Home always has been a precious word to Linda Huebenthal Woolston, starting with the farm where she grew up in Baldwinsville, outside of Syracuse, N.Y. A historical marker established its 1798 roots.
“When my parents bought the house, it had no indoor plumbing and no electricity,” said Woolston, who saw firsthand what dedication to a home can mean.
“My family restored it, staying faithful to its center-hall Colonial roots,” she recalled, “even putting fireplaces in each room, and installing plaster-and-horsehair walls.”
While Woolston shared her family’s belief that a home was more than just shelter, her own sense of home changed dramatically when her husband, Alan Brent Woolston, died suddenly in 2016.
“I knew that our lovely home on a lake in Medford would never be home to me again, and trying to make it that just wasn’t going to work,” she said. “I would always be missing what had made it whole for me.”
Nearby was Medford Leas, a Quaker continuing care retirement community in Burlington County.
“I’m pretty decisive, and I have a sense of space, and when I walked into the home where I now live, I knew instantly that I had found what I was looking for," she said. "I even told the marketing person who was helping me that we could stop looking, because I had just found exactly what I wanted.”
To sweeten that instinct, she realized that the handsome old church columns that she had fitted into her former home would be perfect in her new one. The columns were a happy find from a shop in Mullica Hill. Replicating parts of her earlier world in her new one, she said, brought great comfort.
Today, she enjoys Medford Leas' woodland setting, complete with “neighbors” including a friendly red fox and loads of deer.
An open floor plan — with some defined spaces such as an elegant dining room area — creates a casual look, yet one that still can showcase art and artifacts, many from extensive travel with her husband.
Among the more formal showstoppers are a baby grand piano, a Burmese wall hanging, a Lancaster County jelly cupboard, and a cherished piece of art from Woolston’s late mother-in-law, the much-honored Farris Woolston, who exhibited widely throughout the Philadelphia area.
Farris Woolston’s painting of Philadelphia’s Cresheim Valley is prominently displayed in the great room/living room and continues to enchant visitors and the homeowner herself. “I never get tired of looking at it,” she said.
Even a spare bedroom in the home is enhanced by art.
While home is clearly a haven for Woolston, retirement is not a word she embraces. Committed to keeping herself and her neighbors informed, she is active in the Medford Leas community as an advocate for citizen involvement in government.
In her early working life, after attending the University of Pennsylvania, Woolston worked at the former Philadelphia General Hospital as an administrative assistant in the nursing department. That led her to earning an MBA at Temple University.
In recent years, she has volunteered as a mediator in the small claims/special civil and landlord/tenant division of the Burlington County court system. “It’s gratifying to be able to help people to resolve their differences,” she said.
At the end of the day, it’s still home, sweet home that beckons, and the pleasure of being surrounded by nature’s bounty and beauty.
“This is a very special place, and I appreciate that,” said Woolston, whose two contented cats seem to agree.
“I’m lucky enough to have maintained old friends who are close by, and new ones who are good and caring neighbors. So this is more than a home,” she added. “It’s also a very special way of life.”