MARTIE NERO AND HER CAT relax at Franciscan Heights in Rensselaer (Kathleen Lamanna photo)
MARTIE NERO AND HER CAT relax at Franciscan Heights in Rensselaer (Kathleen Lamanna photo)
"I was totally against it," Jim Nash admitted, thinking back to four years ago, when he and his wife moved to Franciscan Heights Senior Community in Rensselaer, a part of the Albany Diocese's DePaul Housing Management Corporation.

Mr. Nash and his wife, Maxi, came to the community after Mrs. Nash insisted it was no longer possible for them to maintain their large house and yard alone.

"We drove in here and it just felt so right," Mrs. Nash said. Her husband agreed to move into one of the community's cottages, which are small, stand-alone homes. The Nashes are members of St. Michael the Archangel parish in Troy.

"I went to school down the street," Mr. Nash noted. "I can't believe I'm back now. It's probably the best thing I've ever done."

The couple enjoys being able to live independently without worry about lawn work or home repairs.

All about DePaul
DePaul Housing boasts 15 senior housing communities across Albany, Rensselaer, Schenectady, Saratoga and Delaware Counties. The sites are meant to serve as affordable housing options for seniors who meet age and income qualifications. DePaul's communities also boast educational programming for residents and a 24-hour emergency response system.

There are about 116 people currently living in Franciscan Heights' 53 apartments and 32 cottages. The property was formerly the headquarters for the Conventual Franciscan friars' Immaculate Conception province and still bears the marks of that history, with religious statues dotting the grounds.

For Martie Nero, living at Franciscan Heights has given her the opportunity she needed to weather multiple transitions in her life. At first, she moved there with her husband, Bob, to a cottage soon after the facility was built about 11 years ago.

"We used to drive down 90 and we saw it being built," the parishioner of St. Jude the Apostle in Wynantskill recalled.

However, when Mr. Nero passed away, the living space was more than Mrs. Nero needed. She moved into one of the community's two-bedroom apartments, where she still lives with her cat. She uses her second bedroom as an office and workspace for her art.

Many residents have animals, Laurie Bender, community manager, told The Evangelist. They are allowed to have cats or dogs that weigh less than 30 pounds.

Active lifestyle
The community is an active one, she continued: There are groups that spearhead fundraisers for local charities and others that play cards, dice and bingo, compete at Wii Bowling and do jigsaw puzzles or coloring. Bocce is popular in the summer months.

Mrs. Nero also noted that Franciscan Heights has a very active Bible study, as well as several community meals and a summer concert series that's open to the community at large. Residents are philanthropic, too; they made a large donation to several area homeless shelters after a successful sale last November.

"I take care of the garden by the flagpole," noted Bob Conway, who's lived at Franciscan Heights for 11 years with his wife, Rosemary. They attend St. Mary's parish in Clinton Heights.

Looking toward summer
The couple lives in one of the cottages, where they are able to watch wildlife in their backyard. Mrs. Conway, who enjoys sitting on her front porch, noted that there is a huge relief for her in not having to worry about yard work, especially during the winter months. The couple reminisced happily about their first winter in the community, when the maintenance crew swept the snow off their porch.

All of the residents said they're looking forward to good weather, when they will have outdoor barbecues and stroll around the neighborhood.

"It's a great place to walk," said Mrs. Nash, who also tools around on a three-wheeled bike. "It's quiet. We have great neighbors."

Mrs. Nero told The Evangelist that she has always felt safe in the community -- which is especially important now that she is on her own.

(For information, go to or call 518-459-0183.)