Distinguished Residents: Storied Lives – Part 1

Distinguished Residents: Storied Lives – Part 1

Our residents have so many great life stories!
Spectrum residents share tales of the impact they made around the world and right at home.


Chandler, Arizona

Virginia “Ginny” Millar has an old movie of her father, when he was 15 years old, arriving at Ellis Island after a long trek from Germany. The small town of Schotten in Germany is said to have received its name from the early Schott family that settled there before her father’s generation headed west. He settled in Portland, Oregon, where Ginny was born on March 18, 1923.

As a family, to earn money during the depression, Ginny’s mom and sister, along with her aunt and her aunt’s family, would stay in cabins and pick “hops” in the fields by hand. They would stay through Labor Day, to earn a bonus, which meant that they would have money to purchase schoolbooks.

Despite being born in the U.S., Ginny’s heritage is important to her. She speaks both English and German and has put a lot of time and effort into making a genealogy book of her family. She has a canister set and Cinderella cookie jar that she received as bridal shower gifts that are very important to her and her family. A prized possession she holds dear is a family Bible her father had when he arrived on Ellis Island. Ginny has written a Christmas letter every year since 1961, and she keeps them all together. It’s the book of her life story.


Phoenix, Arizona

Diana French spent her life dedicated to the service of others. It began when she took a job with the United Service Organizations where she spent five years traveling to air bases to visit soldiers and help them write letters home. She would play ping pong and sit around the piano with them singing songs … anything to cheer them up.

Later, the Michigan native worked for Richard Ziegman, a land developer who was on the Board of Directors of the charitable organization Friends of Our Little Brothers (FOLB), today known as Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos (NPH).

Through Ziegman, Diana met Actress Helen Hayes, who was also on the Board of Directors of FOLB. At Helen’s request, Diana became a part of FOLB, where she worked to obtain donated food for areas in Mexico that were in desperate need of milk and cheese.

Diana was so successful in her work that her boss said, “We are going to do the same thing throughout
the world.” Diana founded a nonprofit organization, Brother to Brother International (BBI), with the
mission of finding organizations in need of help obtaining food, medicine, hospital equipment, supplies and verifying the credibility of these charities.

During her tenure, Diana visited 13 countries and had experiences no other career would afford her. At one point in Africa, Diana found herself surrounded by young children who had never seen white skin before; they were rubbing her hands to see if the white would rub off. She made such an impact in Nigeria that a hospital was named after her, but upon attending the dedication ceremony, she was held at gunpoint after refusing to give money to some locals.

Diana traveled to Russia where she acquired the first incubator for a hospital. She smuggled Russian
print Bibles into the country in her suitcase padded with coloring books and crayons. The Russian mafia
circled a semi truck parked outside Diana’s hotel, which was filled with hospital supplies, attempting
to see what was inside the truck.

Diana worked for her organization for 45 years before retiring. She received the Daily Point of Light
award from the Points of Light organization for her lifetime of volunteer work.


Streamwood, Illinois

Wayne John Mounsey was born in Jefferson Park, Illinois, into a family whose English lineage is well documented back to 850 A.D. The Mounsey Castle was built by King John Mounsey in 850 A.D., during the Iron Age. Today, the Mounsey Castle stands in the rural lands of Dulverton, Somerset, England, and is partially open to travelers. Wayne and his family have made numerous visits to the Mounsey Castle and have viewed King John’s throne at a nearby museum. Two large volumes of detailed Mounsey history are included in the Newberry Library’s collection located in Chicago.

Wayne’s father worked for the Chicago City Public Schools under Mayor Richard J. Daley. His mother was primarily a homemaker but worked retail during the Christmas season at Marshall Fields. The Mounseys supported their only child in exploring his musical talent of drumming. By age 10, he joined the Norwood Park Drum and Bugle Corp.

At different stages of his life, Wayne was afforded much opportunity to travel the world through his career and time in the U.S. Army. He absorbed culture through music and cuisine. Playing the drums with numerous multi-cultural bands was exhilarating.

While on business in Germany, Wayne met and shared a few drinks and friendly dances with Rose Marie Woods, President Richard Nixon’s personal secretary. She would later claim responsibility for inadvertently erasing five minutes of the 18 ½-minute gap of private Oval Office audiotape. And on June 12, 1987, Wayne witnessed in person President Ronald Reagan speaking at the Brandenburg Gate in West Berlin, Germany. Behind bulletproof glass, President Reagan firmly stated, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.”

Wayne enjoys sharing his lifetime of travel memories and stories of his family lineage involving
King John’s reign with his friends and neighbors at Westbrook Senior Living.


2 Comments on “Distinguished Residents: Storied Lives – Part 1”

  1. My grandmother (Hilda Denner) was cousins with Virginia Millars father (Adam). I, too, have been studying our family genealogy and would love to get in touch with her. I have many questions about her Grandmothers side of the family.

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