Longtime Southfield residents, seniors honored

By: Jessica Strachan | Southfield Sun | Published August 22, 2012

SOUTHFIELD — Though he’ll pause and chuckle about his “senior moments” trying to remember exact names, places or dates, Southfield resident Harmen Guenther has a lifetime of stories to share about the city.

“My parents dragged me over here at the age of 10,” he joked about first moving to Detroit from his hometown in Germany.

After he married in 1970, he chose to live in Southfield because of the nice houses, better prices and impressive schools, he said. It’s now been 35 years he’s lived in Southfield, and he, along with his wife, Geraldine, born in Ireland, never miss out on a great opportunity to get involved in the community.

Currently, Guenther, 68, is a third-year board member for the Commission on Senior Adults, which planned to host the annual Senior Appreciation Night Aug. 22 at the Burgh Historical Park, part of a statewide initiative to celebrate the contributions of senior adults in the community. Guenther said his involvement there is, well, obvious.

“I thought being an advocate for senior citizens seemed like a good way to go, since I was one,” he said.

His involvement didn’t begin only with his initiation into the 50-plus club, though. He and his wife have been engaged at each level they’ve experienced as Southfield residents.

The Guenthers have lived in their Cranbrook Village home for 27 years, where they found ample room to raise a family. That’s also where he found an opportunity to get involved with the Homeowners Association, monitoring City Council and school board meetings to report back to his fellow Cranbrook Village residents. For him, it’s about giving back to the community he takes pride in, he said.

“We like Cranbrook Village. It has little crime, and people take care of their properties. Otherwise, they hear from me,” he said, with a laugh.

His interest in the Southfield Public Schools Board of Education spiked when they sent their four children through the district, all of them graduating from Southfield Lathrup High School.

“The rest evolved,” he added. “After I retired, I got involved with the recreation center. I was also fortunate enough to have the City Council appoint me to two other commissions.”

As part of the Total Living Commission, Guenther helps monitor what’s going on in the city as far as lifestyle, and he seeks out recreational opportunities and ways to address health issues, and has various guest speakers come in.

“Keeps me occupied,” he added about his involvement.

One thing he really enjoys about being involved with COSA is the events where they enjoy music and spend time “chitchatting” with fellow community members, he explained.

As longtime residents of Southfield, the Guenthers can recommend some of the best activities around town, too. He said they love to go to various choir concerts, and that his wife is a soprano in the Metro Singer group, which goes around to assisted living facilities to perform.

“St. Thomas Moore has a fantastic choir of 60 some people or more, and Richmond Community Choir has over 100 members. We go to their concerts, too, just because they are fantastic,” he said. “We also love to attend the plays at different schools. Those kids are so talented, and it’s amazing the productions they put on.”

Concerts at the Burgh and the city fireworks show (which no longer exists) have become some of the Guenthers’ favorite Southfield memories, too, he said.

Guenther said there’s plenty of others who are even more involved than he is, and their contributions are those that give Senior Appreciation Week meaning. He’ll stay humble about it, however, and dedicated to what he sees as just a normal lifestyle in Southfield.

“We just have our things that we do that keep us busy.”

For more information about COSA or Senior Appreciation, call (248) 796-4650.

This week is Southfield Senior Appreciation Week, and the activities conclude Friday with a senior tennis doubles tournament 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Civic Center Tennis Complex. For more information, call (248) 796-4650.