Hanukkah Lights Shine for the Holidays

by Johanna Leonard
December 2014

Shabbat is Seth's Bar Mitzvah Project

The Lake Merritt celebrated Hanukkah in 2014 with a Shabbat service and special candle lighting ceremony.  One Friday per month, The Lake Merritt is pleased to have Seth Browbosky and his mother, Cantor Ilene Keyes from Temple Sinai in Oakland come to our community to lead a Shabbat service.  Seth guides our gathering of residents and friends in songs and prayers as part of his Bar Mitzvah project.  In the Jewish faith, Shabbat begins at sundown Friday evenings and ends Saturday night with the appearance of the first three stars.  It is primarily a time of rest and spirtual enrichment.

Hanukkah Lights Shine for the Holidays
This month, we combined our Shabbat service with a candle lighting ceremony to celebrate the Festival of Lights or as more commonly known, Hanukkah.  The Festival of Lights celebrates two great events - the defeat of the Syrian-Greeks so that Jews were able to return to the Temple in Jerusalem and a miraculous happening in which a day's supply of oil kept temple lamps lit for eight consecutive nights.  Now, more than 2,200 year later, Hanukkah is commemorated "with the lighting of a special candelabrum called the menorah or chanukiah which has nine branches.  The holiday is also celebrated with special foods and games and with the giving of gifts."  At The Lake Merritt, many of our residents brought their own menorahs, and we all lit the candles and sang traditional hymns recalling the miracles of Hanukkah.

Our combined celebration of Shabbat and Hanukkah concluded with a traditional meal of beef brisket, potato latkes served on a bed of applesauce with a dollop of sour cream on top, and chocolate decadence cake.


Source from The Little Book of Jewish Celebrations by Ronald Tauber.



Annual Holiday Party - A Quacking Good Time

by Johanna Leonard
December 2014

On November 30th, The Lake Merritt welcomed in the holiday season! For the third year in a row, Randall and Cheryl Berger, the owners of The Lake Merritt, invited all of the residents, as well as their family and friends, to be their guests for a fantastic holiday dinner to thank them for making The Lake Merritt such a success.

With a 12-foot tall decorated Christmas tree, along with holiday lighting and music adorning the entryway and lobby, over 160 people entered The Terrace Room to celebrate the tastes and fellowship of the season. Our chef sliced prime rib “to order” and also offered delicious grilled salmon accompanied by green beans, mashed potatoes, and ratatouille. Wine and beer were available for interested parties and holiday cookies, coffee and delectable hot chocolate rounded out the evening.

The Bergers decided to do something new this year and added a photo booth. Guests were encouraged to have fun with family members to pose for a holiday photo. The technology was so up to date that guests left the party with their photos (and a link to a website to print even more) – providing all those who had "fun with props" a unique memento of each family’s get together. WOW! What fun! 

What no one knew was that they were in for a special treat. Randy Berger had made a commitment to our own Community Relations Director, Diane Broch, that he would perform his award-winning bird calls for the party. Randy’s rendition of the five-part call of the Marila Americana (more commonly known as the “Red-Headed Duck”) was the winner of the prestigious Piedmont High School Leonard J. Waxdeck Annual Bird Calling Contest in 1973. It was so unique “back in the day” that the highschooler’s performance (enhanced during his teen years by an incredible red-headed Afro hairdo) was featured on the CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite and NBC Nightly News with John Chancellor and many other media outlets. Now over 40 years later, we laughed at the duck’s many antics and the fantastic sounds Randy made to bring the duck to life! Here's
 a photo of Randy’s 1973 performance which is part of the Oakland Museum’s permanent collection.

As the evening wound down, Randy, Cheryl and I (in my role as Executive Director) introduced members of the staff, from the kitchen to the front office. As members of the staff came forward and stepped into the limelight, they were greeted with rounds of applause. We joined with the audience in expressing our appreciation to all who have worked so hard on behalf of our residents in 2014.

As our party-goers said goodbye with many hugs, I heard it said over and over again how this year’s Holiday party was the best one yet! Here's a toast to our fabulous residents, families, and friends and to a happy holiday season!

Photo from The Oakland Tribune Collection, the Oakland Museum of California. Gift of ANG Newspapers. Photographer Jim Edelen 1973.



Our Tree of Thanks

by Johanna Leonard
November 2014

This is the time of year that we try to hit the pause button in our lives to give thanks to the people, places and things that make our life so rich and so worth living. For the second year in a row, The Lake Merritt has encouraged residents, families, friends and employees to express their thankfulness on our Tree of Thanks. When completed with hand-written messages, this five foot high tree is a stunning picture of fall, covered in leaves of yellow and orange. It is our hope that our seasonal visitors along with members of community select a leaf or two from our Concierge desk and add their messages of thanks to the tree.

Last year, we had a full tree of wonderful leaves. I wanted to share several of them with you to remind us of the memories and appreciations which make us happy and life so enjoyable.

I am grateful to have this refuge from the storm


I am grateful for the here and Oakland family....the world outside my window and the people here who make it possible.

I am grateful for still walking around this beautiful lake and environs


Have a Happy Thanksgiving!!  From all of us to you and your families.



