Lyn Russek likes to say that she’s lived a full life – and has the stories to prove it.
As a Homeland Center resident, she enjoys attentive care and her personal care suite's serenity. She is happy to share memories of her years stretching from department stores' heyday to a career with IBM.
Lyn grew up in the Philadelphia suburb of Elkins Park. Her father, F.O. Alexander, was an award-winning comic strip artist and political cartoonist who served with the American Expeditionary Forces’ Camouflage Engineers during World War I. He drew his best-known comic strip, Hairbreadth Harry, from 1931 to 1939. In 1941, he joined the Philadelphia Evening Bulletin as its editorial cartoonist, with his cartoons distributed in syndication, and remained there until retiring in 1967.
“I’m very proud of him,” says Lyn today.
As a teenager during World War II, Lyn joined the civilian Navy League Service and served at Abington Memorial Hospital, filling tiny bags with teaspoons of sugar for patients’ coffee and taking trays to their rooms. An Abington Memorial Hospital pamphlet report from 1945 on the war years features the volunteers – and even has a photo of Lyn and another volunteer hard at work.
Lyn earned a degree in fashion from Centenary College in Hackettstown, NJ, and then worked as a model and fashion coordinator at Dewees department store in Philadelphia. Later, she worked at Russek’s Fifth Avenue, a New York-based store that had just opened a Philadelphia branch. There, she met her husband, Harold, who was working in his family business as a buyer for suits and coats.
Harold was called back into the Navy, serving as an officer on the aircraft carrier the USS Princeton and, during his term of duty, Lyn relocated to Coronado, CA for two years. Following his service, the couple returned east to Scarsdale, NY, where Harold continued in retail management, and the couple had two children Hal and Julie. Lyn loved raising her two children as well as singing in the church and serving on the altar guild.
In 1967, however, she decided it was time to go back to work. Kelly Girls, the famous staffing agency, sent her to IBM. She stayed for 23 years until her retirement.
Starting as a technical librarian, Lyn pursued positions in ordering and sales – jobs with more responsibilities, higher salaries, and tremendous competition in the male-dominated profession.
In one office, she was the only woman among seven men. She remembers working one New Year’s Eve -- not a man in sight -- while she entered all the salesmen’s tallies so they could make their quotas for the year.
“They could be funny. They could be mean,” she says. “The guys all kidded the heck out of me. It was fun being a woman in a crazy time. I never had any trouble that I couldn’t handle. If they wanted my help, which they did because I got along with their customers very well, they were very nice to me.”
In 1983, her boss announced that her department was moving to Mechanicsburg. Her mother had recently died. Her husband was recovering from a heart attack.
“Let’s try it,” she said. Her husband said, “Okay.”
They liked their new area very much. Lyn came to know Homeland because Harold lived in skilled care before he died in 2011. Since she came to Homeland in February 2020, she enjoys reading, doing Sudoku puzzles and word games, or sometimes just “sitting and doing practically nothing.”
She also listens to choral music on CDs sent by her friend, Dr. Robert Lau, the renowned liturgical composer and former choirmaster of her church, Mt. Calvary Episcopal Church in Camp Hill. For 30 years, Lyn sang second soprano in the Mt. Calvary choir.
“I wasn’t very good, but I loved it, and I blended,” she says. “I was a good blender. The notes were where they should be.”
At Homeland, Lyn enjoys the daily exercise class. She keeps in touch with her “wonderful, wonderful” children and grandchildren and cherishes her three great-grandchildren and is looking forward to a fourth, who is due in August.
“I like my suite” she says. “The people at Homeland are very nice to me.”
Looking back, she knows she has had “a full life. I loved my career. I love my family. What more can you ask for?”