Edwina “Winnie” Reese rarely made snap decisions, so her daughters were surprised when she visited her sister at Homeland and, on the way home, asked, “What do you think of Homeland?”
“Within 48 hours, she had her house on the market, she had made all these decisions, and she gave a deposit to Homeland,” says her daughter Kathy Wilson.
Today, Winnie’s three daughters agree that Homeland extended the life and vitality of their mom, providing excellent care and socialization during her final 10 years. They also agree that their mom’s decision to live at Homeland was a gift, offering them peace of mind with knowing she was safe and secure.
Winnie’s daughters continue to support Homeland, and the two who live in Pennsylvania attended the Homeland 155th anniversary gala honoring Betty Hungerford. Winnie also left a gift for Homeland before she died in October 2021 at age 97.
Winnie dove into the life and activities of Homeland, making close friends who brought laughter to the Homeland halls—and a bit of spice to political discussions.
Winnie grew up in the Philadelphia-area town of Roxborough. She married her childhood friend and sweetheart William in 1944, and they had three daughters—Sally Herzog, and twins Bette Hoffman (who jokes about being “the middle child” because she was born first) and Kathy Wilson.
Winnie was a rarity in her time—a working mom serving as administrative assistant to the executive director of the Girl Scouts in Philadelphia. Her daughters recall her mastery of robbing Peter to pay Paul, prioritizing which bills to pay first. When John F. Kennedy was assassinated, Winnie determined that her children needed a television to witness history. She bought a set on layaway at a local appliance store—and then talked the salesman into letting her take home the 150-pound “portable” while she continued to pay it off.
William died when he was only 61, after years of bad health. Ever resourceful, Winnie managed on her own. In 2011, she found her perfect fit at Homeland, enjoying the attentive staff and calling herself “blessed.” Her sister, Lou Hepschmidt, was already a well-known resident whose philanthropy included the gifts of Hummel figurines bringing cheer to spaces throughout Homeland.
For Winnie, one of Homeland’s selling points was the naturally lit, bay-windowed corner room where she stayed when visiting with her sister, and which ultimately became her personal care suite.
“There was a church across the street, and she would talk about the weddings and funerals she saw there,” says Kathy. “She stood at that window and watched elements of the community at that church and felt connected to it in some way.”
In her 23 years with the Girl Scouts, Winnie saw how hard her colleagues worked just to get by. She developed a liberal point of view and became a diehard Democrat.
“I have an Equal Rights Amendment pin she gave me in the early '70s,” says Kathy.
With the move to Homeland, Winnie made it her mission to be a “bastion of liberalism” in central Pennsylvania, Kathy adds. In retirement, Winnie had a talent for making and keeping friends, and her Homeland friends formed into a group that would play cards—pinochle was Winnie’s favorite—and share their political views proudly. In the runup to the 2020 presidential election, they became known as “The Biden Babes,” for their vocal support of Joe Biden’s successful campaign.
“On Inauguration Day, they had their lunchtime meal in the Homeland Diner instead of in the dining room so they could watch the inauguration together,” says Bette.
Even in her final years, Winnie enjoyed her birthday parties, a 2019 Christmastime family gathering at the shore, and the day she finally met her youngest, COVID-baby, great-grandchild. That was a cold, rainy day, but she turned down Bette’s offer of a heavier jacket.
“She said, ‘My heart is so warm,’” Bette recalls. “She was holding a baby, and she was thrilled.”
On her 97th birthday, the family gathered in Homeland’s Chet Henry Memorial Pavilion.
“She had a shrimp cocktail, Jersey Mike’s hoagie, Dr. Pepper, and chocolate birthday cake, and she looked like a million bucks,” says Sally.
Just a few days later, Winnie died peacefully. Winnie never failed to praise her daughters, calling them “three of the most wonderful women you’d ever meet.”
During their mom’s decade at Homeland, Sally would take the train from Long Island to Harrisburg once a month, rent a car, spend time with her mom, and take the train home. Kathy and Bette visited together monthly from their homes in the Philadelphia and Allentown areas.
“When we would leave,” Bette recalls, “she would always say, ‘I’m the luckiest woman in the world.’”