Sonja Wendt’s Story

Hawthorne Resident Sonja Wendt remembers the good times–and is eager for more.

Born and raised in Irondequoit, NY, Sonja has lived many places, including New York City, Syracuse and Sioux City, Iowa. She and her husband later moved to family property in Honeoye, NY and built a cottage there.

When in New York City, Sonja was just out of high school and studied at the School of American Ballet. In Rochester, she was an initial member of Rochester’s Mercury Ballet and performed at Eastman Theater. She taught ballet in the theater department at SUNY Geneseo until age 40 and spent another 22 years in the employ of the library at Rochester Institute of Technology, where she met many international students.

The very next day after her retirement from RIT, Sonja began volunteering to help at her local library. Now, at St. John’s Meadows, she helps to lead an initiative to organize the book collection at Hawthorne, with an eye towards the books in which residents are most interested.

In terms of her experience at St. John’s, Sonja was relatively new to campus when COVID-19 hit. Prior to that, she had looked forward to the spring, when there might be more activities available than in winter. Now that things are closed down, she has fond memories of last winter, with entertainment, music, and people coming in from outside.

She has been able to see some of her family, including her children, who just moved to Honeoye from the Atlanta area. She was grateful to be able to see her 7-year-old granddaughter and 13-year-old grandson for the first time in four years. Her grandson, the “light of her life,” is non-verbal and has autistism; yet according to Sonja, comprehends well and has “a delightful personality.” Somja commented on his handsomeness and the twinkle in his eye. Before he was born, she had despaired of not ever having a grandchild, but at age 69, she was delighted to finally become a grandmother.

“People don’t hide things like they did in the past,” said Sonja, referring to other people with connections to autism who she has discovered since coming to terms with her grandson’s diagnosis. To her, it feels like she encounters many people who have some relationship to someone with autism, whenever she talks to people about the subject.

Prior to living at St. John’s Meadows, Sonja lived at the Gables in Brighton, as well as in assisted living at Valley Manor on East Avenue. At Valley Manor, she was part of a small community with only 8 apartments. Her children felt she might be happier with more people around, which has been the case at St. John’s Meadows since she moved here.

“It’s a good place,” said Sonja. “When I talk to people here, they seem to feel that if they can’t be at home, this is a place where they are happy.”