|A vague but persistent dream of a United
Methodist Retirement Facility in Central Oklahoma had been alive for
many years, sometimes surfacing, sometimes being submerged by other
In the third year of his tenure (1983) Bishop John Wesley Hardt, a
man of action rather than dreams, asked Dr. Charles Wells, Director of
Children, Youth and Family Ministries, and Dr. Elwyn Thurston, Director
of the United Methodist Foundation, to explore possibilities of
including such a retirement facility in the ministry of The Oklahoma
Conference of The United Methodist Church.
Drawing upon the leadership of The Conference Board of Health and
Welfare, a Task Force was formed to address Bishop Hardt's assignment.
Reverend Richard Hedger, Reverend Les Thompson, Reverend Donald Horton
and Mrs. Ann Shreve Joined Dr. Wells and Dr. Thurston in the task. They
gathered data from Annual Conferences which offered such ministry,
visited retirement facilities already in operation, sought the counsel
of Mr. Donovan Gardner, consultant for the church's General Board of
Health and Welfare, and surveyed United Methodist Congregations in
Oklahoma to ascertain the need for an interest in such ministry.
Two years later the Task Force reported that the need and interest in
said ministry was significant and petitioned the 1985 session of The
Annual Conference to appoint a Development Committee to work toward the
establishment of an appropriate retirement facility in the Oklahoma City
metropolitan area. The petition was granted and the Development
Committee included: Dr. Charles Wells, Dr. Elwyn Thurston. Reverend Les
Thompson, Mr. Elliott Fenton, The Superintendents of the North and South
Oklahoma City Districts, Dr. Lester Meyer and Dr. Charles Richardson,
one lay person from each of the Oklahoma City Districts, Mr. Rea
Chamberlain and Mr. Kenyon Morgan and Reverend Richard Hedger, Chairman
of the Conference Board of Health and Welfare.
Being advised by local developers that such a project could be funded
by advance payments from potential residents, the Development Committee
sought counsel from consulting firms experienced in similar projects.
From those contacts the Committee chose Retirement Centers of America,
Inc., (RCAI) to serve as consultant and asked the 1986 session of The
Annual Conference for authorization to proceed with a feasibility study
at no cost to the Annual Conference. The Conference approved the general
concept for the retirement community and the engagement of RCAI to do
further research and prepare a specific proposal for the project.
RCAI was engaged as a consultant with the understanding that any fees
would be paid only upon the completion of successful financial
arrangements for the project. Over a period of three months the firm
conducted a feasibility study including a statewide survey of older
members of United Methodist Churches. Over 2,200 persons responded to
the survey-. RCAI's report to the Development Committee stated:
1. A Life-Care Facility is feasible in the Oklahoma City area.
2. It should be located within a 10-mile radius of the May/N. W. 63rd
3. It should be funded by the residents.
4. It should include graduated levels of care; Independent Living,
Assisted Living, Intermediate and Skilled Nursing Care.
5. It should include 240 units with a 60-bed Nursing Center.
6. The cost would be approximately $30,000,000 to be financed by
The Development Committee then incorporated a management team known
as: The Central Oklahoma United Methodist Retirement Facility.. Inc..
The report of the feasibility study, was made to the 1987 session of
The Annual Conference which approved the incorporation of The Central
Oklahoma United Methodist Retirement Facility, Inc., adopted the by-laws
of the corporation and elected a Board of Directors to succeed the
Development Committee. The Board of Directors included:
Class of 1988: Rea Chamberlain, Joe Jackson and Lester Meyer
Class of 1989: Charles Richardson, Charles Wells and Lillie Faye Renegar
Class of 1990: Elliott Fenton, Claire Glenn and Elwyn Thurston
Ex Officio: Richard Hedger, Chairman Conference Board of Health and
With the election of the Board of Directors, the full
development team was in place including: Ernst and Whinney as financial
consultants; Ziegler Securities and Leo Oppenheim and Co., as bond
underwriters; Milliman and Robertson as actuarial consultants, Liberty
Bank as Trustee; and RCAI as General Development Consultant.
The proposed and now seemingly assured project was named Epworth
Villa, using a term familiar to United Methodists and reminiscent of
Epworth, England, birthplace of Methodism's founder, John Wesley.
Susanna Wesley Center (the health center) at Epworth Villa was named for
John Wesley's mother.
Steps in the development of Epworth Villa now began to move at an
Having recently sold site property to the new Quail Springs United
Methodist Church, Mr. W. P. Atkinson became interested in Epworth Villa
offering to sell a thirty-acre tract at 150th and North Pennsylvania for
the retirement facility. Mr. Atkinson commissioned an artist's rendering
strongly suggesting the Williamsburg architectural style for the project
and agreed to hold the site until financing could be arranged for its
Obtaining a Certificate of Need for Susanna Wesley Center was a major
obstacle. The Oklahoma Health Planning Commission contended that there
was no need for additional nursing beds in the Oklahoma City area. A
"Priority Plus" campaign was conducted enabling potential residents to
make $500 deposits indicating their intention to apply for residence in
the proposed facility. The number of responses to that campaign together
with other expressions of interest from constituents all over the State
persuaded the Health Planning Commission to approve the required
Certificate of Need. Kirk Gulledge of RCAI found Senators Ben Brown and
Ed Long to be especially helpful with the legislation which enabled that
Rea Chamberlain, Board Treasurer, was instrumental in obtaining the
501 (c) 3 not-for-profit tax status, and Elliott Fenton served as our
"in house" legal advisor.
