Dream home: A retiring nature in Charlestown

Musical duo find perfect pitch in home among the trees

  • David and Nancy Wehr stand on the porch of their dream home in the Charlestown retirement community. They wanted to live by the woods and their children call this their “treehouse.”
David and Nancy Wehr stand on the porch of their dream home in… (Baltimore Sun photo by Kim…)
April 18, 2010|By Marie Gullard, Special to The Baltimore Sun

For David and Nancy Wehr, the abundant woods and walking paths along a winding creek are highlights of the 120-acre campus of the Charlestown retirement community in Catonsville, where the couple enjoys immersing themselves in nature and admiring the view.

"We grew up in New England," said Nancy Wehr, a 76-year-old former music teacher and a professional singer. "Coming back to the seasons has been such an exciting experience."

Empty-nesters, the Wehrs moved to Charlestown, an Erickson retirement community from Houston in December 2008 after a long search for the perfect home and environment in which to spend their retirement.

"Six years ago, we began research in earnest [and] this included information about non-Erickson communities in four states as well as eight Erickson sites across the country," said David Wehr, also 76, who has a doctorate in choral conducting. "We finally selected Charlestown for the beauty of its campus, the gorgeous chapel, the myriad program activities, the friendliness of both staff and residents, and a feeling that we belonged."

The couple paid $247,000 for their two- bedroom, two-bathroom residence. They chose a few upgrades, including oak flooring in the foyer and hall and recessed lighting in the living room. These options, they say, came in at under $3,000. A monthly service fee pays for utilities, upkeep, maintenance and one meal each day. The couple can also take advantage of on-site amenities that include a medical center with seven full-time physicians.

"The children call this our treehouse," said Nancy Wehr, referring to the breathtaking views from their second-floor balcony and a large window in each bedroom of the woods in all their spring glory. "And, really, we wanted to be in the trees."

Indeed, for the cost of their dream home, both agree they received a million-dollar, year-round view.

Still, downsizing involved making choices, but the Wehrs were prepared for the trade-off.

"We kissed a lot of things goodbye," Nancy Wehr said, pointing out treasured pieces of furniture they saved, such as a pair of mahogany-and-glass curio cabinets containing crystal and mementos from trips.

David Wehr's father, Julian, an artist and sculptor, provided the couple with artwork over the years that they couldn't part with, such as a pair of portraits of the young couple when they were dating and three walnut and mahogany sculptures of Impressionistic-style birds.

Even in a two-bedroom unit, the Wehrs respect each other's space by way of designated office areas.

David Wehr's office is filled with years of collected sheet music, CD recordings — their son, David Allen Wehr, is a concert pianist and recording artist — and shelves of books related to choral music. Nancy Wehr's space is filled with her yarn and patterns for the baby blankets and prayer shawls she crochets as a member of the on-site group "Stitches from the Heart." Windows in both bedrooms are adorned with hanging crystals that, catching the sun, reflect a show of colored lights onto the walls.

Out on the balcony, where the only sounds are birdsong and the wind chimes she has hung, Nancy Wehr says she has "been like a little kid watching nature."

"There is not a split-second of regret or second-guessing our decision to come [here]," she said.

Making the dream
The Wehr home is in Charlestown, an Erickson retirement community in Catonsville. Their second-floor, two-bedroom residence has a balcony overlooking acres of woods. Within the community, they are steps away from shopping, activities such as billiards and an exercise room, an art studio, library, indoor pool and five restaurants. Both David and his wife, Nancy, are involved in many on- campus activities that take advantage of their training and former careers as music professionals.
Surprise feature:
A 4-by-5-foot mirror hung on the wall opposite large sliders to the balcony allows for reflected natural light to flood the living room, dining area and kitchen. The mirror is not seen until well beyond the foyer, leaving the visitor to assume other sources for the light, such as a sunroof. The mirror also opens up the unit while giving the illusion of a second window.
Personal touch:
"Come into our professional gallery," said David Wehr, who most recently served as associate conductor of the Houston Symphony Chorale. Two walls along the hallway are filled with photographs taken from his days as a concert choir conductor and of his wife's performances as a professional singer. There are impressive pictures of him leading the Houston Symphony and Chorale and of Nancy Wehr singing with the Westminster College Choir.

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