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.



Celebrating Older Adult Month

by Johanna Leonard
May 2014

May is Older Adult Month.  My residents and I wanted to share a poem that we recently discovered during our Latino/Latina poetry discussion which was a part of our current monthly poetry series.  This poem is "Instants" by Jorge Luis Borges.


If I could live again my life,
In the next - i"ll try to make more mistakes,
I won't try to be so perfect,
I'll be more relaxed,
I'll be more full - than I am now,
In fact, I'll take fewer things seriously,
I'll be less hygenic,
I'll take more risks,
I'll take more trips,
I'll watch more sunsets,
I'll climb more mountains,
I'll swim more rivers,
I'll go to more places - I've never been,
I'll eat more ice creams and less (lima) beans,
I'll have more real problems - and less imaginery ones,
I was one of those people who live prudent and prolific lives - each minute of his life,
Of course that I had moments of joy - but, if I could go back I'll try to have only good moments,

If you don't know - that's what life is made of, 
Don't lose the now!

I was one of those who never goes anywhere without a thermometer, 
without a hot-water bottle,
and without an umbrella and without a parachute,

If I could live again - I will travel light,
If I could live again - I'll try to work bare feet
at the beginning of spring till
the end of autumn,
I'll ride more carts,
I'll watch more sunrises and play with more children,
If I have the life to live - but now I am 85,
- and I know that I am dying...


Jorge Luis Borges lived between 1899 and 1986.  He was an Argentinian poet and essayist.  For more information on Jorge Luis Borges, please go to  



Open Mic - Residents and Friends Showcase Their Talents

by Ryan Wilcox - Guest Blogger
April 2014

Several Sundays ago, The Lake Merritt held our second-ever open mic(rophone) night.  It's our live show where audience members share their talents in poetry, music, and spoken word.  If you've ever attended an open mic, you probably know that the program can be a wild smorgasbord sometimes filled with off-the-wall storytelling, political rants, awkward humor and (if you're lucky) surprising talent.  I am pleased to report that our residents, staff and friends steered clear of the roughage and went straight for the talent-laden meat, and the results were delectable.  The afternoon started off with a series of heartfelt, personal readings by Betty, one of our resident writers.  Her reflections on leaving her longtime home and cherishing the company of her late husband set a memorable tone of intimacy and honesty.

Several readings and recitations followed.  Next up was Warner's poignant reading of selections from the epic poem "Childe Harold's Pilgrimage" by Lord Byron.  It had the audience riveted.  Then, Meghan brought the house down with her costumed portrayal of a cowboy coming to terms with the concept of reincarnation.  Her note-less recitation of Wallace McRae's hilarious poem, "Reincarnation," which ultimately equates the author's cowpoke friend with the cow plop he will end up as, had us all in stitches.

Jim followed that tough act as only he could.  With the fifth anniversary of his moving to The Lake Merritt on the horizon, Jim took the opportunity to reflect on some of the observations and realizations he has had.  His list included such nuggets, as:  "A woman has the last word in any argument.  Anything a man says after that - is the beginning of a new argument."  Also, "Crickets let blind people know when it's night time."  And one more:  "Do not regret growing old.  It is a pleasure denied to many."  Needless to say, we ate it all up with delight.

A mysterious guest of honor was said to be on the way, but had not yet arrived when the audience ran out of material.  So Ryan (the MC) and Todd (a Terrace Room Restaurant server extraordinaire) picked up their guitars to serenade the audience with some ballads.  Ryan's rendition of a folk-y tune, "Meet Me Here at Dawn," was followed by Todd's covers of "Nowhere Man" by the Beatles and Bob Marley's "No Woman, No Cry."

Then Rodney, our frequent guest jazz pianist, arrived and was revealed to be the mystery guest of honor.  Without a hiccup, he sat down and played a couple of evocative arrangements of classic love songs.  Rodney is truly an artiste.  Ryan pulled out his saxophone and joined Rodney on-stage for a rendition of "What A Wonderful World," followed by an improvised jam on the song " L-O-V-E."

The audience applauded heartily and basked in the glow of shared passions, a few staying well after the end of the open mic to chat with each other and enjoy, as Rodney noodled around on the piano.




An Architectural Beauty on the Lake

by Johanna Leonard
April 2014

The Bay Area is blessed with buildings created in great architectural style.  Our very own The Lake Merritt is proud to have been designed by one of California's most prominent architects.  No, it's not Bernard Maybeck, nor Julia Morgan, but its another big-name talent:  William H Weeks.

The Lake Merritt opened its doors in 1927 and the design by architect, William H. Weeks was immediately toasted in the media.  The "apartment hotel" concept was "perfect for those who arrived in Oakland by train for an extended stay."  The building was praised for its elaborate "Art Deco touches" and considered "quite posh."  In addition to luxury and comfort, the hotel was considered "chic," the go-to destination for social events with the first coffee shop and a convenient pharmacy on the premises for those living downtown.  

Weeks was quite an interesting entrepreneur.  Born in Canada, he made his way to California in the late 1890s.  He opened his first architectural office in Watsonville and shortly thereafter another in Salinas.  He designed many buildings in the Monterey/Santa Cruz area.  Expanding his business, he opened an office in San Franciso, (was unharmed during the San Francisco's 1906 earthquake) and eventually opened offices to serve clients in Oakland and San Jose.  By 1928, Weeks was leading one of the largest and oldest architectural firms in California.  Much of his prominence comes from his designs for the Carnegie libraries throughout Northern and Central California.  He designed 22 Carnegie libraries, including Oakland's Melrose Library and many schools throughout Northern California, including Piedmont High School in Piedmont, CA.

Oakland is lucky to have several buildings that Weeks designed which have been well maintained and are still in operation.  He designed the Hotel Durant in Berkeley, the Hotel Woodland in Woodland, CA, and the De Anza Hotel in San Jose.  In Oakland, he designed the Madison-Lake Apartments, later known as the Lake Merritt Hotel, and now The Lake Merritt-Independent Senior Living, along with the Leamington Hotel on Franklin Street, and the First Christian Church on Fairmount Street.  Weeks' designs were eclectic in style, ranging from Spanish revival and Mediterranean Art Deco for the hotels to Romanesque and Greek temple styles for many of his libraries.

Visit us at The Lake Merritt to experience the wonderful architectural vision of William H Weeks and take a walk through our living history