Resident Stories


George and Ethel Giddings both grew up in Yonkers, New York, a city bounded by the Bronx on the south and the Hudson River on the west. They grew up in close proximity to each other, but never met until a chance encounter on a trolley. George was home on an abbreviated leave from Godman Army airfield during World War II, and he and Ethel were the last two riders on the trolley car. They walked home together that day, and have been a couple ever since.

Ethel had been raised an only child. She attended the public schools in Yonkers, then Julliard School of music in New York City to foster her voice training and enhance her performance career.

Meanwhile, George was growing up with his two brothers and two sisters. After high school, he attended Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee. But his college career was interrupted by the outbreak of World War II. George enlisted in the United States Air Corps and became a member of the noted Tuskegee Airmen.

That first meeting on the trolley was followed by many others — until Ethel and George were married on February 5, 1945. That was 66 years ago! They were blessed with three children — two daughters and one son — all of whom attended college and became successful professionals. Both Ethel and George had long, satisfying careers. Ethel worked at all levels of the school system, elementary through high school. George worked as a draughtsman, housing inspector, cartographer and fire fighter. Susan, their oldest child, resides in Los Angeles. Leslie and Robert both live in the Boston area. In 1997 Ethel and George moved from their beloved Yonkers to Boston to be closer to their son, daughter and grandchildren (they have four — 2 girls and 2 boys).

As they advanced in age, Ethel and George decided they wanted a smaller residence which they did not have to manage. When they learned of the development of Sophia Snow Place, the Giddings became “founders,” one of the first twelve to put deposits down on Sophia Snow Independent Living.

Sophia Snow Place has been privileged to have Ethel and George Giddings and their extended family as part of our community for the past five and a half years. We have hosted a reunion of George’s Tuskegee Airmen unit. And we have provided a supportive environment as Ethel and George weather a variety of medical challenges. We look forward to being home to the Giddings family for many years to come.


Sophia Snow House has a talented artist in residence! Rosalie Murphy was born in Dorchester, Massachusetts, the only child to loving parents. Her father was a gifted watchmaker, a profession that was passed down through several generations in his family. Rosalie planned to become an elementary school teacher but fate intervened. Her art teacher at Dorchester High School, Miss Farmer, recognized Rosalie’s exceptional talent in art. She called Rosalie’s mother (also Miss Farmer’s former art student!) into school for a meeting where she suggested that Rosalie apply to Mass College of Art. This would be her new path. After being accepted to Mass College of Art, Rosalie studied drawing, history of art, sculpture, jewelry and graphic design for advertising with a major in painting, which was her real passion. When she graduated in 1935, she was awarded the Mass College of Art Medal of Honor which she still proudly displays in her apartment.

During her career as a teacher and supervisor in the Boston Public Schools and at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, Rosalie worked with her life-long friend, Josephine R., and with Marie B.- both of whom would become housemates at Sophia Snow many years later. While still working full time, Rosalie furthered her education by pursuing a Master’s degree in Education, attending classes at night and on the weekends. For recreation, Rosalie indulged her passion for painting by taking classes with a well known still life Japanese painter, Onashi. Together with her friend Josephine, she would drive to his basement studio in Needham once a week to study his unusual techniques. Rosalie also studied in Rockport with famed artist Roger Curtis.

Retirement in the 1970’s allowed Rosalie to spend time visiting friends Irene W., Catherine S. and Josephine R. at the old Sophia Snow House. She would bring them goodies and relax with them, reminiscing about the good times they had shared. She also took classes in stained glass at Warren D.’s studio on Boylston Street in Boston. Warren, too, would later become a resident at Sophia Snow House.

Rosalie remembers with fondness the twenty-two years that she volunteered at Faulkner Hospital during her retirement. Her duties included greeting and directing people at the third floor reception desk. While at the Faulkner, she was asked to paint various scenes which were used in calendars for patients. It took her eight hours to produce one calendar. First she would draw the scene and then quickly dash in the colors. She proudly acknowledges that over the years she painted a total of one hundred thirty-two calendars! When asked about the steps in creating a painting, such as the two framed scenes of the Maine coast that adorn her apartment, Rosalie says that it would take about one morning to complete a painting. First she would sketch the scene, and then fill in the colors from her artist’s palette.

Rosalie Murphy continues to share her talents, bringing beauty and kindness to those around her. We are grateful for all she offers to the Snow Place community.


Dorothy Lane celebrates her 100th birthday on November 16, 2011.  For the last fourteen years, she has called  Sophia Snow House her home; a time in her life she says she has thoroughly enjoyed. Dorothy is our only remaining resident that once lived in the former Sophia Snow House and made the transition to the new more modern building in 2005.

