Homeland resident John D’Orazio: An active, independent life in personal care

John D’Orazio

John D’Orazio continuing his pursuit of music.

The songbook on the Roland keyboard in John D’Orazio’s personal care suite at Homeland is open to “Stranger in Paradise.” It’s a testament to John’s lifelong love of music.

“I was never very good at it,” he admits. “I’m a frustrated musician. I tried to teach my son the guitar, and I got to like the guitar, but my fingertips got sore.”

John moved to Homeland in May 2018, for the opportunity to be near his wife of 66 years, Barbara, who came to Homeland in December 2017. He stays active with Homeland’s array of events and the security of personal care, while he has peace of mind knowing that Barbara receives the excellent care that earned Homeland the CMS Five-Star Skilled Nursing Care Facility rating, Medicare’s highest citation.

Homeland Center’s personal care wing offers support and services tailored to help residents pursue active, healthy, independent lives. Comfortable suites include a full bathroom and kitchenette. Mealtimes offer selections from a varied menu. Around-the-clock support assures on-call emergency and medical help, plus assistance with daily needs.

John is a Philadelphia native whose path in life took him deeper into central Pennsylvania. He was a U.S. Air Force trainee stationed in Baltimore when he and a buddy went on a double date. John’s companion for the evening was a blind date – a student nurse named Barbara. She was training in a psychiatric unit.

“I always tell everybody I met her in the insane asylum,” John jokes.

John served four years as a clerk in the Air Force, from 1948 to 1952. When he and Barbara married, they moved to Danville, PA, her family’s hometown. He carved out a career in local industries, testing metals for defects. He utilized x-rays, ultrasonics, magnetic particles, fluorescent penetrants, and magnaflux to discover flaws. For the first 20 years of his career, he scrutinized metals made for fighter jets. For the last 20 years, he tested materials used to make railroad tank cars.

“The tank cars held commodities like chlorine,” he says. “If a tank car ruptured or a weld was no good, you’d have to evacuate a whole town.”

John’s daughter Jane puts it in laymen’s terms. “He was to industry what a radiologist is to humans,” she says.

Barbara had an equally important job – obstetrics nurse for Geisinger health system.

“She helped train doctors that were residents,” John says with evident pride. “She made sure the doctors did it the way it was supposed to be done.”

Even when she wasn’t working, Barbara stayed busy, always crocheting, knitting, sewing, growing herbs, cooking, and – especially – reading. Such authors as Sue Grafton were favorites.

“She would read a book a week,” John says.

The D’Orazios raised three daughters and one son. Life was rich with music, as John played the guitar or accordion or organ, and Barbara enjoyed listening. Friday and Saturday nights centered around a card game called Bonanza, played with family.

“It was a little bit of poker, pinochle, and gin rummy,” says Jane.

After they retired, John consulted, and Barbara kept working, too — but they had a plan. They saved their earnings for travel. Their journeys took them to Ireland, Wales, London, Germany, Austria, and Switzerland.

In the winter, they would rent a house in Florida, departing “as soon as we got the Christmas tree down.”

John D’Orazio

John D’Orazio showcasing one of several wood models he built.

John loves Homeland for the activities, which seem to him much richer than the offerings he’s seen at other retirement communities. He knows that Barbara is comfortable in Ellenberger, where “the nurses take good care of her.” He joins fellow residents to play poker or study history.

In his bright, comfortable personal care suite, he plays that keyboard and keeps a few of the models he built from wood in years past – a sleek whale in oak and walnut, a dump truck, a sporty roadster.

“They’re nice rooms,” he says. “I like the personal care here. They clean the room, and I get laundry done. The food is good. You can ask for something that’s not on the menu, and they’ll prepare it. Everybody here is friendly, and that’s the main thing. I’ve seen other nursing homes, and this tops them all.”