Councilwoman reflects time spent aiding the elderly |

Councilwoman reflects time spent aiding the elderly

Susan Wood

Dan Thrift/Tahoe Daily Tribune Holding Judy Brown's hand, Hannah Field, right, talks about her time at Tahoe Manor and missing her good friend on Monday.

Come fall, Judy Brown may have a lot of time on her hands and perhaps an emptiness in her heart as well.

That’s because Brown, a longtime South Lake Tahoe resident, will depart from two time-consuming responsibilities in her life.

She and her husband, Alan, expect to close escrow and therefore step aside in September from Tahoe Manor, a residential care facility on Gardner Mountain they’ve owned for 20 years.

And a month later, she’ll leave the South Lake Tahoe City Council, for which she completed two terms.

It appears she’s not the only one to be disrupted.

“She’ll miss coming here. It’s part of her routine,” Brown, 58, said, as her 2-year-old Pomeranian, Mindy Sue, trotted around the premises.

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Brown took a poignant stroll down the hallways, where the evidence of the life and love of a homey senior facility has accumulated. The 32-year Tahoe resident once calculated the place had 7,000 years of wisdom grace its rooms.

A sign posted in the entryway reminded residents to register to vote. Brown estimated half of them have done so.

Photographs of major snowstorms around the Manor hang on a wall. On another wall, snapshots identify the residents.

“They can’t remember what they had for breakfast, but they can tell you fantastic stories of the past,” she said. “It’s sad. Some are carrying ancient baggage of dysfunctional families.”

She figured three out of the 43 residents get regular visitors.

The work is rewarding, especially when she sees down-on-their-luck residents come around to a better life. One who showed up with cockroaches in her hair now dresses herself, she said.

Brown holds much empathy and many memories of the residents – with most of the stories chronicled in a logbook she plans to formulate into a book. This includes the time a gas line was cut a decade ago, leaving the home without power for weeks. The Crock-Pot received much use, and the residents curled up next to the fireplace for warmth and held on to flashlights.

“They adapt better than you’d think they would,” she said.

Still, Brown describes the Tahoe Manor as a 24/7 job – 365 days a year. She took her last vacation seven years ago. In her mind, she never really got away in that 10 days.

“I’ve never spent a Thanksgiving or Christmas at home,” she said. On some of the holidays, she’s run out to buy presents.

Brown was young when her parents died, and her residents have fulfilled the need to gain insight into people and give back where she can.

“One thing I’ve learned over the years is you have to live in the moment with these people,” she said.

For example, Brown explained that some residents forget their spouses have died.

Another woman, once an educator, swore she’d have to prepare to teach every morning.

“We’d say: ‘Oh, you don’t have to go in today,'” she said.

Since deciding to depart, Brown has been dreaming in her sleep about the place – a structure steeped with character and history.

“I’m going to miss the residents here,” she said, with tears in her eyes.

Many come with a past.

One woman apparently looked for her sixth husband at the Manor. Another once worked as a brothel madam.

And Brown has made many friends.

Hannah Field, who’s been there for six years, used to fill shells with gunpowder at a Bay Area airplane plant during World War II. Now she finds Court TV providing a provocative drama or two in her life.

Brown, who encountered Field in the emergency room, sat down on the woman’s bed.

“I love her. I’m going to miss her. She’s like one in the family,” Field said.

Brown waited until she left the room to let her true feelings out, quietly weeping in the hallway.

She admits her first week of unemployment will be a difficult time to let go.

The incoming owners have told her they plan to maintain the two acres for the same purpose. She declined to say what the place is selling for, but Brown did say she plans to work as a registered nurse, for which she’s licensed.

After a few years on the city Planning Commission, Brown also plans to wrap up eight years on the City Council.

“It’s time for new blood,” she said.

She was pleased to have joined the commission at a time when redevelopment came into the picture, so she could follow through its completion.

“Now I’m going to take some time to decompress,” she said.

-Susan Wood can be reached at (530) 542-8009 or via e-mail at