Dr. Bob Bedingfield doesn’t ask for much. As a former Navy chaplain and retired Presbyterian minister, Scotia Village resident Bob was very clear and direct about what mattered to him and his wife, Nancy, when it came to choosing a continuing care retirement community.

“It is very important to me that an organization has to live out… its core values,” says Bob, who holds a doctorate in ethics.

“Without being pious, these are lived virtues in the best sense of the word… (Scotia Village) is not perfect, but it’s always in a process of becoming. And that starts, interestingly enough, from the top down… The people (at Scotia Village) represent the core values they advertise… There’s a tenor of real concern and real caring.”

Unfortunately, Bob and Nancy have seen what happens when a community is heading in the wrong direction.

Their first stop in retirement was a community in Florida. “We built a house on a golf course… it was a lovely life for four years,” says Bob.

However, when the community changed ownership, the new owners changed everything, started breaking promises and cutting staff. “They may as well have been wearing masks,” laments Bob. “The bottom line for them was money, not care.”

By the fifth year, the situation became untenable, causing the Bedingfields to look for a new home. A visit up to North Carolina to visit their daughter led to a side trip to tour a charming community in Laurinburg, where they had toured nearly 15 years earlier. Three months later, Bob and Nancy were set to move into a cottage in Scotia Village.

“We knew that we could believe what was said to us,” explains Bob. “And that was absolutely critical to me. I want an organization that is always alive enough to be in change. We’re here because it’s the right place for us and it proves out all the time.”

While they consider themselves to be a good shape, (“We’re kind of gym rats — have been for all of these years,” says Bob) they have experienced the level of personal care firsthand both when Nancy broke a hip last year and Bob had a triple bypass (only 16 weeks ago).

“I’ve seen wonderful, wonderful treatment for her… and the support systems that have been provided to me. And it isn’t just the organizational things, it’s the human things,” says Bob. “It’s the absolute caring for my wellbeing.”

One could say that Bob pays particularly close attention to living up to core values. During his time as a U.S. Navy chaplain, Bob served soldiers all over the world, including volunteering for a tour with the 3rd Battalion of the 3rd Marines in Vietnam during the war. It was an experience that did much to challenge, change and shape his faith and perspective. (You can read more about his experiences there in a recent article in the Laurinburg Exchange.)

He insisted on serving Marines in Vietnam, even though he was very much opposed to the war, and has grown even more so over the years. “We were in combat all the time,” says Bob. Having given last rites to 58 Marines over his 13-month tour there, Bob doesn’t mince words. “It was a waste. A purposeless, meaningless situation.

“But,” he quickly adds, “I’m glad I did it.”

The experience in the war and in the Navy made Bob more ecumenical than he had ever been, adding a world view to his deep appreciation for the church.

Today, Bob applies that broad perspective to his role as Director of Lifelong Learning at Scotia Village where he has added to the program to offer greater variety.

“At the time, it was tied (only) to St. Andrews (University). And they are still a core group,” explains Bob. “I will always have three presenters from St. Andrews over the course of a year… But variety is worth a whole lot at getting beyond the bounds.”

In addition to St. Andrews, Bob has expanded the range of lecturers and use of technology in accessing even more content, attracting speakers from UNC Pembroke and other special presenters on an ongoing basis. In the program’s “Enlighten” series Skype and other technology is used to access an even broader range of subject matter.

“The educational process and mental process of bringing first rate people in to educate as we grow older is more important…” says Bob. “We can run magnificent programs with terrific attendance.”

He also finds, though, that just listening to the other residents can provide some of the most enlightening experiences.

“The longer I live at Scotia and the more I listen, the more stories I hear which are not mine… they have the same quality, the same tenor, the same substance… I wish we told stories more,” says Bob, adding this parting advice, “There are folk living among you who are just like you. And what you need to do is talk with them.”

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