With Grace and Dignity

One of the great gifts of working in senior housing is meeting the incredible residents who live with us. I love chatting with them about their lives and their perspective on life.

Earlier in the month, I toured several of our buildings in Southern California. One stop was Aegis of Granada Hills, where our Executive Director Victor introduced me to one of our residents, Denise Darcel. Denise, although in her 80’s, looked as though she could grace the cover of Vogue. Her hair pulled back, her dress smart and crisp and her personality delightful.

Victor introduced her by saying she was a movie actress. “Oh yes,” she said, “I used to be beautiful and these (pointing to her chest) stood out.” She then laughed out loud and sighed as to accept the stage she was at in life. I quickly interjected that she was still beautiful and model material. She smiled and in her French accent said, “Ooh la la.”

We chatted about her movie career starring in Tarzan and the Slave Girl and she spoke about working with Burt Lancaster. Her face would light up as she talked about acting. She was full of life and just a delight to chat with.

That night, I Googled her and found her acting career fascinating. I told my wife T that I had met the most interesting woman that day. Together, we read her Wiki tracing her career.

Two days before Christmas, Denise passed away in her sleep. When Victor notified me I felt shocked that this woman who looked 60 and acted 30 had passed away. But as I thought about our interaction, I thought about how Denise passed away with all the grace and dignity that she had been known for her whole life.

Thank you, Denise, for the mark you made on our world….Godspeed.


  1. Peter Clark
    Posted January 12, 2012 at 11:10 pm | Permalink


    Thanks for sharing the story about Denise. The history, incredible stories, and wisdom of our nations elders are an incredible, and mostly untapped, resource.

    As cool as EPIC is, I am sure that your employees get almost as much life enrichment from the shared stories and experiences from their community residents. It is one of the great blessings of working with seniors.

  2. Posted January 23, 2012 at 9:20 am | Permalink


    It is inspiring to see that you continue to stay involved with your residents, staff and communities. Over 15 years ago, you were my mentor and you continue to set a great example and you are constantly raising the bar.


  3. Belinda Sutton
    Posted February 11, 2012 at 9:31 am | Permalink

    Mr Dwayne: That story was not only heart touching but all to familiar to me the life changing moments that occur when we are given a chance to work within the senior community. By the way Mr Dwayne how highly favored you must be to have been given the opportunity to have met such a fascinating woman.

    Great book.


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