Cassia in the News

Sisters Are Next-Door Neighbors at Augustana Care’s Apple Valley Villa After Many Years Apart

Dorothy Ferber and her sister Suzanne Varisco treasured their relationship through the years. Yet for many of those years they saw each other only on annual visits because they lived so far apart. The situation changed a few months ago, when Sue decided to move next door to Dorothy at Augustana Care’s Apple Valley Villa.

This story was featured by Apple Valley Sun This Week at this link.

Dorothy Anne and Susie Reasoner grew up in Fort Wayne, Indiana, in a musical family. Their mother, who had studied piano as a girl, also played by ear, and their father was an enthusiastic tenor. One of their fondest memories is singing all the old songs in three-part harmony with their dad, while their mother accompanied them. Not surprisingly, the sisters eventually enrolled in the Indiana University School of Music—Sue studying piano, while Dorothy, a lyric soprano, studied voice.

Dorothy and Dan Ferber married in 1950; Sue and Dom Varisco, in 1959. For a few years, in the mid sixties, both families lived in New England—the Ferbers in New Hampshire, the Variscos in Massachusetts–and would get together frequently. The year 1967 ended that, however, when the Ferber family moved to Minnesota, and once again the sisters relied on phone calls, letters, and annual visits.

Accomplished women with multiple talents, both sisters have led interesting lives. Dorothy was the director of foreign student affairs at Gustavus Adolphus College, in St Peter; music director at several Lutheran churches, in southern Minnesota; and director of secondary research at Ecolab, in St. Paul, where the research library bears her name.

Sue was an English instructor at Fisher College, in Boston, where she served as department chair, and a senior lecturer at Salve Regina University, in Newport, Rhode Island, where she also directed the writing center. Before motherhood, she worked as a stewardess and then as a social welfare case worker. Freelance writing and editing followed her retirement from teaching.

When Sue’s husband Dom died in 2010, she missed her sister more than ever. After Dorothy’s husband Dan died in 2015, Sue began traveling to be with Dorothy more often, staying longer each time. During Sue’s visit in August 2017, the apartment next door to Dorothy’s became available. Sensing an important opportunity, the sisters talked it over and came to a decision. Sue went back home to Rhode Island, to pack up her household, and six weeks later, on October 1, she returned to the Villa—this time, to stay.

Sue admits that moving so far at this age isn’t easy. Calling it a steep learning curve–new doctor, dentist, friends, “even hairdresser!” (not to mention a new driver’s license)—she credits the Villa staff for easing the way, emphasizing that she couldn’t have done it without their generous help and friendly, welcoming smiles. All in all, she believes that having her favorite next-door neighbor is definitely worth it.

“Although living far apart for most of our adult lives, we have always been close and have helped each other whenever possible,” says Dorothy. “And so now, living side by side is an unexpected treat in every way—definitely the frosting on this cake.”

“And, maybe my sister will even succeed in teaching me to play bridge,” Sue adds. “But don’t hold your breath!”

About Augustana Care

Augustana Care is a non-profit organization providing housing, health care and community-based services to help residents, patients and clients live the lives that most inspire them. We are guided by four priorities:

  • To value older generations’ talents and experience
  • To provide the care residents need, when and where they need it
  • To connect those we serve to the people and things that mean the most to them
  • To support residents, patients, clients, and families with spiritual care that speaks to who they are

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