Meet four distinguished Spectrum residents who reflect on how their careers shaped their lives.
Palmilla Senior Living
Albuquerque, New Mexico
Anita Petrosky was born in Bellingham, Massachusetts, the tenth child in a family of eleven. Her parents were Russian-born immigrants. Her mother was illiterate, and Anita helped teach her mother English. Along with the help of a friendly high school teacher, she assisted in teaching her mother U.S. history so she could become a citizen.
After graduation from high school, Anita worked as a secretary in a textile factory. She later moved to New York City, where she worked for ten years. However, she was always interested in working abroad.
From a colleague, she learned the U.S. State Department was recruiting and the next day walked a few blocks down the street to the recruiting office and applied. After basic testing and a security clearance, she was accepted. During her career, she served in Iran, Argentina, Barbados, West Berlin,
Geneva, South Korea, Zimbabwe and Portugal. She also did short stints in Laos and South Africa.
Her first assignment was Iran. Through her job she was able to meet several government officials, a few of whom she would occasionally include in dinner parties at her home. She did extensive traveling with friends while during this time visiting many famous historical sites including the Holy Land and Egypt during the Christmas holiday. She rode a camel at the pyramids.
Her second assignment was Argentina, and the highlight of that tour was meeting the first astronauts
to land on the moon — they made a worldwide tour after returning to Earth, and Buenos Aires was one
of the cities they visited.
“I spent many, many long hours working in the control room, set up to handle their trips, and my reward was an autographed photo, a copy of which hangs on the wall at Palmilla.”
Barbados came next.
“While there, I befriended an attorney general and his wife, and we spent many dinners and holidays together,” she said. She was also able to visit many of the islands.
The following assignment was in Washington, and then she was off to West Berlin — an interesting assignment, as the Berlin Wall was still a major factor in East/West relations. With U.S. Military issued identification cards, diplomatic personnel were allowed to travel to East Berlin. The military was in charge of U.S. interests in West Berlin — the embassy was based in Bonn.
Visits to the East were normal on weekends, when staff went there for dinner and shopping. They were not allowed to overnight without special permission from the U.S. Military authorities.
Years later, after the wall had fallen, Anita was able to revisit and enjoyed being allowed to walk
through without being stopped. And she was able to come home with some pieces of the wall, which she shared with family while saving one for herself.
Her next assignment was South Korea — also interesting because of the division between North and South. She became involved in escorting many of the congressional visitors who came to Korea. She was able to meet with the officials responsible for running our country at the time.
Another interesting aspect of her tour was working with a group of FBI agents who were investigating a South Korean official accused of bribing a U.S. congressman. The group was led by Benjamin Civiletti, who later became a U.S. Attorney General.
While posted in South Korea, she was asked to do a short duty in Laos, as they were having a problem
getting a secretary to “volunteer” for a permanent assignment there. It was a bit frightening since the
country was controlled by the Communists and occupied by Russians. At one point, while driving an embassy vehicle, she was run off the road by a Russian military truck. The weekends held a much-needed diversion — a club run by the British — where Anita could enjoy swimming, playing volleyball, tennis and eating.
Another assignment was to the U.S. Mission to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland (the economic arm of the U.N.). She worked in administration at the embassy in Bern, Switzerland. While there she supervised several Swiss employees in the personnel office, welcoming newcomers, introducing them to other employees, as well as giving them info on finding housing and more. The most significant visitor was Henry Kissinger. He visited the embassy while on an official trip. She was assigned to assist embassy staff. She caught a glimpse of him but didn’t get to meet him.
Her favorite assignment was Zimbabwe, where she was secretary to the ambassador. While there she became friends with the director of wildlife for the government and his wife. She became involved in the “Save the Rhino” campaign, helping to raise funds for the organization. She went on many safaris, often staying in tree houses, meeting the people who worked on anti-poaching campaigns.
Anita had the good fortune to be assigned to temporary duty in South Africa when the ambassador’s secretary was going to the U.S. on home leave. She spent weekends touring the area and one of the most memorable visits was to the Cape of Good Hope.
Her final assignment was Portugal. She enjoyed traveling through Europe again but decided it was time to retire and return to life in the U.S. She had foreign-service friends living in New Mexico. She visited them, bought a home and eventually retired there. She enjoyed the mixed cultures and volunteering to teach English as a second language, while traveling throughout the western part of the country. She now enjoys life at Palmilla Senior Living.
Mountain Park Senior Living
Faye Darnell has been a resident of Mountain Park Senior Living since January 2014. Faye is an ordained minister, and she teaches bible study at the residence every Thursday.
Faye started working in the church when she was just fourteen years old teaching Sunday school for children. Eventually, she married and raised four children of her own and started going to nursing school. She was about half way through nursing school when she and her husband moved to Arizona for her husband’s health. She put nursing school on hold and started working for Motorola.