Born in Brockton in 1911, Dorothy joined a large family of three brothers and three sisters.  Three other siblings had previously died. Her mother, Florence, was a kind and patient person, and she and Dorothy were always very close. When her husband suddenly died at a young age, a resourceful Florence worked as a midwife, made all her children’s clothes and kept a garden which supplied much of their food. Dorothy describes that era as a different time, a different way of life. Neighbors helped neighbors. There were no refrigerators, only “ice boxes.” The first car that she had ever seen belonged to her uncle. It was a Ford (now considered an antique car). When he would visit the family, he would load up the back seat with toys and goodies for Dorothy and her siblings.

The family moved to West Bridgewater where Dorothy attended grammar school. She particularly loved her eighth grade teacher, the principal of the school, Rose McDonald. As a tribute to her love of teaching, today there is a statue of Rose at one of the West Bridgewater elementary schools. Moving back to Brockton, Dorothy graduated from Howard High School in 1928. After graduation she worked for a few years at Dutch Land Farms ice cream stand and then went on to work at a frozen food plant. There she met her best friend, Evelyn Anderson. They remained friends for many years.

During World War II, Dorothy worked in Boston as an expeditor for a company that produced equipment for the navy. She lived with her older sister Gertrude (mother of our resident June Finlayson) and Gertrude’s husband, a Boston police officer. For her contribution to the war effort Dorothy was awarded the Navy “E” medal; “E” for “Excellence.” She proudly held on to it for years until finally giving it to her nephew for safekeeping.

After the war, she answered an ad for a job in the First National Grocery Store bakery in Roslindale. Dorothy always enjoyed doing different things and loved people. The bakery seemed like a perfect fit for her. She was so successful that soon she was offered a manager’s position at the store’s Brighton location. When the owners opened their next store in Malden, of course, they called on Dorothy.  During that time she met and married Joseph Lane, also a manager with First National Grocery Stores. Their wedding was held in the church opposite the new bakery in Malden. Then Dorothy and her husband took positions in Newton area stores. They purchased a beautiful home in Watertown allowing them easy access to their jobs. Always curious and wanting to expand her horizons, Dorothy continued her education by taking night courses at Harvard. Although Dorothy and Joseph never had children of their own, Dorothy was always very involved in the lives of her nieces and nephews. Dorothy and Joseph enjoyed a wonderful life together.

When Joseph passed away, Dorothy was asked by her sister, Gertrude, now living in Brockton, to join her in running a retirement home for men called the Howard Home. It was a grand mansion with crystal chandeliers. The only concern that Dorothy had was how would they clean the chandeliers? It was an easy solution…they hired someone else to clean them! They cared for three residents. Gertrude cooked delicious meals and together the sisters took care of the residents’ health needs and activities. At one point, a famous attorney came in and tried to hire Dorothy for a position in his office but she declined. She was so happy caring for the residents at the Howard Home.


Evon Benson will tell you, with a lilting Southern drawl, that she is a very grateful person. It is immediately evident that she is not a native Bostonian. Family, she says, is the most important thing, and family is what brought her to Boston.

She was born in Atlanta, Georgia, an only child, and traveled a great deal attending a different school every year until high school as she and her mother followed her father, mostly around the mid-west. When her mother declared that she was tired of snow, the family moved back to Atlanta for the duration of Evon’s high school career.

The day after graduation, her father transferred again, this time to Texas, and so Evon found herself attending the University of Texas. A few years later, armed with a degree, Evon moved back to Georgia where she taught for thirty-eight years. She began teaching in elementary school and then discovered that she really enjoyed teaching individuals with reading difficulty. She became a reading specialist and earned a Master’s degree. Her subsequent years were spent working in a reading clinic teaching teachers and children with reading difficulty, grades K – 12. In her early 50’s she was offered an early retirement from the school system. She took advantage of this, but continued working, now in an adult literacy program. All of Evon’s working career was spent in the Atlanta, Georgia area.

In the midst of all this teaching, Evon married, divorced, and raised twin sons. As the years flew by and Evon experienced several falls and incidents requiring her sons to travel to Atlanta to help care for her, she decided it was time to consider leaving her beloved Georgia to be closer to one of them. Her pastor encouraged her to make the change while she was still active enough to make new friends. One son now lives in Brooklyn, New York with his wife, two daughters and one son. When contemplating moving north, she decided that New York was great for visiting, but not for living. The other son lives just down the road from Sophia Snow Place. His daughter was attending day care next door at the time. After looking at a few communities in the area and considering sharing a two family with her son, Evon settled on Sophia Snow Place. She felt comfortable here.
It was not an easy move, though, as Evon broke a hip just before coming in, and spent time at Hebrew Rehabilitation Center across the street, dealing with real estate agents to sell two houses and giving instructions to her sons so they could empty her two homes.

