A global citizen finds community in The Village of Glendale Crossing

Sue Sprake was among the first wave of residents to be part of the new community in the retirement neighbourhoods in The Village of Glendale Crossing. She moved in the fall of 2023 and not long after, she’s sitting in the Village library to share her story about the path in life that led from London, England to South Africa and, eventually, to the London of southwestern Ontario.

Sue Sprake smiles as she poses for the camera. This is always the fascinating part about visiting a Schlegel Village: among hundreds of residents and team members, life stories are vast and varied and combine to make a diverse community rich and exciting.

Sue is bright and chipper as she shares her story, her accent tinged with a unique, Africaans flavour that seems to make every word a little more enticing.

She recounts sailing to Cape Town with her mother and older sister after her father had flown ahead of them. Her mother was terribly seasick, Sue recalls, and her sister was eager to explore the ship, so Sue was her mother’s caregiver, though she was only 10. From Cape Town they travelled by train to Johannesburg, where Sue grew up and would eventually meet her husband, Graham, and raise her family.

It was a relatively peaceful time for the young couple in South Africa when they were married in 1965, but times would change and social unrest and political turmoil would boil over as the years went by. It was the mid-90s when Sue’s daughter moved to Canada, perhaps seeking a calmer atmosphere to raise her two sons and the baby that was on the way. Sue says she was heartbroken at the time, but thankfully she could afford to travel and she looked forward to yearly visits. She’d taken up the art of Japanese embroidery, she notes, and Atlanta, of all places, had a well-respected school where it was taught; her visits to family in Canada often involved a layover in Georgia, Sue says.

In 2008, their daughter flew to Cape Town where Sue and Graham had retired, and she convinced them then it was time to leave South Africa for Canada where they could rely on health care and relative safety in their later years. Graham agreed and plans were set in motion, though it would still be five years before their emigration was complete.

“It was the right move,” Sue says today as she looks back. When Graham’s health eventually began to decline and he needed the support of a long-term care home, they found exactly what was needed.

“We couldn’t have wished for better attention,” Sue says. “I said all along that he would never have received that sort of treatment in South Africa.”

In the summer of 2023, Graham passed away and all three children had travelled from Vancouver, London and Cape Town be with him in his final days, which was a gift. During that time, they discussed a possible move for Sue to Glendale Crossing, where a good friend from church, Carol, is a director of lifestyle options. Sue agreed and plans moved forward quickly; the first time she saw the inside of the building was on moving day, and it immediately “felt like home,” she says.

Her suite is comfortable, she takes part in regular exercise classes and she’s found a meaningful way to contribute by sharing Holy Communion for fellow residents of faith unable to travel to church.

Her faith is important, she says, helping guide her through difficult times, as is her sense of community, and she believes the community at Glendale Crossing will only grow more vibrant as more new residents settle in. She smiles as she looks around the library; there are five people awaiting communion today, and she says she best not keep them waiting.

She nods, looking out to the construction workers putting the final touches on the new gazebo in the Town Square, and her smile is one of affirmation.

“This,” she says, “was also the right move.”