Caption: Tom Retford, left, and Alan Gast met over bridge at the Deupree House retirement community.
Alan Gast and Tom Retford didn’t know each other before they and their wives moved in to the Deupree House retirement community in Cincinnati’s Hyde Park neighborhood. They’ve become good friends – symbolic of the fellowship that develops among neighbors in the premier retirement community.
Their camaraderie may have developed because each has an engineer’s can-do attitude and enjoys working with others to get things done. Both are among the campus’ leaders for making life better for their neighbors. They alternate leading weekly duplicate-bridge gatherings. Tom is chairman of the Deupree House Wine Club, which allows members to drink wine at dinner.
And they both work to raise money from fellow residents to generously thank Deupree House team members during the holiday season for the love and help they show them throughout the year.
Many close friendships on the campus
“We both tend to volunteer for things, and we ended up working together on a couple of them,” said Alan, who met Tom at a bridge table.
Alan says of Tom: “I have great respect for him, because he commits himself to anything that needs to be done, and does it.”
Both led successful careers in business and industry – Alan for 35 years with Procter & Gamble; and Tom with several companies, working during most of his career solving customers’ problems by creating products or making them better.
Alan Gast and his wife, Marilyn, known as Tal, moved to Deupree House in September, 2014. The parents of three had lived in the Cincinnati suburb of Wyoming for 25 years and then a condominium in Walnut Hills for 22.
“I can’t imagine living anyplace else, really,” Alan said.
“As we got to be 80 years old, our kids said, ‘Mom and Dad, you don’t have any support services in the condominium. What are you going to do if one of you gets ill? You ought to find a place like the Deupree House,’” Alan said.
“And we had friends who had moved here already, and came over for a day visit, walked into the dining room and knew about eight people sitting at the tables. And we looked at each other and said, ‘Hey, this is a classy place. And we know people. This is the right place for us.’ And it’s worked out fine.”
Tom and Earlene Retford, who are parents to five, moved to Deupree House in December 2018, and knew nobody at the time. But they’ve made many friends.
“We have, in the four years here, made more and better friends than we did than in the 35 years that we lived in Madeira,” Tom said.
That’s because retirement communities like Deupree House are better environments for friendships than suburban neighborhoods, he said.
At Deupree House, “We see the same people day after day,” Tom explained. “When we were living in our own house, we could see friends on the weekend – maybe, if we’re lucky, five or six times during the year. That type of thing. So brushing shoulders with people is good.”
It’s almost like living in a college dorm, where many interesting people of the same general age eat together when they want, and enjoy fun activities.
Tom said he and Earlene, who worked in nursing throughout her career, “were just commenting on that. We’ve been here 4½ years now, so we’ve completed our college degree here,” he said with a chuckle.
Both Tom and Alan recommend people move in to Deupree House or other continuing care retirement communities (CCRCs), while they are healthy.
Tal Gast died almost four years ago.
“Both my wife and I were in good health when we moved in,” Alan said. “We had two or three good years, and then my wife started to go downhill. And the support you get here is incredible.”
He becomes emotional when talking about the above-and-beyond help Episcopal Retirement Services team members provided the couple to help them during Tal’s illness.
“I think we moved in at a good time,” Alan said, looking back.
“Same thing,” Tom added.
Like many at Deupree House, Alan and Tom had impressive careers.
Alan, who earned a master’s degree in industrial engineering and operations research from Cornell University, was one of the first people P&G hired who had trained in operations research – the use of mathematics, statistics and computers to help solve business problems.
For example, in deciding where to build a factory, one factor to consider delivery costs from that location, “and I figured out ways to make mathematical models of freight-rate structures to estimate the delivery costs from competing locations,” he said.
Alan worked in almost all divisions of the multinational company, even applying mathematical methods to advertising.
He was among the first with P&G to have an assignment in the advertising department. He worked as an assistant brand man when Gain detergent had its national expansion, and his job “was to figure out how my technology might be useful to people in that part of the business.”
And they thought it was successful. I went on sales training for five months leading into that.”
“We have, in the four years here, made more and better friends than we did than in the 35 years that we lived in Madeira.”
—Tom Retford, Deupree House resident.
Tom, meanwhile, received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in chemical engineering from Michigan State University, and later earned his MBA from Xavier University.
Tom began his career with the former Dow Corning Corp. in Midland, Mich., where he moved into a product-development laboratory and started working on customers’ problems, and finding fixes for them.
“That has pretty much been my entire career,” he said of that problem-solving.
He was working with plastics, and moved to Brunswick Corp. because they were looking for new materials to use for bowling balls, and, “They thought I could help with that.”
Later, Brunswick bought the MacGregor sporting-goods company in Cincinnati, bringing him to town. By the time Brunswick later wanted to move him elsewhere, he had already fallen in love with Cincinnati, so Tom went to work for Cincinnati Milacron. A colleague of his there bought a business and invited him to join him at Cincinnati Fan, where he worked before retiring in 2004.
“I think we think alike,” Alan said. “He’s better than I with the computers, but I manage. We’re both mathematical, and problem-solvers.”
Various ways to have fun
The Gasts and Retfords have an array of interests.
Alan has such an interest in birds and birding that he’s been to Alaska four times, and has been north of the Arctic Circle in Canada. He has taken professionally led birding trips. He also publishes a bird report a few times a year called “Strictly for the Birds,” that he puts in the Deupree House mailroom for fellow residents, who frequently seek his expertise on what kinds of birds they’ve seen lately. Both he and Tom enjoy writing memoirs.
Tom and another resident enjoy helping Deupree House neighbors with free minor repairs in their apartments. Tom is also skilled with personal computers, and enjoys woodworking and playing bridge.
Tom leads the Deupree House Wine Club, while Alan – like several other residents – helps once a quarter, opening the resident-funded, self-serve wine bar in the dining room each night before dinner starts, and closing it after dinner. The club allows residents to buy wine to drink with their dinner. Residents of 62 apartments participate.
Residents who want to remain active in retirement can do so at Deupree House.
“I think we write our own ticket here. We find out what it is we want to do, and what kind of life we want to have,” Alan said. “And then we have enough flexibility to make it happen here.”
Check out this month's Deupree House Activities pages.
Residents and ERS team members alike look out for each other’s interests, he said.
Recently, “The ladies I swim with in the pool said, ‘Alan, it’s time you got a walker.’”
He told them, “OK, I’ll get to it.”
But they replied, “No, we think you need it.”
“And they went out, and lined up a walker for me. And when I came out of the pool a couple of days ago, there was my walker. God bless ‘em.”
A custodian at Deupree House has a storage area filled with things like walkers and scooters that residents left behind for the use of others. This most likely was the source of Alan’s walker.
It’s one of many ways Deupree House residents help their friends and neighbors – even those who haven’t moved in yet.
To schedule a tour, contact Karen Immell at (513) 561-4200.