Halloween was Maleficent

by Johanna Leonard
November 2014

Look more closely, now. Can you tell the difference between the letters in the names of Butterfinger and Kit Kat bars? If you can, you might have been the “big winner” of candies and prizes in The Lake Merritt’s Halloween game, “Ransom Note!” created by Ryan our Program Coordinator. Tapping into their inner sleuths, residents of The Lake Merritt hailed this game as “the most fun” of our special selection of bewitching holiday party games.

Halloween was also swinging good time for everyone! Retro-swing band leader Lavay Smith and the Red Hot Skillet Lickers played in the Terrrace Room. Leading “one of the top swingin’ jazz and blues bands in the world,” Lavay is an internationally recognized diva with a singing style influenced by Billie Holiday, Dinah Washington, Bessie Smith, Little Esther Phillips and other legendary greats." (Check out the Terrace Room’s live music on Thursday and Friday nights.)

Plus, many residents, staff and patrons showed their creativity by attending as costumed characters! There was a fabulous witch, a Charlie Chaplin look alike, and many heads peeked above feather boas. The costume contest finalists were: a Biblical era shepherd, a Whoopi Goldberg nun from the movie Sister Act and Maleficent from Sleeping Beauty. These were three wonderful costume from three different age groups, I might add (30s, 40-50s and over 75). I personally thought our resident Norma should have won as the shepherd, but Malificient stole the award. The evening’s specialty cocktail was "The Root of All Evil." The recipe includes absinthe, root beer with a bit of star anise. I heard it was witch-ily potent!



What is Paul McCartney's middle name?

Join Us for Trivia Night
by Ryan Wilcox
October 2014

When you walk into a senior community, you don't expect to hear the cheers and laughter of 20-somethings, baby boomers, and older adults having fun together.  But if you walk into The Lake Merritt on a Monday night, chances are that's what you will hear.  The reason?  It's Trivia Night at The Terrace Room.

For more than a year, The Lake Merritt has been hosting its own "pub quiz" every other Monday evening. Our Trivia Night is a popular game in which teams of people pool their brainpower to answer fascinating and often comical questions posed by a duo of zany quizmasters.  The winners earn prizes and glory and there are sometimes surprise goodies and entertainment thrown in.

The duo responsible for this event is a pair of college buddies and trivia connoisseurs - yours truly (Ryan Wilcox, Programming Director) and Eric Dezendorf. A sizeable crew of trivia buffs joined by restaurant regulars, members of San Francisco's Provender Social Club (food business owners and entrepreneurs), friends and coworkers fill up the trivia tables.  And most importantly, there are our residents and their families who enjoy the lively competition.

Many of our residents attend Trivia Night and two of them recruited family members to join their team. Intergenerational teams often are the big winners.  About a month ago, a team of residents and family members won first place!

Whether racking their brains to name that tune, decoding the picture round or just enjoying a laugh and a drink, everyone is invited to enjoy Trivia Night.  We think we have created something pretty special and our residents do too!  



The Terrace Room Presents Live Music

by Johanna Leonard
September 2014

We are excited to report that The Terrace Room Restaurant & Bar has launched a new music program beginning at 7 p.m. on Thursday and Friday nights. Bay Area vocalists and instrumentalists will take the stage and perform music for dining. Featured are standards from the great American songbook, many stylings of jazz, along with sultry Latin music, tango, swing and lots more.

Our live music program harkens back to the post WWII years when The Terrace Room was a hot spot on the City’s entertainment scene with its own house band. It was a regular stop for touring musicians who performed for dancing and dining. Oakland’s local radio station broadcast Terrace Room performances live.  Click here for more information.

Today, our residents dine in this same location and enjoy delicious, healthy meals in this stunning restaurant with unparalleled views. Because The Terrace Room is open to the public, dining there brings extra enjoyment to daily living. The atmosphere is welcoming, intergenerational and reflective of the greater Bay Area community.

Listening to great music in a beautiful setting, watching the sunset on the Lake and enjoying a fantastic cocktail or a great meal is now one more thing we can offer those who enjoy The Lake Merritt Independent Senior Living.

Check out the calendar and see what is going on at The Terrace Room Restaurant & Bar.



Writers of Merritt Impress at Public Reading

by Johanna Leonard
September 2014

Recently, the authors of the newly published Writers of Merritt 2014 dazzled their audience with selections from their beautifully written essays and poetry.  Our residents, Betty Ames, Meghan Collins, Toni Gardner, Cynthia Hall, Helen Moss, and Marcia Pratt came to the podium to read selections from their work.  There was laughter, lots of emotion and the audience gave a thunderous round of applause at the conclustion of the authors' presentations.  

Writers of Merritt 2014 features a smattering of short stories, essays along with different forms of poetry, ranging from prose poems to haiku. The topics include adventure, nature, humor, love and wisdom.  It is a book of well-crafted written fiction and non-fiction that reminds us that age is not an impediment to creativity.

