“We Were Pioneers.”

June Martin recalls 20 years at Piper Shores

June and Russell Martin were among a small group of resident pioneers who gathered 20 years ago to mark the grand opening of Piper Shores.

“We were among those who actually cut the ribbon on that day,” recalls June with a warm smile. Now aged 95, and among its longest standing residents, June is still a magnificent picture of health. Cutting a petite and lovely figure, with glowing skin, bright eyes, and an indelible sense of fashion (she was a clothing designer after all), June Martin offers clear and detailed memories of her 20 years at Piper Shores, starting with the very decision to move to there in the first place.

‘We were pioneers looking for a new, more secure life, and excited by the possibilities,” she recalls. “When we moved into our beautiful apartment, we didn’t know anyone, and that was the fun part – everyone was new.”

June remembers it being “a slight, but joyful” challenge. “My husband got into the woodworker’s group, and I was able to paint. It was fun meeting new people and there was a lot of entertaining that went back and forth – everybody wanted to show off their new apartments.”

Before moving to Piper Shores, the couple lived in a historic home that was in constant need of refurbishing.  “There was no time for me to paint, so when we got here, I immediately set up an art studio, and there was no need to cook, so I didn’t have to worry.” Eventually, she gave up her car too, and utilizes the Piper Shores shuttle for shopping and errands.

Looking back over two decades, June says the most valued aspect of her life at Piper Shores is the freedom to determine her day. “It’s that ability to create and have the time to paint and to read. Those are things you put off in your life because you have to make a living,” says June. At Piper Shores, residents can seek the inner peace that everybody is searching for because there is time and spaciousness to do it.

Making the Decision

Before moving to Piper Shores, Russell and June had been living near family in Camden, Maine. The fateful day that Russell suffered a stroke coincided with an enormous snowstorm. The ambulance got stuck trying to steer the route to their home. The heater also blew up in the basement. The neighbors came to the rescue, shoveled out the driveway, and Russell successfully made it to the hospital for treatment. But when the dust settled, they knew it was time to make a change.

“We saw a small ad for Piper Shores in Down East Magazine and decided to come take a look,” recalls June. Russell was 81 years old, and June was 75. One look at the property and the ocean views, and they were persuaded.

When asked to characterize what makes Piper Shores so special, she says: It has always been the most welcoming wonderful place, and beautiful too. What is not to love?” Yet in her own characteristic way, June adds that one’s happiness should never be presumed as a guarantee: “I recognize how fortunate I have been, but I have always believed that you make your own life.” The beautiful buildings and the atmosphere can only give so much. “You have to love those 24 hours and whatever you can bring to each day.”

June imparts her wisdom with a thoughtful, firm resolve and offers advice to new residents. “I think it’s up to each person not to expect a miracle for themselves. Just appreciate what you see around you and make friends. It’s a beautiful day, get outside and enjoy it. Don’t sit in your room and feel depressed.”

The Secret to Her Good Health

After a few moments with June Martin, it is impossible not to marvel at her remarkable beauty, energy, sense of style, and joie de vivre.  She is not only a picture of health, but her attitude about life offers clues to the secrets to her longevity.

How does she stay so young?  “I think it is genes, primarily,” says June. “I had parents who lived to almost the end of their 90s, but I have always been on the slender side because I don’t eat fatty foods and I don’t eat meat. I’ve always watched my diet for health reasons.”

June nourishes her artistic passion too, by painting regularly, and by continuously seeking new subjects (“Right now, I’m working on dogs,” she delights.) She regularly enters her artwork into shows at the Bigelow Arts Center and is preparing for the upcoming Summer Solstice Resident Art Show, a coveted annual event.

Staying physically active is also a top priority. June participates in the Health & Wellness programs at Piper Shores, notably the “Sit & Fit” classes, which she attends for 45 minutes three times per week.  “We sit in a chair and exercise everything from our feet and ankles to the top of our heads and arms,” she says with a smile. She also treasures time with her family members. “I have a wonderful stepdaughter, five grandchildren and seven great grandchildren,” she exclaims. “My stepdaughter is so loving – she and her husband come over every week to visit.”

It is evident that June’s spiritual health is a core value in her life. She practices daily appreciation, gratitude, and compassion for others. “These days, I wake up in the morning and my first thought is the Ukrainian people and what they are going through,” says June. “Here I am with excess food, and no struggles, and it makes me so sad yet so grateful for how fortunate I have been.”

Asked if she ever suffers from boredom or depression. “I always find things to keep me engaged here. It’s just a matter of opening your door and sharing with neighbors. I always find something to do, we have gardens and a lovely library, and television has been so cheerless, so I don’t watch much,” she says. June admits to maintaining an eagerness for life.  “I think that most of us here have a great feeling of vitality, but it depends upon your health. If you can cope with your daily life and occupy the hours without being unhappy or lonely, then it’s a recipe for success. I never have that feeling of being desperate or lonely, I am very fortunate.”

A Life Working with Ingrid Bergman, Helen Hayes, and others

June is characteristically humble about her past, but with a little prodding, she opens up about her career in the New York City world of fashion and theater.

June grew up in Washington DC and wanted to be an illustrator, following in her sister’s footsteps who was an illustrator for a NYC department store. “I went to the same art school as my sister and thought I would take over the fashion world,” she laughs. But instead, she found herself illustrating pots and pans and ironing board covers. “I was so disappointed, and I didn’t have the patience, so my interest turned to the theater, and I went into costuming.”

Eventually, she began costuming for famous actresses including Helen Hayes, Ingrid Bergman, Myrna Loy, Tammy Grimes and Lotte Lenya. She recalls that, Helen Hayes had lost a daughter and took people under her wing. “She did the same thing with me. I started making outfits for her.” Later, she worked for Ingrid Bergman, “who was so wonderful, she used to get me to do a lot of things for her.” From there, June made her way into the top tier of New York’s theatrical world, designing and making clothing the New York City Ballet and The Metropolitan Opera.

June seems to long for the more formal days of the past.  Even during the early years at Piper Shores there was more opportunity for formality, she notes.  “In the beginning everyone dressed for dinner,” she recalls. “I remember that the men wore dinner jackets.”  Eventually lifestyles became more casual, and dress codes loosened. Yet June seems committed to setting a high bar and expresses excitement about the expansion at The Meadows and new dining opportunities. “I hear that there will be a new Bistro,” she exclaims.

The Magic Formula

June says part of the magic at Piper Shores is the people and the staff. “The staff here is fabulous – from the kitchen to the maintenance the health care staff to everything in between.”  And during the challenging era of COVID, June says the team at Piper Shores managed life with professionalism and common sense. “COVID was absolutely easy for me,” she admits. “I didn’t fight any of the rules and restrictions because I was accepting of the whole thing, and they made it easier to shop and maintain some aspects of our lives. It was not a bad experience,” she says pleasantly.

In the end, June seems entirely contented with the life she has woven, even after her husband passed away.

“I get to look out each day at this beautiful powerful ocean. Every day, there is a different view of the water – one moment it is calm blue with a wonderful sky that changes momentarily. What could be more beautiful?” 

At Piper Shores, she credits a community of people who are thinking about the future. One day, they are planting a butterfly garden to encourage the lifespan of butterflies, the next day they create a memory care facility for residents who need greater assistance. Then they managed to safely navigate through a global pandemic, and now they are expanding across the road at The Meadows.

“One thing I hope they do soon is to put up solar power. Maybe that can be part of the future plan too,” says June, with a prodding gracious smile.