All a part of the plan, she believes. It has turned out that Evon has found a new church home here in Boston. She has transportation into the city, where she does not wish to drive. She has formed several wonderful friendships and is involved in the garden and crafts groups at Snow Place. She finds the staff to be compassionate and truly interested in the residents. And she maintains her close relationships with friends in Atlanta, traveling a few times each year.

Evon is grateful for all these blessings in her life. But far and away the thing she is most grateful for is the miracle of Hannah’s healing. Hannah is her granddaughter, born with a rare kidney disease, which was diagnosed almost two years ago. Evon believes that it was God’s plan that she settle in Boston so that she could be near to help Hannah’s parents as they dealt with the emotional and practical aspects of this difficult illness. And help she did, with child care, a shoulder to cry on, enlistment of prayers and lists of potential kidney donors, and much, much more. Hannah is now sporting a brand new kidney and has recently started back to school. Hannah was a miracle once when she entered their lives, adopted by her parents. She is a miracle again now, as she demonstrates the power of grace and resilience and love and gratitude.


Ken Valance joined the Army right out of High School, even though he had been accepted to Michigan State.  The world was at war and college could wait.  But Ken graduated from high school in 1945 and his graduation just about coincided with the signing of the armistice.  Still, he had a much needed skill as the Army began processing the discharges of all those who had served during the war effort: he could type!  Ken worked at Camp Grant outside of Rockford, Illinois for about 14 months assisting servicemen to get back home to their families and loved ones.  Then the Army issued an edict that anyone with a college acceptance should be discharged, and so they had to hurry up and get Ken through Basic Training before they let him go.

The next stop was Michigan State, where Ken says he had as much fun as a guy that does not drink or smoke can have.  He majored in Business Administration and met his future wife.

After college , Ken began a career than included work as a bookkeeper, a food buyer, food services manager, and the owner of 10 Arby’s Roast Beef franchises in Illinois and Oregon.  He says that his favorite thing about this career was all the people he met and worked with.  He hired lots of young people for their first job.  He liked meeting the young people and their parents, as well as the other businessmen.

Ken had married right after college, and he and his wife had two daughters and a son.  In 1997, his wife passed away.  One daughter and his son still live in Portland.  The other daughter moved East to Boston.  In 2002, noting that US Route 20 ran from his home in Portland to his daughter’s home in Boston, Ken decided he would like to drive Rte. 20 from end to end.  He had been raised an only child and was not worried about being alone or requiring companionship or entertainment.  He had a great time.  In Boston, his daughter was awaiting his arrival, ready with noise makers and signs to celebrate the completion of his journey.  When he did arrive, complete strangers yelled to him, “Poppa, we’re sure glad you’re here!”

On his return trip, Ken decided to stop in Muncie, Indiana to visit an old college friend he had recently heard from.  Her husband had passed away at just about the same time as Ken’s wife.  The visit was so pleasant that it lasted ten years! Sadly, she, too, passed on.  At this juncture, Ken’s physical condition quickly deteriorated and he was hospitalized for awhile.  His daughter in Boston decided to take control of the situation and bring him closer to her.  She looked into senior housing options near Jamaica Plain and found that Sophia Snow House had a great reputation.  When she looked into it more closely, she felt that here is a place where we are “doing it right.”  In the short time that Ken has lived at Snow House, he has come to agree with that assessment.

He says that some of his favorite things about living here are our almost limitless supply of interesting books (kudos to our resident librarians!) and our wireless internet access.  If you were to ask some of the other residents what their favorite things are, I bet some would answer having neighbors as charming and friendly as Ken!  We are so fortunate that he has made Sophia Snow House his home.


Thelma Moore (on the left) and her sister Sara Johnson were growing tired of the cleaning, polishing and pruning required to upkeep the two-family brick house in Mattapan they have shared for over 30 years.

Searching for an affordable, easy-to-maintain home within Boston however, was proving difficult. That’s when they discovered The Residences at Snow Place.

Designed for independent elders who are enjoying today to the fullest while also planning ahead for the future, The Residences also allows residents to arrange for services such as housekeeping, prescription delivery and meals.

Finally, long-time Boston residents like Thelma and Sara can live in the city they love, at a price they can afford.

“What am I looking forward to most about living in
The Residences at Snow Place? I can tell you in one word,
—Sara Johnson