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Pleasanton Weekly

Cover Story - August 9, 2013

Retiring in Style

Stoneridge Creek opens in Pleasanton

by Jeb Bing

After more than a half-century of living and working in other cities, including a stint in Germany and 35 years in their home in Orinda, Joan and Wilhelm (Bill) Schaeffler believe they have found the perfect place to spend their golden years - Pleasanton.

The couple was the first to move into the upscale Stoneridge Creek retirement community that is still under construction on a section of Staples Ranch, the 124-acre site at I-580 and El Charro Road on Pleasanton's east side. The long-awaited extension of Stoneridge Drive that slices through the site will open in October, providing a direct link between Stoneridge Creek and the rest of the city.

The Schaefflers, who met on a blind date and married in 1957 after both received veterinary science degrees from the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana, decided several years ago that it was time to plan for "easier" years after raising four children and maintaining a house on 2.3 acres.

"There was always something to be done," Bill Schaeffler, 81, said. "I had a large yard to take care of, trees to trim, a pool to maintain, and more. I won't miss fixing sprinklers, checking for roof leaks and those chores one bit."

It's those kinds of concerns that make Stoneridge Creek an ideal community for those 60 and older who want a less hectic life away from home ownership. Unlike a typical development, Stoneridge Creek homes are not purchased or rented. No one actually buys their home, although it feels like that. The move-in costs are paid upfront much like a home purchase. No less than 75% of a "buyer's" investment will be refunded if the home occupant chooses to move out of Stoneridge Creek or, in the case of death, to the resident's estate. There's also a monthly service fee.

"It's not cheap to live here, we pay a lot of money," Bill Schaeffler said. "But we can count on getting back most of the main payment as long as Stoneridge Creek stays financially healthy. And when you take into account that your property taxes, utility bills and all upkeep costs are included in your monthly payment, I think it's probably somewhat cheaper to live here."

Now comfortably relocated in a spacious 1,645-square-foot, three-bedroom villa called the "Redwood" plan, the Schaefflers had to make some adjustments to downsize their home and contents. But even here, Stoneridge Creek staff and its manager, Troy Bourne, were helpful. They provided an online diagram of every room in the village with a way the Schaefflers could insert the measurements of furniture they wanted to keep and determine where everything would fit, even pictures on the walls.

"It was amazing," Bill Schaeffler said. "And when we moved, everything fit perfectly except for what I mistakenly placed in front of a door to the garage, that wasn't on the online diagram."

Even more helpful for Joan Schaeffler was the service by Carefree Moves of Orinda, a women-owned and staffed company that works with couples in organizing and packing when moving. Recommended by Stoneridge Creek at a luncheon the developer held for those registered to move to the community, the Carefree women took care of disposing of items the Schaefflers weren't moving to Pleasanton, then followed the movers and set everything up according to Bill Schaeffler's plan.

"They were absolutely fantastic in everything they did," Joan Schaeffler said. "Two days later, when I couldn't find a squeegee to use on the shower doors, I called Carefree and one of the women knew exactly where she had put it."

Not everything went as planned, however. A utility worker opened an outside attached shed to make wiring adjustments, closed the door and left for the day. Later, tracking his German shepherd Birka's moans, Schaeffler realized the dog was inside the shed where apparently he had taken a nap while the work went on. The utility company sent over a crewman to free Birka.

Birka is not the only German in the Schaeffler household. Bill was born in Germany, where he received his doctorate in veterinary medicine. He later enrolled at the University of Illinois for its advanced animal pharmaceutical program, and then he signed on with Bayer Corp., a German company where he worked for the next 32 years.

After earning her doctor of veterinary medicine degree at Illinois, Joan Schaeffler, a Chicagoan, practiced in a partnership on the city's south side and then in outlying Elgin. Married to Bill, she then joined him with their first-born daughter Barbara for a "short-term" assignment at Bayer's offices in Germany. Three more children later (Jenny, Vickie and Christopher), Bill Schaeffler was promoted to director of the company's animal health division in Kansas City. In 1978, they moved to Orinda when Bill was named chief of Bayer's hospital division in Berkeley, which Bayer had acquired from Cutter Laboratories.

Once back in the U.S., Joan Schaeffler resumed her veterinary work, opening a practice in Kansas City that specialized in the care of birds and cats. When the couple moved to Orinda, she established her own practice, the Four Corners Veterinary Hospital in Concord, which she recently sold when they decided to move to Pleasanton.

As traumatic as selling and leaving a family home can be, especially after 35 years, both Bill and Joan Schaeffler said "it was time." Their children had long since moved out and now have their own families. Since the two also worked long hours and no longer had children in local schools, many of their friends were also gone. Except for a coffee klatch Joan goes back for weekly in Lafayette and the pharmacist they still use in Orinda, the ties to the old homestead disappeared quickly.

"We said hello and goodbye to our neighbors, and that was that," Bill said.

An ardent exerciser, Joan also joined Club One in Pleasanton so that she can continue her 5:30 a.m. workout regimen. Thanks to advice from Troy Bourne, Bill found scenic and quiet trails in Livermore just beyond El Charro Road for his daily walks with Birka.

The Schaefflers' villa is at the end of a closed-off street with one side of the yard a concrete wall separating Stoneridge Creek from the established single family home neighborhood along Staples Ranch Road. The couple converted the large master bedroom into a family room with Bill's desk in one corner and his computer station in what was designed as a walk-in closet. The Schaefflers took over another bedroom as theirs and one remains as a guest room.

Often, the public's image of retirement facilities range from ocean view homes and golf courses for the very rich to stainless steel halls with green linoleum where many may remember visiting as kindergartners to sing Christmas carols.

Stoneridge Creek is neither. It looks much like other upscale neighborhoods in Pleasanton. It consists of a cluster of 635 homes ranging in size from 700-square-foot condominium apartments to single family homes in 20 different floor plans as large as 2,600 square feet. The complex also includes 60 assisted living apartments, and a nearby health center will have 90 skilled nursing beds when completed.

Employees are being hired locally, including managers, nurses and staff to handle swimming, fitness and other programs. Security guards are doubling as First Responders in the complex, all trained in CPR. Surrounded by parkland, other amenities at Stoneridge Creek will include bocce ball, areas for gardening, a dog park, painting, art and dance classes, and water aerobics.

Other on-site amenities include several restaurant venues ranging from casual to fine dining; a resident library; billiard and card rooms; computer lab and business center; spa and fitness center; open-air pool and steam room; performing arts theater for musical and theatrical performances; movie theater; and an art studio and woodworking shop. Residents can also enjoy a variety of outdoor recreational amenities including tennis courts, short-game golf course, dog park, walking and cycling trails, and bocce and croquet courts.

Currently, 280 homes have been reserved at Stoneridge Creek with 134 remaining. For more information, call (925) 227-6800 or 1-800-924-6430.

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