Resident Profile: Joe & Marsha Belisle

It was more than 10 years ago when Joe Belisle had hip replacement surgery. His recovery was right on track, and retirement was just around the corner. But two weeks after the surgery, a mishap landed him at Oakwood Village Prairie Ridge for a month of physical therapy.

“We had some car trouble one day, and I called a tow truck to come get us. When the tow truck dropped us off, I opened the door, fell on my new hip and broke my leg in the process. I requested Oakwood for physical therapy because it was close to our home in Sun Prairie,” Joe says.

A Life Adjustment

Joe’s stroke of bad luck changed the course of his retirement. During his rehab, Joe thought so highly of Oakwood he asked about possible volunteer opportunities. Ever since, he’s been volunteering in all kinds of ways.

“In 2011, after my rehab here, I started volunteering in the Village Mercantile store, which was a nice way to meet people,” Joe says. “I also volunteered to take people to Vespers and back home afterward.” His wife, Marsha, also got in on the act when they (along with their dog) became residents of Prairie Ridge in 2019.

Marsha, a Madison native, jokes that she keeps Joe well-dressed thanks to her career working in a Madison department store where she managed everything from fine china to men’s sportswear.

Joe, a Michigan native, moved to Milwaukee as a teenager, and started working for an electrical contractor during high school. That led to his life’s work as a regional sales rep for a Wisconsin Electrical Supply Distributor. If any electrician ever had a claim to fame, Joe’s is that he wired baseball hall-of-famer Hank Aaron’s house in the Milwaukee suburbs.

You might say sparks flew when a mutual friend introduced Joe and Marsha in the 80s. They married 33 years ago and made their home in Sun Prairie.

Getting Involved

Fast forward to 2021, both Joe and Marsha love volunteering and being involved in everything. From weeding gardens and decorating for the holidays to planning social events and offering handyman work for residents, Joe and Marsha are up for it.

“I’m on the dining committee which meets once a month,” Marsha says. “We meet with culinary services staff and discuss proposed menu changes. We are also involved in the Oakwood Packers, which meet monthly to assemble care packages to send to service members.”

When Joe and Marsha decided to move to Oakwood, they had toured other retirement communities and remained on the Oakwood wait list for five years until they were ready to move. They chose an apartment in the new Grasslands project.

“Oakwood has been around for over 70 years, so we felt it was a good, stable place to move to,” Marsha says.

Outside of volunteer activities, Joe and Marsha are all about the social aspects of Oakwood. Whether it’s in the dining room or in the campus gardens, they enjoy the camaraderie of meeting interesting people and hearing about their family, work and travels.

“There is a group of us that gets together each morning on campus,” Marsha notes. “You just show up, and the day starts with storytelling and sharing. And in the gardens, everyone shares their flowers and vegetables with one another.”

A handyman at heart, Joe delights in the two woodworking shops on the campus. “You can really get involved here,” he says. “Marsha and I also enjoy getting outside for a morning or evening walk with the dog, and the gym is fantastic too.”

Marsha applauds the Life Enrichment department for the many special programs and outings that are offered to residents. “When you move here, you need to worry about nothing. There is always a person or department to help.”

“I would definitely recommend Oakwood to others,” Joe adds. “I love it here. There’s no other place I’d want to be at this point in my life. It’s like a big, happy family.”

"I love it here. There's no other place I'd want to be at this point in my life. It's like a big, happy family."

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