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Russ Sonnenburg

Russ Sonnenburg in his art studio space at Forest Plaza Assisted Living.

FOREST CITY | National Assisted Living Week, celebrated from September 10-16, is a week to show the relationship between tenants and their caregivers of assisted living centers across the country.

The theme for this year’s observance is “Family is Forever,” chosen by The National Center for Assisted Living.

Forest Plaza Assisted Living located in Forest City, connected to Mercy Medical Center, is also celebrating the week. There are 40 apartments, with many rooms and spaces for activities such as movie nights, chapel, game nights and much more. Tenants have the opportunity to participate in workout classes and a hairstylist visits once a week.

Many tenants say they like the facility being connected to the Mercy Clinic because they are able to take an elevator down to the clinic for any appointments or to get their medications from the pharmacy.

Russ Sonnenburg has been a tenant at Forest Plaza for several years, but when Sonnenburg first arrived he said he wasn’t certain he would like it.

“When I first got here, I told Rick I would have to give up what I love now,” Sonneburg said, “I told him, I loved to paint and Rick was able to help me.”

When Rick Burke, manager at Forest Plaza, found out Sonnenburg liked to paint, Burke transformed one of the smaller apartments into an art studio for him.

“Rick asked me if the room would work and I looked out the window and said it was perfect,” Sonnenburg said. The small room has a window which looked out at the parking lot of the clinic and was on the left side. “It worked great because I am right-handed, so the light would come in on the left side and shine right on my paintings,” he said.

In his art studio, Sonnenburg has made everything himself. He made his easel and stand out of a sewing machine and uses wire and clothes pins to hold his brushes. He uses small brushes to make certain he gets every detail.

Sonnenburg has many of his paintings in a show in Algona. “I paint farms and tractors. I grew up on a farm in Titonka,” he said. “I always loved to draw. One day my mom gave me a number painting and I liked that. I had some extra paint left over, so, I started painting.”

Sonnenburg lives in Forest Plaza with his wife, Audrey. “When I’m not painting, I like to do puzzles with my wife. That takes up a lot of the day,” he said.

With the theme of this year’s observance being “Family is Forever,” Sonnenburg said he liked meeting new people who come to visit him, especially students from Waldorf. “I think it is so cool to see where they are all from, some are from Australia and Germany.”

Sonnenburg said he also likes to watch people out the window of his studio, as well. “Sometimes, I am too close to my painting and it is good to be able to just look out and get away from it for a little bit,” he said.


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