After consideration of other candidates, the Board accepted the
resignation of Architect, Kenyon Morgan, in order that his firm,
Architectural Design Group, could be engaged for architectural services.
In April, 1988 a Marketing office staffed by RCAI personnel was
opened at Memorial Road and Fairhill Avenue and within a year 60% (the
qualifying number) of the proposed units had been presold.
In the meantime, Mr. Ron Yordi, President of Yordi Construction
Company, had been retained as General Building Contractor for the
project with the understanding that not only would he not receive any
payment until financing had been arranged, but that he would underwrite
architectural expenses up to $283,000 to enable the earliest possible
construction. For the next three years the Board functioned as both
Board of Directors and Building Committee. Bill Wells, retired
Industrial Engineer, resigned from the Board of Directors to become the
Board's representative as Construction Coordinator, a salaried position.
April 23, 1989 was a red-letter day when representatives of the
financial consultants, bond underwriters, the trustee bank, RCAI and
their legal representatives met with board members in the office suite
of Terry Hawkins, attorney for The Central Oklahoma United Methodist
Retirement Facility, Inc. (Epworth Villa). There, final financial
arrangements for the $28.9 million project were completed.
A Groundbreaking Ceremony was conducted on May 11, 1989 with Bishop
Dan E. Solomon officiating, and construction began the following day.
In late 1989 a contract was signed with Arthur Shuster, Inc. for
interior decorating, and Lillie Faye Renegar voluntarily served as the
Board's representative in design and decoration. The Arthur Shuster
company won an International Award for its Interior Design at Epworth
In January, 1990 Reverend Joe White was retained as Executive
Administrator and with Sherman Huff and Linda Baustert began to build an
exceptionally well-qualified management team. In June of that year
Susanna Wesley Center, the Health Care Facility, was opened for
residents and in August the Residential Facility received its first
In 1991 the Board of Directors, with Leslie Conner, Jr. as
arbitrator, terminated its contract with RCAI, used Walker Management
Services for a time, then assumed full management responsibility, with
consultant assistance by invitation.
By September, 1992, 100% of the residential units had been sold. By
March, 1993, 93% of the units were occupied, and $10,000,000 (one-third)
of the bonded indebtedness had been paid off.
Those who dreamed, worked, and resisted compromise are to be
MEMBERS - CENTRAL OKLAHOMA RETIREMENT FACILITY TASK FORCE 1983-1985
Charles Wells, Les Thompson, Elwyn Thurston, Don Horton, Richard Hedger, Ann
Shreve, MEMBERS - CENTRAL OKLAHOMA RETIREMENT FACILITY DEVELOPMENT
COMMITTEE 1985-1986 Elwyn Thurston, Elliott Fenton, Charles Wells, Les
Thompson, Lester Meyer, Supt. North Oklahoma City Dist. Charles
Richardson, Supt. South Oklahoma City Dist. Rea Chamberlain, South
Oklahoma City District Rep. Kenyon Morgan, North Oklahoma City District
Rep. Richard Hedger, Ch. Conference of Health & Welfare
BOARD OF DIRECTORS EPWORTH VILLA RETIREMENT COMMUNITY 1986 - (9
members from 1986-1990) (15 members beginning 1990) Margaret Ball 1993¬
Jerry Bernardy 1993¬ Rea Chamberlain 1986¬ Leslie Conner, Jr. 1989¬
Skoshi Farr 1991 - Elliott Fenton 1986 - Loyce Funnell 1990 - 1991
Claire Glenn 1986-1991 Bob Hamilton 1993¬ Wm. R. "Bill" Henry 1993¬
Oscar Heuser 1993¬ Joe Jackson 1986-1987 Lester Meyer 1986- 1993 Larry
Miles 1990 - 1992 Kenyon Morgan 1986 - 1987 Norman Neaves 1989- 1993
Lucille Patton 1991¬ Howard Plowman 1990¬ Don Powers 1990- 1993 Lillie
Faye Renegar 1986¬ Charles Richardson 1986-1988 David Severe 1990¬ El n
Thurston 1986¬ David Thomas 1991 - 1993 Larry Varvel 1993¬ Bill Wells
1988-1989 Charles Wells 1986- 1993 Paul Woolsey 1990- 1993
Richard Hedger 1986-1988 Ch. Conference Board of Health & Welfare
Larry Varvel 1992-1993 Pastor, Quail Springs United Methodist Church
Bishop John Wesley Hardt 1983-1988 Bishop Dan E. Solomon 1988¬
MEMBERS - EPWORTH VILLA MARKETING DEPARTMENT STAFF 1988-1993 Willard
Graley, Carol Rand, Irv Glos, Hank Sookne, Kathy Logsdon and Diana Garcia
Mary Schuknecht, Mary Jo Karr-Ake Nelda Alkadhimi, Becky Sellers and Trudy
MEMBERS-EPWORTH VILLA MANAGEMENT TEAM
*Indicates original Management Team Members, beginning 1990
Bold type indicates members of current Management Team, 1993
*Joe H. White, Hank Sookne, *Linda Inks, Patti Riley, *Valerie Perry,
*Sherman Huff, Anne White, *Linda Baustert, Mary Jo Puttroff, Nelda
Alkadhimi, Sandra Thayer, *Randy Fresonke, Pam Meeks, *Carol Rand, Kim Horsman, *Daree Hendrus
and Nancy Lepak