When Mary Lou Shannon decided to move to the Traditions of America community of Saucon Valley near Bethlehem, PA, she had three things in mind: being closer to family, pursuing her passion for gardening, and finding a vibrant group of friends. “I was a real estate agent for 32 years in the Washington, D.C. area, and I decided that I wanted to live closer to my son and daughter-in-law in Bethlehem,” Mary Lou says. “I loved the concept of customizing my home and moving into a community when it was new. I knew from my real estate work that that first group of homeowners was pretty tight, and I wanted to be a part of that closeness wherever I ended up.”
Mary Lou’s search initially led her to Traditions of America at Bridle Path. The community was almost sold out, but construction on Saucon Valley was just beginning, and Mary Lou already knew she loved the area. “I’d driven through Saucon Valley when I was visiting my son. I loved the farmland and yet it was close to a great shopping center and the highway. I surprised my family, and came up for Mother’s Day weekend … I’ve never looked back.”
From the very beginning, Mary Lou knew that connecting with her new neighbors mattered to her—so she volunteered to host a friends-giving event for her first Thanksgiving in her new community. “I got to know a lot of people doing that. Our clubhouse was finished by then, and we had a lovely candlelight sit-down dinner for 70 people,” Mary Lou says. “Then I got on the social committee. I got to know people and know what was going on in the neighborhood. That was important to me and has a lot to do with my happiness here.”
Mary Lou began playing bridge and joined a book club. “You have to put yourself out there in a community to get the full benefit of it,” she says. Then, she started getting her hands dirty. “I have a lovely garden already. It’s my second summer gardening here, since I moved in two years ago … I have a variety of plants. The lettuces are in now … I’m planting things that are low-maintenance, hostas and native plants.”
Her life at Saucon Valley has been everything she hoped for, but Mary Lou wanted to expand her horizons beyond its boundaries as well. “I told myself when I retired that I wanted to do hospice volunteer work and take a master gardener program. I signed up for both of those before I even moved up here. They’re an important part of my life, because I’m meeting people outside of my area but I’m also giving something back to the community,” she says.
Mary Lou has always loved to garden, and the master gardener program has given her new insight into one of her favorite hobbies. “It surprised me how much I didn’t know. There’s an emphasis on native plants, protecting the environment, the connection in the natural environment of plants, insects, birds, and woodlands. I’m finding that fascinating.”
She was eager to share what she’d learned with her neighbors. “I wanted to encourage more people to garden with a perspective to the natural environment, so I arranged a lecture from a naturalist on attracting birds to our gardens, and then I asked for a shelf in our community library,” she says. “I’m trying to encourage people to use less pesticides and grow some native plants.”
As much as Mary Lou has given to her new home, she’s gotten a great deal from it as well. “Downsizing and establishing yourself in a new community are easier to do sooner rather than later,” she says. “What this community offered is way beyond my wildest expectations for friendships and support.”
“Downsizing and establishing yourself in a new community are easier to do sooner rather than later,” says Mary Lou Shannon.