THREE OF A KIND — Rose M. Illi says her friendships with retired Rome Free Academy Coach Bob Ryan and World War II survivor Natalie Cholawka at Barton Place on Floyd Avenue have made her later years very enjoyable. Pictured from left are Illi, Barton Place nurse Jeanine Curry, Cholawka, Barton Place administrator Ann Dyer and Ryan. (Sentinel photo by John Clifford)

Rome retirees enjoy new friendships at Barton Place

Published Nov 26, 2017 at 9:01am

Rose Illi, a resident at Barton Place on Floyd Avenue, says her later years have been made more enjoyable by the company of her friends and new neighbors at Barton Place, an assisted living facility on Floyd Avenue.

Among Illi’s new friends are retired Rome Free Academy football coach Bob Ryan.

Ryan was inducted into the Rome Sports Hall of Fame in 2002, and continues to enjoy his golden years at Barton Place.

His retirement has been augmented by his friendship with Illi, who became friends with Ryan after she began delivering newspapers to his room.

“He calls me his news girl, and lately I’ve been promoted to his secretary,” Illi said.

The two often talk about Ryan’s days at RFA.

“To paraphrase a statement Gen. Douglas MacArthur made at West Point: ‘Old soldiers never die, they just fade away,’” Illi said. “He likes to talk about his colleagues, like math teacher Betty Clancy and health teacher Virginia Maller. He remembers some of his former players, especially Peter Yousey, Paul Vaccaro and John Dominic.”

Happy Hour

Ryan has found a new family, which includes Illi and Natalie Cholawka, a native of Ukraine and a World War II survivor.

“We share our meals at Barton. We call it our happy hour,” Illi said. “Mainly because the three of us, when we’re together, are happy and alive.”

The threesome enjoy debates, including one involving a World War II-era song that sailors sang to their girlfriends as they went put to sea. Ryan thought it was German, Cholawka insisted it was French and a third party had to settle the issue: it was a German song.

Ryan is popular with the female workers at Barton Place. “One of our administrators often stops by our diner table and asks Mr. Ryan how Hugh Hefner, meaning Mr. Ryan, is doing,” Illi said.

Illi said their friendship, and the caring staff, make Barton Place a nice place to visit. “We’re across from St. Peters Church. Our neighbors in Rome should come by and say hello,” she said.