A Springfield senior living facility is changing its residents lives — by granting one wish at a time.
The first recipient of Mercy Health - Oakwood Village’s Moments in Time program was 76-year-old Ursula Weddell, who used the gift to fulfill a lifelong mission — finding evidence of her father after he never returned from war in the 1940s.
The program allows residents to revisit a memory, chase a dream or try a new experience through charitable donations.
Weddell’s father was drafted by the German Army in 1942, but never came home from the Russian front. His name never appeared on prisoner of war lists nor the list of those killed in battle.
“When you don’t have a father, you know there was a person that fathered you, that created you — yet you don’t know where he is or what happened to him,” Weddell said. “I just could not believe that a human being could fade away from this Earth, and it drove me crazy.”
Weddell had since moved from Germany to the United States, but her search for her father never faded.
She exhausted resources for years trying to find a shred of evidence — and at times, the quest seemed futile.
That was, until a couple years ago when Facebook put Weddell in touch with a man in Russia who offered to help. Shortly after, she got a message from the Russian government that her father was buried in a German war cemetery outside of Saint Petersburg.
Weddell could not have afforded the trip without the help of Fellowship Christian Church, as well as the Moments in Time program.
She didn’t find her father’s burial site, but she did finally find closure.
In a Russian Orthodox Church on the cemetery’s property, she saw her father’s name in the church’s book of records.
“That’s when I just broke down. I just felt an instant connection with him,” she said. “I said that all my life. If I get any clue where my father walked — I’m going to Russia. It just took 76 years.”
Oakwood Village’s Director of Resident Services and Mission Integration Sandy Chinn said the program is open to any resident at the nursing facility, and it doesn’t matter how big or small the wish is.
She said nearly all of the Moment in Time ideas come from residents sharing their personal stories with Oakwood Village staff members.
“Sometimes they don’t think of the idea, that maybe they’d like to do the Moment in Time,” she said. “But once we hear the idea, we can create it for them.”
There is no limit to the number of wishes that the program can fulfill.
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