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Friendships Grow at Sequoia Living

fulfillment in retirement, two residents share their latest project. two elderly women sitting on couch for an interview.

Helen Bigelow, 89, and Sue Crane, 90, met in the 1960s at a pottery workshop. As the years passed, Helen and Sue remained tight-knit through the ups and downs of life. Their story is an inspiring example of the evolution of friendships and how joy is found in retirement.

The Early Days of Friendship

As one navigates life, there are numerous new beginnings to experience: college, marriage, babies, moving, divorce, retirement, grandchildren, and so much more. Finding friends can be difficult, depending on the phase of life you are in.

When Sue moved to Portola Valley nearly 60 years ago, a chance meeting at a pottery workshop sparked what has grown into a life-long friendship with Helen. They connected between juggling children, careers, and a family business. While the demands of life can often be a barrier to friendships, Sue and Helen shared a bond that helped them reconnect when they had time.

Hello, Neighbor

Fate brought them back together. Sue and Helen, now both widows, discovered they had moved into the same senior living community within months of each other. They quickly reconnected, and their friendship is stronger than ever. They provide each other comfort, companionship, joy, and a sense of purpose. While finding joy and purpose can be challenging for many, Sue and Helen are thriving among friends in a retirement community.

Their History: A Storyteller, A Business Woman

Helen, a potter, and natural storyteller grew her writing career by publishing numerous stories, articles, and novels. Helen wrote two books: David Park, Painter: Nothing Held Back, and Given Time: Living Our Last Months Together.

Sue moved to Portola Valley in 1964 to raise her three children. She served on the town council and as Mayor for two terms. Sue’s family was also one of the founders of Ridge Vineyards in the Santa Cruz Mountains.

Dynamic Duo: Past Meets Present

Drawing upon her own experiences, Helen finds a wealth of inspiration in the stories of those around her. Recently Helen became intrigued about the winery Sue’s family founded in 1959.

“Sue would provide these glorious wines, and people are so appreciative,” Helen reflected on listening to stories Sue told during Happy Hour in their community. “I became more and more curious.” And that is how the idea for their book came to be.

Beyond the Barrels: The Women of Ridge, set to publish in early 2023, is a remembrance by Sue Crane, told to and written by Helen Bigelow. The book explores Ridge Vineyards’ early days, the families, the land, and until now, untold stories of the women who contributed to this world-renowned vineyard from Sue’s perspective as the only living member of the seven founders.

The book will be available to residents at The Sequoias Portola Valley and members of Ridge Vineyards. All proceeds will go towards the resident-led scholarship fund at The Sequoias, open to children and families of staff members.

Joy and Friendship in Retirement

Retirement can often be the beginning of exciting new projects. Like many retirees, Sue and Helen have much to look forward to each day. Finding fulfillment in retirement is about embarking on passion projects, strengthening friendships, and doing what you enjoy… with the occasional glass of vino.

Add joy and years to your life by creating a fulfilling, joy-filled life with friends. Visit one of our Life Plan Communities and imagine yourself living and thriving there. It’s a place where you will Never Stop Growing.

Explore The Sequoias San Francisco on Geary Blvd. next to Japantown.

Find out why retirees love The Sequoias Portola Valley next to Windy Hill Preserve.

Learn more about The Tamalpais Marin with its spectacular views of the Bay and Mt. Tam.