John Shenk is an avid bird watcher, a world traveler and a new resident at Steeple View Lofts. Life has carried John from one continent to the other, one diverse environment to another. As a son of missionaries, John spent the majority of his youth growing up in Tanzania. At the time there were different nationalities flowing in and out of the country exposing him to a rich cultural mix. The people were, in John’s words, “Great, warm, friendly and hospitable.” As a boy, his family took holidays in East Africa. Here he fell in love with the Indian Ocean, a love that has continued into his adult years.
As an adolescent, John returned to live in the Lancaster area where he began working at a delicatessen in Central Market. After earning his college degree, John lived in Kenya for three years teaching History and Religion. When he returned from Kenya, he worked in the Personnel Office at High Steel for 8 years. The next 30 years of his life were spent working in nature with a landscaping company. Although he is now retired, John still landscapes part time. He enjoys working in areas that are overgrown and clearing out what he can, however, as a naturalist, he knows there is a benefit to having some of the environment intact for wildlife.
As a retiree, John has discovered a new interest in birdwatching. He joined the Lancaster County Bird Club. The club gets together to take trips to view various types of birds and their latest trek was down to Barnegat, NJ. He explains, “It’s a great hobby…and it keeps you learning.” He has learned about the different types of fowl, their habits, physical appearance and where to find them.
It surprises John how much he enjoys living in the city. John’s decision to move to Lancaster City was inspired by the diverse culture of his childhood growing up in Tanzania and later visits to larger cities like Manhattan. He explained living in a rich mix of cultures was like “coming back to how [he] grew up.” He made the decision to be closer to his son and family so he decided to relocate to Steeple View Lofts from Ephrata a little over 6 months ago.
John is learning that Steeple View Lofts has a life of its own. When he first moved, he shied away from being involved in the community but soon found it to be a strong point of living at SVL. Partly, he explains it is due to the individual members of the community who facilitate the activities. The layout of the building allows you to mix and mingle, not unlike the college dorm, he joked.
Life in the city affords him the opportunity to spend time with his son a couple nights a week. They frequently attend open mic nights together to hear his son play the saxaphone. He enjoys walking and exploring the city, taking things at his own pace. He finds that his many acquaintances “nudge” him to do activities around the city, but he enjoys spending most of his free time in nature. His ideal day actually lies in close proximity to Lancaster, taking a trip to spend time by the water’s edge in Chincoteague or Cape May, between the shore and woodland.
His change of lifestyle began over 8 years ago, when he started the downsizing process. Urged by his niece to consider when he should start moving, he began sorting through a barn-full of family heirlooms. “When I’m gone I don’t want my kids to have this mess,” John says, and he wanted to make it simple for them. He advises downsizing in stages to make it a little easier. “I think I want to keep a lot of it…[and] still am sorting through boxes [two years] later.” One result of downsizing was giving up his TV, which encouraged John to read again.
You may be wondering if John ever returned to Tanzania. After he retired, he took a 3 week trip to visit. During his time there, he realized he had regrettedly “pushed his memories to the back burner.” He assures us that he won’t do that again, because it’s part of who he is. It’s all part of his life story, and it has inspired him to come back to his roots.