, man,” he said.
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