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I Am Esquiline: Meet Jeri I.

A woman who is currently in an assisted living facility.

At The Esquiline, a retirement community in Illinois, every resident has a story. Join us as we explore the story of resident Jerean I., an enthusiastic volunteer and Rhythm Band member who is one of many compelling residents who proudly say “I Am Esquiline.”

Jefferson City Born and Raised

Jerean, who goes by Jeri, was born in Jefferson City, Missouri, which is about 140 miles due west of both Belleville, Illinois, where The Esquiline is located and Belleville’s neighboring city of St. Louis, Missouri.

(Fun fact: The Esquiline is so close to St. Louis that you can see the Gateway Arch from atop our hill!)

scenic view atop the esquilines campus of the gateway arch

The Gateway Arch stretches over the treeline in a scenic view atop The Esquiline’s campus.

When Jeri grew up and started to examine her career options, she at first thought she wanted to go into the Navy like her brothers. She attended nurses training in Memphis, Tennessee, but after six months she realized she was not cut out for nursing.

She moved back to Jefferson City where she worked for the Missouri Public Service Commission, in a department that regulated busses and trucks on highways. She then worked as a secretary for a judge. While she was working for the judge, a man came in one day and met Jeri. A few months passed and he asked her on a date. Six months later, they were engaged.

Jeri was married to her first husband for 21 years before they divorced. She then met her husband, Steve, whom she was married to for 40 years. Jeri has three daughters, two of whom are twins. She used to love dressing up her daughters before a day of shopping.


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Finding the Right Retirement Community in Belleville, Illinois

Jeri moved from Jefferson City to Belleville before eventually moving to The Esquiline, a non-profit, faith-based Life Plan Community. When she first moved in, Jeri and her husband made their home in a two-bedroom apartment home across from the rose garden. After Steve passed away, Jeri switched to a one-bedroom apartment—still with a lovely view of the rose garden.

Jeri and her husband decided to make the move to a retirement community when taking care of their home became too much work. Her husband had also developed Alzheimer’s and Jeri needed help.

She was initially drawn to The Esquiline because of its connection to The National Shrine of Our Lady of Snows. She liked that it was a Christian place and although she toured other communities, she couldn’t shake the feeling that The Esquiline was the right place for her and her husband.

“I thought [The Esquiline] was the best place in the world to come,” she said.


The Esquiline is located on the grounds of The National Shrine, one the largest outdoor Catholic shrines in America.


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Enjoying Life at an Active, Friendly Retirement Community

A normal day at The Esquiline for Jeri begins with breakfast with her friends, whom she’ll meet again later for lunch and dinner. She attends as many activities as possible throughout the day because she loves staying social and being a friendly face in the community. She receives Protestant communion on Thursday.

Jeri, a natural musician, plays the guitar and is a member of the Rhythm band, which practices every Monday to stay on beat. She loves going out to nursing homes in the area to perform.

“It is such a pleasure to give them a little bit of happiness,” she said.

Rhythm Band

The Rhythm Band holds a spirited practice at The Esquiline.

Jeri is also a member of a “Life After Breast Cancer” group in the metro-east. It’s a group of people who have had been treated for breast cancer and Jeri has been an active member for 20 years, both during her time living in the Belleville community and at The Esquiline. The group meets every three months and members love to maintain friendships with those who have experienced similar struggles. Just a few weeks ago, Jeri hosted the group in The Esquiline’s dining room.

Lovely Place, Lovely People

One of Jeri’s favorite things about living at The Esquiline is the people. Knowing that she has friends from all communities all under the same roof is a major perk, she said.

“I can visit with anybody right outside the door or if I want to stay in my apartment, I can do that too. It is just such a lovely place and I feel so comfortable here,” she said.

The Esquiline may have Catholic roots, but it welcomes people of all faiths and provides services to support a variety of spiritual beliefs. In fact, it’s one of the myths about The Esquiline that you have to be Catholic to live here. That’s not the case—residents from all spiritual backgrounds are always welcome to live in this community that’s rich in faith.

“I am not Catholic but it doesn’t make a difference. There are just no words to describe how lovely it is and how comfortable I feel. Staff is always smiling. It isn’t the building, it is the people in it,” Jeri said. “Any time I go down the hall, someone will smile and say ‘hello.’ We are as close to God as we can get, being on top of the hill!”

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