Golden Palms celebrates 30-year anniversary

HARLINGEN — Thirty years ago today, area residents began retiring in style.

That’s when Golden Palms Retirement and Healthcare Center opened its doors.

Today, Mayor Chris Boswell will speak at a ceremony celebrating Golden Palms’ 30-year anniversary.

On Oct. 6, 1986, Golden Palms opened as part of Valley Baptist Health Systems, offering independent living services to retirees, Nan Spear, director of housing, said yesterday.

Soon, she said, the city’s first high-rise retirement center was offering assisted living services.

In 2008, Preferred Care Partners took over operations.

Now, Golden Palms is home to 165 residents while employing 125 workers.

“Golden Palms has been a pillar of the community as far as independent living, assisted living and health care,” Executive Director Jack Brogdon said.

Today, Golden Palms will honor employees Olga Morales and Ricky Merker, who’ve worked there since the center opened.

“I can’t believe how fast the time’s gone by,” said Morales, the center’s medication technician who was 26 when she began a new career in health care there.

“I’m glad to be here for them,” she said of the residents. “I’ve met a lot of good people — lots of memories.”

Nearly 23 years ago, Mary Wagner moved into Golden Palms after living on South Padre Island.

“In the Valley, it was very formal, very elegant,” said Wagner, the resident who’s lived there the longest.

Wagner, who used to own an engineering and distribution company in Rockford, Ill., didn’t want to give her age.

But she said her lifestyle helps keep her feeling young.

“Maybe in this comfortable lifestyle we don’t age as quickly,” she said with a chuckle. “It’s a lovely, wonderful place to live. You can be as private as you wish and there are lots of activities if you like to participate. We have wonderful people here from all backgrounds, which makes it very interesting.”

At 100, Laverne Myrick is one of Golden Palms’ oldest residents.

“I like the social life. You can do something every day and night if you want,” said Myrick, who was a housewife when she moved in from Palm Valley about 20 years ago. “I enjoy people and I’ve met lots of interesting people.”

Every day, executive chefs make elegant meals served in the lavish Chandelier Room.

“They have pretty good food,” Myrick said.

The six-story facility offers 99 independent living apartments and 38 assisted living units, all featuring private balconies.

A.J. Maldonado, the center’s nursing director, helps oversee the center’s skilled nursing unit, offering inpatient care as well as outpatient services to about 50 area residents.

“I try to give back,” Maldonado said. “I like helping people and being able to teach the nurses to be better at what they’re good at.”

Like other staff members, Maldonado’s joined residents on trips to casinos in Louisiana and Corpus Christi.

“I love to hear the love stories,” Maldonado said. “Couples have been together for 30 or 40 years and I ask them how they do it.”