Although this group started out as a Creative Writing class, the members quickly morphed into a writer's support group.  This gathering of gifted writers meets several times per month to discuss and edit their work under the guidance of their fearless leader and editor, Jacqueline Hampton.  Jacqueline ghostwrote Back from the Brink Too: Supporting Your Loved Ones Overcoming Depression (Messenger Publishing 2008) – recipient of the 2009 SANE Australia Book of the Year award and was contributing author for Conquering Panic and Anxiety Disorders: Success Stories, Strategies, and Other Good News (Hunter House 2002). She blogs for The E'ville Eye, honored by the East Bay Express as "The Best Neighborhood Blog".  J.R. Hampton is currently working on EIDOLON, a mystery thriller based in San Francisco and Mexico.   Jacqueline has worked with our resident authors for over 2 years.  

I am happy to announce that the book is available for sale by calling The Lake Merritt at 510-903-3600 or email at  We are now waiting impatiently for Volume 2 from our Writers of Merritt.  



Meet the Candidates

by Johanna Leonard
August 2014

The residents at The Lake Merritt will welcome many of the City of Oakland's mayoral candidates as well as the current Mayor of Oakland to our community in September and October.  It is our plan to be well-educated about the choice that we will make regarding our fair city on election day on November 4, 2014.

The candidates who will be presenting their positions and visions for the future are:


Councilmember Libby Schaaf - September 4, 2014

Councilmember-At-Large Rebecca Kaplan - September 11, 2014

City of Oakland Auditor Courtney Ruby - September 18, 2014

Attorney Dan Seigel - September 25, 2014

Port of Oakland Commissioner Bryan Parker - October 2, 2014

Professor Joe Tuman - October 9, 2014

Mayor of Oakland Jean Quan - October 16, 2014


Please visit our Events page for more information.

Each candidate will get approximately 30-40 minutes to speak to our community, and then another 50-60 minutes for a question and answer period.  The residents and I have been working on a list of questions or topics that we would like each candidate to address during their presentations.  These questions have been forwarded to each candidate for their consideration.

These candidate presentations are free and open to the public.  Seating is limited, so RSVP is required.  



Happy Bastille Day or as the French say Joyeux Le Quatorze Juillet

by Johanna Leonard
July 2014

Residents at The Lake Merritt celebrated Bastille Day in The Terrace Room Restaurant & Bar on Sunday evening with a special classic French menu. 

Our culinary trip to France began with the setting as we sat at our tables among photographs of quintessential French monuments, like the Arc de Triomphe, le Louvre, la Seine, the French Quarter, and of course, la Tour d'Eiffel. The mood was set as we listened to the songs of the great Edith Pilaf.

Everyone agreed tha the meal was outstanding.  Each resident had his or her choice of one of three appetizers, four entrees, and three desserts, and many had a glass of wine or two to match their meals.  The menu was as follows:


Bastille Day Menu
July 20, 2014

Hors d'Oeuvres

Salad Mason
Red Oak Leaf Lettuce & Plums

Moules Mariner
Black Mussels steamed in White Wine & Shallots

Soupe a l’Oignon Gratinee
Classic Onion Soup with Gruyere

Le Plat Principal

Toulousain Cassoulet au Confit de Canard
Stewed White Beans with Roasted Duck & Sausage

Petite Tournedo a la Marchard de Vin
Seared Filet with Cabernet Reduction & Roasted Baby Vegetables

Coq au Vin
Breast of Capon braised in California Pinot Noir

Halibut Nicoise Bay
Halibut with Tomatoes, Garlic, & Olives

Le Dessert

Tarte Abricot
Baked Apricot Pastry

Pastry Swans, Vanilla Gelato, & Chocolate Sauce

Fromboise Basket
Raspberries & Italian Cream


There was a lot of fun by all.  There is nothing better than good conversation with great people and excellent food.  Merci beaucoup to both Chef Todd Fischer and Cook Extraordinaire Ryan Holmes for their outstanding efforts.



An Event Which Benefits Oakland's Older Adults

by Johanna Leonard
June 2014

Last Saturday, Diane Broch, my Community Relations Director, and I represented The Lake Merritt at the annual benefit for Alameda County Meals on Wheels.  This year
was the 27th Annual Event called "A Taste of Italy."  The Lake Merritt is honored to have been one of the many sponsors for this benefit to raise funds for Meals on Wheels which provides services for home bound older adults.

I am incredibly proud of my fellow Oaklanders for supporting this much needed organization.  This annual benefit dinner, plus the upcoming bike ride in October, raises money to help underwrite the gap in funding.  The government support they receive only covers approximately 50% of the costs to provide these daily nutritious meals.  Public-sector funding for seniors has been stagnant over the past 25 years.  That is both bad and good news.  The good news is that funding has not decreased, but the bad news is that with a projected increasing population of older adults, support is not keeping pace.  This will leave Meals on Wheels with the same amount of money for many more older adults in the coming years.

Meals on Wheels is an incredibly important organization in our community.  It is a vital safety net.  Not only do they provide a nutritious meal for home-bound older adults, but they also provide a daily wellness check-up and companionship for those who have difficulty leaving their homes.  I am happy to report that Meals on Wheels raised approximately $225,000 at this recent event.  Mark your calendar for the 6th Annual Wheels for Meals Ride on October 18, 2014.  For more information, please click here.