The Dream Begins…
Like two streams converging into a powerful river, two Muncie men of extraordinary courage and determination shared a vision. They dreamed of making life better for the elder citizens of our community.
Dr. Robert Cooper was a member of the Science Department at Ball State University along with his friend, Dr. O. B. Christy. The two men shared the same aims, abilities, and dedication.
About 1970, well into his retirement years, Dr. Christy and his wife, Erma, began to encounter some of the frailties of age. They decided they needed to move to a retirement community where health and support services were readily available. They began the search for a new home to meet their needs. They quickly learned that no such place existed in Muncie. Eventually, they settled in a retirement home in Greenwood.
Dr. Cooper was appalled that his dear friends were forced to leave a community they loved and to which they had contributed so greatly. Being a man of action, he began to research the needs of the elderly in our community. He was especially interested in meeting the needs of Ball State retirees and wanted the influence of a Christian perspective.
At approximately the same period of time, Muncie veterinarian, Dr. Norman Miller, began to address the same issue.
Dr. Miller was convinced that we needed a retirement center in our community where people could continue their relationships with families and friends, doctors, hospital, and businesses.
In the winter of 1971, he discussed his concerns with Reverend Lewis Gishler and local bank executive, James Timbrook, of First Presbyterian Church. Dr. Miller was asked to appoint a committee to make a feasibility study on methods of establishing such a center. Serving with Miller were Waldo Beebe, Jack Buckles, Hap Hoagland, Robert Kersey, and James Timbrook.
A retirement facility was envisioned that would be affordable to most persons of average means, which would operate on a not-for-profit, non-denominational basis and offer its residents lifetime security, comfortable living accommodations and comprehensive services including health care.
The Board of Directors of Presbyterian Housing Program of Indianapolis, (PHP) was seeking a community in Indiana to expand the scope of its operation. In July of 1969, this group had assumed management of the bankrupt Teachers’ Retirement Center at Greenwood and made it a success. The group received national recognition and even had a visit from the President of the United States. The local committee was impressed by the record of this organization.
Norman Miller was asked to research possible locations for the center. He consulted with Alex Bracken, Fred Crapo, Martin Schwartz and J. Roberts Dailey. Several sites were considered.
Dr. Robert Cooper and his wife Esther volunteered to donate forty acres of their farm on Bethel Pike for construction of the retirement center in exchange for life care at the center. This magnificent gesture was the last piece of the puzzle that allowed the project to come to fruition.
In June, 1972, Presbyterian Housing Board executed an agreement with Robert and Esther Cooper. The project name, Westminster Village Muncie, was identified.
Progress began to unfold quickly. The project was conceived, designed, and put under construction contract in the three months that followed. Marketing and promotional activities began that fall.
One year to the day after construction began, Westminster Village opened for occupancy on March 1, 1974.
People who have lived at Westminster over the years owe much to those individuals who led the way to the establishment of our retirement community. They made their dream become a reality for those who followed.
On November 21, 1974, the Presbyterian Housing Program Board kept its commitment to make health care an integral part of the Westminster package. It announced plans for the construction of a thirty-eight bed Health Center at a cost of $750,000. Completion was scheduled for July of 1975.
In the spring of 1978, The PHP Board of Directors voted to expand, adding a two-story east wing and a three-story south wing. This addition added a total of 102 one- and two- bedroom residential apartments. In addition, the Health Center was to expand an additional thirty-nine (39) beds. This represented exceptional growth in a relative short period of time.
Rapid changes were also coming to the Presbyterian Housing Program. It now owned retirement centers worth more than $80,000,000. Dr. Norman Miller and Muncie attorney Reed Voran were appointed to serve on the PHP Board. Almost immediately, concerns were raised about the corporation’s ability to sustain its financial integrity. The stage was being set for big changes ahead for all of the Westminster Villages.
Westminster Village Muncie officially became independent on July 1, 1980.
The decade of the 1980’s began with the appointment of an independent Board of Directors. This period laid the groundwork for the development of a more stable, secure retirement community. Charles Rothhaar served as the Board’s first chairman. Other members of the Board included Don Bell, Jack Buckles, Bob Hughes, Betty Kendall, Sam Reed and Hamer Shafer.
At last we had come full circle to become what Robert Cooper and Norman Miller envisioned: an independent, full-service retirement community, governed by a local Board and staffed by local people, who were dedicated to meeting the needs of the residents who live here.
In March of 1984, Westminster celebrated its tenth birthday with a “This is Your Life” program in the main lounge. It honored those individuals who were the original residents when the facility opened in 1974.
In 1987, the Village Foundation, Inc. was formed to improve the quality of life at Westminster Village and support activities that benefit the community. Expenditures have included providing for the Westminster Mary Garr Memorial Library and underwriting several conferences and events in the community.
The gazebo at the pond as well as one at the Health Center courtyard, were erected in 1987. The gazebo at the pond, which incorporated a beautiful deck over the water, was constructed by the maintenance crew. It affords a wonderful view on a summer day and makes the perfect place to rest or hold a picnic.
In the fall of 1992, the Westminster Village Board of Directors commissioned Morrison, Kattman Menzie, Inc. to draw up a master plan that addressed the future needs of the Village residents. Many issues were addressed including real and perceived needs. The plan outlined a series of recommendations as a roadmap for the physical development of Westminster Village.
Priorities were placed on the plan’s recommendations. Priority A included the construction of Abbey and Bristol Courts to provide 40 additional private Health Center rooms. These rooms, along with a Mall area to include a bank, sundry shop, media room, meeting room, doctor’s office and beauty shop were opened in 1995. The need for assisted living space was met by remodeling residential apartments to meet the needs of our residents who have higher physical needs. This process continues even today as the demand increases with the aging of our population.
As the decade of the 1990’s ended and the new millennium began, there was an increased need in the community for independent living condominium housing. To meet this need, Westminster worked with a private developer to develop 22 acres east of the complex – Westminster Villas, which fulfilled the need for independent living type areas.
Along with a committed, loyal and dedicated staff over the many years Westminster Village has served the Muncie and East Central Indiana community, Betty DeVoe served Westminster Village 29 years from 1976 to 2005. For 25 of those 29 years, Betty served as Administrator and President leading the way through many of the changes down through the history of the Village. Many thanks for her vision, leadership and commitment made to Westminster Village and the residents of our community.
Westminster Village Today…
Many changes and building additions have come about at Westminster over the years, improving the facility in all aspects. The current 300,000 square foot building, and the rural acres on which it is located, will continue to change to meet the ever changing needs of the retirement community in East central Indiana.