After four and a half years at Motorola, she decided she wanted to finish her nursing degree. She applied at Arizona State University, but they explained that too many years had passed, and her credits would not be eligible to put toward finishing a nursing degree.
Although she became discouraged, a friend who worked as an engineer at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Phoenix offered her a position there in the cardiovascular testing department. He explained that her nursing background would be perfect since St. Joseph’s was a teaching hospital. While working at the hospital, she went back to school and became a cardiovascular technologist and eventually became the head of the department. She also served on the National Cardiovascular Technology Association.
Faye resigned from the hospital, and she and her husband moved to Colorado, where she became very involved in her church. In this position, she did a lot of counseling and teaching. In 2001, Faye moved back to Arizona and became a practicing ordained minister with Assembly of God in the Ahwatukee neighborhood in Phoenix.
Even after losing her husband in 2003 and later moving to Mountain Park Senior Living to retire, Faye never retired from teaching the word of God or helping people. She taught bible study at Mountain Park, and today she works in the food pantry at New Life Church in Ahwatukee. She says they have six grocery stores donating food.
“We now serve food boxes to approximately two hundred people a week!” she said. “I’ve had a good life.”
Robert “Bob” Fiegenbaum
Creve Coeur Assisted Living & Memory Care
Creve Coeur, Missouri
Robert “Bob” Fiegenbaum graduated from CBC (Christian Brother College) High School at 17 years old
and went to law school at Washington University, both in St. Louis, Missouri. He met his future bride, Lois, during college. Bob graduated and passed the bar exam before his 21st birthday, but was not
allowed to practice until he reached that milestone birthday. He was a trial lawyer.
Bob and Lois dated for three years, married and had three children. Bob worked as a lawyer, and Lois was a housewife. However, Lois was interested in flying and earned her pilot’s license. She was one of the first women in Missouri to do so. She would fly to various women’s colleges as a role model for other women to become pilots. Bob also obtained his pilot’s license and together they purchased several planes throughout the years and traveled all over the U.S.
Lois was also interested in ballet. She gave lessons and started her own school. When she and other interested citizens decided to start a dance company, Bob went along to one of the planning sessions.
After listening to the talk of dancers, programming and production, Bob saw a need for leadership on the business side. He stepped in and was instrumental in starting the St. Louis Civic Ballet Company, which was in existence for more than 20 years. Bob was the organization’s first president and was involved with the company for many years. He came to love ballet. Bob and Lois often traveled to New York to attend ballet performances there.
Bob and Lois were married for 57 years, until he lost his beloved wife about 11 years ago.
Bob has lived at Creve Coeur Assisted Living & Memory Care since the community opened a year ago. He is a gentleman and a delight. He loves to dance at the community happy hours and has many partners waiting for their turn, as he is an excellent dancer!
Three Oaks Assisted Living and Memory Care
Roy Bartrem grew up in Decatur, Illinois. At eight years old, he was formally trained to play the piano. Roy entered an amateur hour contest held by Horace Heidt and won! Heidt — known as a Big Band
star-maker, who discovered more musical talent than any other bandleader, helped start a career
for Roy as a pianist.
Roy entered the Army Corps of Engineers in 1946. He traveled and played on a ship and was a chaplain assistant while stationed in Italy where he played the organ.
After the service, he earned a degree in Business Administration from Millikin University in Illinois.
As a young man, Roy toured with Roy Rogers. He played at the Flamingo Hotel in Las Vegas for a year, which is where he played for a guy named Elvis Presley!
In the mid-1950s, he took a full-time job and played locally in the evenings and on weekends.
He played at the East Bank Club, Drake Hotel, the Cloister Inn and The Black Orchid — an upscale Chicago nightclub that flourished in the mid- to late-1950s. At the Black Orchid he met and/or played with the likes of Harry Belafonte, Nat King Cole, Buddy Hackett, Herb Jeffries, Mel Torme, Josh White and Jonathan Winters.
He met another very special person while playing at The Black Orchid — “a very cute hat check girl.” Roy married that cute girl, Mildred, in 1955. She had two girls, Diane and Pam. Roy eventually adopted the girls. The family moved to Deerfield in 1956.
His daughters have fond memories of him playing carols for the family at Christmas. He always had a piano in his home.
His beloved Mildred passed away in 1999. He moved near family in Cary, Illinois, in 2001, then to Three Oaks in 2013.
Last fall, to the delight of other residents, Roy began playing piano after dinner. Now a regular occurrence, Roy even takes requests. When asked how he knows so many songs he said, “that’s part of being a musician.”
He now plays every evening, and the crowds are BIG! Lovely sounds travel through the halls of Three Oaks — it’s become a welcomed lullaby routine.