Meet Juanita Ryan

Savoring good food, books, and friends
dsc_8868Since moving to Touchmark in 2013, Juanita Ryan has fully embraced the Touchmark lifestyle. Her days are filled with meaningful pursuits, healthy living, and enriching relationships—interests nurtured over decades.

Raised on a farm in Milroy, Minnesota, Juanita helped her mother with household chores while her father tended the crops of grain. “But I always wanted to be a nurse, ever since I was a little girl,” she says. This desire was fueled after discovering the Sue Barton series of books. The main character, Sue Barton, was to aspiring nurses what Nancy Drew was to budding detectives. “I loved that series of books.”

While attending Augsburg College in Minneapolis, Juanita met her husband Bob. Even though she moved on to Deaconess Nursing School, the couple kept in touch. After just a few months following their graduation and marriage in 1952, Bob was drafted to serve in the Korean War. “While he served overseas, I started my nursing career.”

Upon his return two years later, the Ryans started a family. Juanita continued working as a nurse part time while raising their son and two daughters. “I especially loved working in home health and adult daycare. It was so fantastic and rewarding to help families.” She retired in 1992 after 40 years of serving patients and their families. Her love of nursing rubbed off on both of her daughters. Today, both work in nursing.

Montana moves
Seeking a drier climate, the Ryans moved to Seeley Lake, Montana. “Bob was a pilot, and we loved traveling around in our small planes, including one he built.” In 2000, they moved to Helena to be closer to medical care.

“One day, we called and talked with Touchmark—we had talked with them before. We learned there was a cottage available. Within the month, we had moved. Our kids were tickled to death we were living at Touchmark.”

Less than a year after moving, Bob’s declining health led to a move into Touchmark’s assisted living neighborhood. “It was so wonderful that when something like that happened, we could move right to assisted living. My husband and I had been married 61 years when he died. We had a good life.”

Today, Juanita enjoys her third-floor apartment. “I have a lovely view of the hills to the southwest. I have a lot of friends, and everything is good. And when you’d like to talk with someone, you can just go have a cup of coffee at the coffee shop, and talk and visit.”

Tasting the Full Life
For the past year, Juanita has served on the Resident Council as food liaison. Residents come to her with any issues, specific dietary requirements, or comments about the food. Serving in this role has made Juanita even more conscious of what she eats. “I have never eaten so many vegetables as I have since I came here!”

Juanita appreciates how responsive Chef Chris Bullard is to residents’ suggestions. “I talk with Chris at least once a week. He’s very good. He listens. For example, everyone was so tickled when we got the salad bar. And for those who don’t like standing in line, we’ve made it clear that all they have to do is ask a server, who will get them cottage cheese and fruit or a salad. Our servers are really good, and it works well.”

In addition to the taste and quality of the food, presentation is important. “Last night was so exceptional,” she enthuses. “I had to go tell him that right away!” Juanita is friends with the previous food liaison and says the two always eat at the same table. “We talk continuously about food!”

In addition to serving Touchmark residents through her role on the Resident Council, Juanita also facilitates the Touchmark book club. “I read with talking books. I can sew and read at the same time!”

Other pursuits include going on outings, visiting with friends, and participating in Gentle Yoga classes. “The yoga class is so good for people like me who need to keep limber!” Church activities also remain a large part of Juanita’s life, and she appreciates the transportation to appointments. And whenever she’s at home, she loves to cuddle up with her 12-year-old cat, Blackie.

“I’m very content, and I’m not moving anymore!”

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