Lucky in Life

Harold’s hope got him through war, and now he enjoys health and happiness at his Mercy Housing home.

Harold, an 83-year-old resident of Assisi Homes of Kenosha, says the clear theme of his life has been good fortune: “I’ve been a lucky person all the way along.”

HaroldOne example of this can be seen in Harold’s early life: he was born in Nazi-occupied Germany, in an area that is now part of Poland. He recalls leaving his hometown at just seven years old, when Russia invaded, and fleeing to Berlin, where he and his mother were nearly separated during bombings. “I can remember this day like it was yesterday.” He says that, despite the fact that it was traumatic for him as a child, he recognizes he was extremely lucky to have made it out alive and knows many were not so lucky, especially victims of the Holocaust. However, Harold did lose his father, who was killed in action during World War II.

When Harold was 17, he and his mother moved with his stepfather to the U.S. Harold quickly adapted to his new home, making friends and later enlisting in the U.S. Army. “I never really missed Germany,” he notes. “When I got over here, that was my life, that was my future.”

HaroldWhile in the Army, Harold met his wife Barbara, another event he feels was extremely lucky. After a few years, he left the service and they were married. About 10 years later, they moved to northern Illinois for work. Harold was in sales and management in the housing industry and real estate for much of his career. They were married for over 60 years and had five children, 12 grandchildren, and 14 great-grandchildren.

Since Harold was young, he has loved bicycling, and he has made it his lifelong hobby. As a teenager, prior to moving to the U.S., he biked halfway across Germany with a friend. At age 47, over 30 years later, he took his longest bike trip, from Zion, IL to near Green Bay, WI.

Harold still bikes around 40 miles each week. “My bike is actually my transportation, and also my hobby as well,” he explains. “At the age that I am right now, I’m so grateful to do the things I want to do.”

When Barbara passed away last December, Harold missed her dearly, remembering Barbara as “a wonderful, wonderful wife who spent her whole life with me.” However, he felt lucky to have close relationships with his large family, and he knew he wanted to live nearer to his children. His daughter found Assisi Homes of Kenosha, which is near her own home, and in March 2020, Harold was able to move in.

“We have very good people here,” Harold says of his new community. “It’s very comfortable.” He also appreciates that he can easily walk to stores and can bike to see his daughter and some of his grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

HaroldSince Harold moved in just at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, it’s been hard to meet his neighbors, and he has mostly stayed at home. However, he has been able to meet with the onsite service coordinator with social distancing precautions in place and is very happy with how the whole maintenance and services teams have been helping to keep residents safe.

“I’m very happy with that part of it,” he says. “I’m just hoping things will improve” in terms of coronavirus. He recognizes that, until there’s a vaccine, “I think we will have to be cautious.” But, he also notes, “I am pretty much an optimist,” and he’s hoping for a future where it’s safe for him to see more of his community.