September 5, 2016 // 9:20 AM

“I Remember” with Esther Sideman

Written by Trish Lauer

In February of 1996, Esther Sideman became a woman with a very unique distinction: she was the very first resident to move to Garden Spot Village.

“It was an exciting time, for me and the board of Garden Spot Village, for the fruition of what they’d been aiming for a long time,” she remembers. Each summer Esther had been attending concerts at the park and liked the town, so moving to New Holland was something she looked forward to. Though she now lives in a one bedroom apartment in Gardens West, Ester initially lived in a cottage on Lilac Court. Being the first resident came with some interesting memories of her time in that cottage. “In my early years, my cottage became a ‘sample’ home and I kept a guest book which filled up quickly,” says Esther. She also got to know some of the original staff at GSV well, such as Nevin and Barbara Kraybill, Leroy Petersheim and Karen Horning. “In the beginning we were small,” she says. “We knew everyone and the staff was always friendly.”

Being the first person to move to Garden Spot Village means Esther has seen more changes than anyone. Besides the size of the campus growing exponentially, the number of activities has also grown, and Esther was involved in many of them. Amongst the things she has been a part of are teaching an exercise class three days a week, volunteering at a variety of jobs around the community, partaking in cross-stitch and the Red Hatters, and being an associate member of the church. All of these activities and friendships have created many fond memories. Those same summer concerts Esther went to before moving here were something she continued going to, but she also added in gatherings – both entertaining in her own cottage and having fun at watermelon parties on Lilac Court. Early projects at Garden Spot Village were also fun, as it allowed Esther to be “a part of it all.”

Like many others, Esther is unable to name just one favorite thing about being at Garden Spot Village. The ability to forget about taking care of snow and yard work, as well as cooking, that she likes allows more time for her to focus on some of her other favorite things, such as her friendships. The sense of security and caring, particularly from Chaplain Chet Yoder, is another aspect of life at GSV that Esther appreciates greatly, as well as her time spent riding her scooter all over campus.

As the first resident, Esther has seen, experienced and enjoyed a lot – something she’s grateful for. “I am very happy and thankful to be here,” she says, “and to be known as the ‘First Lady’ – the only distinction I think I’ve ever had! It was great being a part of the beginning!”