A sense of humor and a decent bottle of homemade wine might be the secret to longevity. At least that seems valid for Karl and Nancy Northrup, residents at St. John’s Meadows who have been married for 68 years and counting. The Northrup’s moved into the independent apartments earlier this year after Karl had spent a few months in rehabilitation at St. John’s Home. “Leaving home is a real terrible experience; all those years, it just isn’t the same,” states Nancy.
Although the Northrup’s are still settling into their new home, the transition was ‘fairly smooth’ according to Karl. “It’s a great place and everyone is nice,” says Karl. “I think Nancy’s dissatisfaction is more about the situation.” As Nancy’s caretaker, Karl knew the chances of him going home after rehab would be slim. “Our kids got together and found St. John’s Meadows,” states Karl.
Karl and Nancy first met in Potsdam, NY after Karl had returned home from WWII. He had enrolled in the electrical engineering program at Clarkson University. The 4 ½ year program included a few classes Karl was not a fan of, one of which was public speaking. Across the street from his apartment, Karl would practice his speeches in the park where he could be alone, or so he thought. Nancy lived nearby and would watch Karl as he practiced. “I thought he was nuts,” Nancy laughs. “I went for him anyway.”
Originally from Rochester, Karl knew he wanted to look for job opportunities upon graduating. “One of the jobs I zeroed in on was Xerox,” states Karl. In 1950 Karl and Nancy got married and had their first child, Mark. “Technically, we skipped marriage at first,” smiles Nancy. For the first few months of living in Rochester, Karl and Nancy lived with Karl’s parents before buying a house in the city. In 1958, the family made their final move to Brighton with two more children, Karla and Laurie.
“Our house [in Brighton] was beautiful,” states Nancy. “Karl made a lot of our furniture and cabinets.” Aside from woodworking, Karl had another passion: winemaking. In fact, he had a small vineyard in his backyard – about 50 plants – as well as a 14×14 foot wine cellar that could store up to 2,000 bottles. In 1970, Karl got involved with the American Wine Society and met many other local home winemakers who eventually started the Rochester Chapter.
Karl and Nancy quickly realized the wine business was booming and in 1984 they decided to buy a wine press in Schoen Place from Karl’s good friend. “We were upset when he said he was closing up shop,” Karl continues. “Miss innocent over there said ‘oh we can do that,’” Karl says pointing at Nancy. “Jokingly,” replies Nancy. “Look where we ended up!”
Known as the Wine Press & Hops, Karl and Nancy worked extremely hard to build their business. They sold winemaking supplies, taught classes, and became friends with people who now have famous wineries. Nancy ran the business for the first three years before Karl retired from Xerox. Karl greatly enjoyed helping others get started with home winemaking. His favorite memories and most exciting times were during juicing season. He would drive to Randall Standish vineyards and fill barrels with juice to dispense to his customers. “The most I ever had was 6 barrels – which was 300 gallons. That’s a lot of juice,” recalls Karl.
As Karl and Nancy started to age, business slowed down and internet sales started taking over. “It really took a toll on us after a while,” says Nancy. After twenty years, the Northrup’s decided to sell their business. “It was just getting too hard,” states Karl. When they moved into St. John’s Meadows, Karl gave away all of his wine making supplies as good riddance. “I’ll gladly give anything away if I know it’s going to be used,” smiles Karl.