Community First Senior Living Blog

Love & Friendship Stories: The Donovans
Berkeley Square Residents since 2020

Berkeley Square residents Jim and Dawn Donovan sitting together on their couch holding a red heart

He is the Mickey to her Minnie, the Donald to her Daisy, the Jim to her Dawn. The Disney-loving Donovans of Heritage Point have been married for 57 years and have been Berkeley Square residents for almost two years. Their journey of falling in love with Berkeley Square began well before changing their home address — with frequent visits to The Coach House, partaking in events on campus, and signing up for Mystery Lunches. “It’s the best-kept secret,” Dawn explains about why she and Jim chose to build their “future home” at Berkeley Square, along with making lasting friendships and meaningful connections with neighbors.

​Jim and Dawn met 60 years ago during a high school production of Bye Bye Birdie, where Dawn was on stage, and Jim was playing trombone in the show’s orchestra. Their very first date followed the theme of music and fun when they went to dinner and attended a Marine Corp. Band concert at a local high school in the small town of Wenona, Illinois. “He got lost coming back home,” Dawn remembers, with a sideways glance of admiration and playfulness towards Jim.

​The two got married in June 1962 and moved all over the country from Illinois to Iowa to Kansas City to end up in Cincinnati, Ohio, for Jim to take a position with P&G, where he would eventually retire at age 55. Even with being hundreds of miles away from their families in Illinois, Jim and Dawn always made it back home with their children to visit with their parents and spend time boating, enjoying the lake and water skiing.

“Dawn is the one who really anchors the family,” Jim thinks of his wife and explains how they continue to stay in close contact with their children and adult grandchildren and proudly show off their walls covered in original artworks from their granddaughters and breathtaking photographs of flowers captured by Dawn.

The Donovans have always enjoyed traveling and exploring countries like England, Italy and Germany, but with a glance at Jim’s leather-banded Mickey Mouse wristwatch and Dawn’s Minnie Mouse shirt pin, their favorite place on Earth is the most magical place on Earth: Disney World. Having been to visit the Florida theme park at least twice a year for over 25 years, the “House of Mouse” holds a special place in their hearts.

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Jim’s career has taken him all over the world for work, “I’ve worked in 20 different countries,” but his trips to Disney World, where he would attend Disney University courses for his work in engineering, would turn the Donovans into lifetime Disney fans. Their love of Disney has earned its very own room in their home office, which is filled from floor to ceiling with Mickey and Minnie figurines, artwork and collectibles galore.

Orlando, Florida, may be Jim and Dawn’s favorite place to vacation, but of their personally designed home at Berkeley Square, Jim would share that “we were building our future home.” Some may look at moving into a retirement community as downsizing, but for the Donovans they would call it “rightsizing,” or a way to “define for themselves what they think their needs really are,” describes Jim.

Moving to Heritage Point also had the added benefits of creating new friendships and connections with neighbors who share similar life experiences and the tenacity to live life to the fullest. “There is a lot of life here,” Dawn shares, and knew the moment they drove through the community on a bright spring day in 2019 that this was the place for them.

Jim would tell anyone that his wife “has a sense of insight about stuff,” and that moving to Berkeley Square was one of the biggest insightful decisions they have made. This is a perfect example of how Jim would define the secret to a perfect marriage, “do whatever she says,” with a hearty chuckle.

Dawn expresses that the secret is really “communication and respect,” which helped the two of them officially begin their new lives at Berkeley Square and build the next chapter in their marriage together.

Jim and Dawn have a zest for life, which shines through the street parties they help host, their constant engagement with their neighborhood, and of course, the love they have for each other. They have found that Disney happy ending feeling at their home on Heritage Point and are enjoying every moment of it.

April 2, 2024 | Community First