Chippewa Place is an independent retirement community committed to offering a personalized experience

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Welcome to Chippewa Place. Two of the first staff members you’ll meet when you visit are (L-R) Kate Kertcher, office manager, and Alison Schillero, who oversees the senior retirement community. (Photography: Felicia Vargo)

By Patricia Nugent

If the winding walkway—rimmed with an overflowing tapestry of brightly colored florals and black wrought iron easy chairs—tells you anything about the neighbors and staff at Chippewa Place in Brecksville, it’s that they know how to stop and smell the roses.

On any given day, you’ll find folks gathering and chatting, laughing and connecting within the courtyard and welcoming indoor spaces. Everyone knows each other by name, as well as each other’s families and stories.

“I treat the residents as if they were my own grandparents,” says Alison Schillero, director of the retirement community. “They are all so special and sweet. It’s nice to spend time with them and find out their stories and how we can personalize their living arrangements.”

Set in phases, the maintenance team (L-R: Jeff and Don) at Chippewa Place is reimagining several of the suites to mirror contemporary new construction. Several senior apartments are currently available.
he Mirror Room is one of several common rooms in Chippewa Place for residents to relax in, visit with friends or read a book.

A Sweet Suite Renovation
Jeff Sawicki and his maintenance partner, Don, make up the handy team at Chippewa. They recently kicked off a renovation project, taking several suites down to the basics and replacing flooring, cabinetry and countertops. The suites will be ready for move-in soon. This is an ongoing effort, with more renovations to follow.

“We put together a modern-looking, ultra-durable décor, with luxury plank flooring that looks like rustic barn siding, light tan carpeting and white cabinets,” says Jeff, who is also the green thumb responsible for the outdoor landscaping that earned a beautification award from the City of Brecksville. “We wanted the same great looks and easy care you are seeing in new homes.”

Over the past year, in addition to the suites, Alison and her staff have created special themed lounges that are warm and welcoming: a Library, the Zen Tranquility Room, the Mirror Room and the Chippewa Room for people to relax and kick back.

“Chippewa Place is a success because like our renovations occurring, we operate as a team at all times,” Alison stresses. “The caring staff, always working together, makes it a comfortable and happy home for seniors.”

Helping at the helm is Kate Kertcher, office manager.

“She’s such an enormous help, and knows all the residents and the goings-on here,” says Alison. “I call Kate ‘the gatekeeper,’ as she manages the front desk and knows everything about working with prospective people.”

On any given day at Chippewa Place, you’ll find folks gathering and chatting, laughing and connecting within the courtyard and welcoming indoor spaces. Everyone knows each other by name, as well as each other’s families and stories.

So Much to See and Do
The weather might be chilling out this month, but the roster of activities at Chippewa Place is hotter than ever, says Activities Coordinator Paula Ligas.

“Our residents are super social and love to gather, whether for birthday parties and happy hours with live music, or bingo with themed prizes, holiday crafts, movie nights, shopping trips, exercise classes like seated yoga and stretching, and group physical therapy,” says Paula.

Part of the culinary team at Chippewa Place is Sue Gaukin, owner of the popular Corned Beef Cafe in Broadview Heights for 17 years. She plans and executes the scrumptious meals.

Another invigorating pursuit is gardening. Each year they add more raised wooden garden beds for the residents to tend, producing a bounty of tomatoes, string beans, zucchini and herbs.

“This year we were up to 16 people tending the beds,” says Jeff. “They are built at the perfect height for someone using a walker to take care of without having to lean down. For year-round greenery, people like visiting our fully stocked indoor greenhouse as well.”

Romilda Levak is a long time resident at Chippewa Place and especially loves going on the group shopping trips, to the casino, concerts, and dinners out and tending her own personal garden. Gerry Sajetowski partakes in many activities, including the Red Hat Society, chair yoga and senior exercise.

Meet Romi and Gerry
With comfy couches arranged in a social circle in the building’s main lounge off the reception area, you’ll always find an interesting character to chat with.

Take, for instance, Romilda Levak and Gerry Sajetowski, who have lived here for ten years between the two of them.

“Feels like home” is the number one reason these charming ladies say they chose Chippewa Place.

For Romilda, or Romi, home was originally Benevento, Italy.

“I grew up in a close-knit family, then met my husband and we decided to move to America when I was only 20 years old,” says Romi. “Throughout the years, I cooked in a fancy Italian restaurant and made meals for many bishops and priests in the Cleveland Catholic Diocese, even Bishop Anthony Pilla. In the restaurant, diners would come from as far as Pittsburgh, Erie and Canada for the food. They all loved my dishes.”

When the feisty 88-year-old suffered from a serious fall, then underwent cancer surgery, she and her sons and daughter-in-law decided it was time to move into safer senior living.

“My husband had always told me that after he passed away, I could do whatever I wanted with our house,” she says. “I had walked by this place many times going to the grocery store and it always seemed so homey. I sold my home and moved in and have enjoyed every minute of living here. I cried when I sold my home, but I have not cried since coming here. I’m happy and even more active than I was before. Paula drives the bus for us. I go everyplace…on shopping trips, to the casino, concerts, dinners out and on garden tours. I’m constantly interacting with other people, with parties, entertainment, bingo and everyday chats. The staff is like family, too…so caring and thoughtful. Whenever I need anything, like to change a clock or something, someone comes to my apartment right away. I recommend this place to all my girlfriends who are thinking of moving.”

With Gerry, the decision to move to Chippewa Place was also an instant and easy one.

“I knew as soon as I walked down the path leading to the front door, and noticed all the precious angel statues, that this would be my home,” says Gerry. “Then, after sitting down with Alison Schillero and talking, she showed me the available two-bedroom apartment on the first floor, which overlooked the gardens and statues, and I saw it as a sign. This place just felt like instant home.”

The staff encourages each resident to find their own form of expression. For Gerry, that meant starting a little outdoor fairy garden, located at the southwest corner of the building. This darling spot is home to dozens of fairy figurines, with comical frogs and gnomes to keep them company.

She’s an energetic 78-year-old and has every intention of staying that way, so Gerry partakes in all the movement activities she can, including chair yoga and senior exercise.

“Bingo and dominoes are my favorite games here,” she says. “I take part in helping to call Bingo at times as well, which is a lot of fun.”

Both Romi and Gerry are Catholic and staying strong in their faith is one of the many reasons they love it here.

“Someone from St. Basil comes once a week for the rosary and the first Friday of the month the deacon comes and gives us communion,” says Gerry, who is a greeter for the services. “There are also ecumenical services for other religions on Saturdays, with guests coming from several different local churches. I think we all learn a little from each other. After the services, which are packed, we gather for a movie night.”

The ladies say that after their husbands passed away, maintaining their homes by themselves became a real strain.

“I still enjoy all of the independence of being on my own, but with more things to do,” says Gerry. “Last week I went polka dancing at St. Stanislaus.”

Gerry’s two-bedroom apartment is spacious and lovely, with loads of windows overlooking the green space. She has decorated it with some beautiful artwork and, of course, has a collection of angel and fairy figurines ready to find their home in her garden.

Chippewa Place is located at 7005 Stadium Drive in Brecksville, near the intersection of Royalton Road and Brecksville Road, behind the Brecksville Square Gazebo. There are 100 one- and two-bedroom apartments. Continental breakfast, dinner, utilities and housekeeping are included in the monthly rent. Call 440-526-6060 or visit for more information.

Categories: Westside Smart Living