Wesley U Painters Class

Wesley U Superfans

Marilyn Knutson and Diane Olson each taught kindergarten for many decades, sowing the seeds of curiosity in thousands of children. Though Marilyn lives at Wesley Bradley Park and Diane resides at Wesley at Tehaleh, their shared commitment to enlightening others continues. They are Wesley U Planning Committee members. Together with Wesley U Manager Paula Olson, the Planning Committee organizes lectures, classes, and other events for all Wesley campuses.

“I love being on the committee because the discussions are so thoughtful, with everyone bouncing ideas off of each other the whole time,” says Diane. She moved with her husband to Wesley at Tehaleh two years ago. “Everyone brings different areas of interest, and somehow, no matter how obscure or briefly mentioned the topic, Paula manages to create a program.”

A published co-author of an oral history of Black Diamond, Diane says her favorite Wesley U experience was a series of geology lectures presented by Dale Lehman, an instructor at Bellevue College.

“I attend as many classes as I can,” she says. “I’m going to a class tonight about caregivers to understand better what caregiving entails. I’m also looking forward to an art history series presented by four different artists. And of course, we find the classes about the Pacific Northwest to be very interesting.”

Diane moved to Wesley at Tehaleh when she said, “My garden became more than I wanted to deal with. A friend was moving here, and I thought, ‘Why not now?’. I currently have two raised beds where I grow dahlias and other flowers. Plus I grow tomatoes on my balcony.”

Marilyn also moved with friends to Wesley Bradley Park. A Montessori teacher whose husband taught at Pacific Lutheran University, Marilyn was drawn to Wesley because everyone she met was so active.

“The day we arrived, we met a group who had just returned from a long bike ride,” she recalls. “There were people playing bridge in one room and others heading out for their walk around the nearby lake, a tradition I have also added to my daily routine. The place is just so alive.”

Marilyn has brought several PLU faculty members to lecture for Wesley U, including well-known jazz pianist David Joyner. She also attends as many classes as possible. She cites an early lecture about the brain as an example of how Paula has developed an engaging and informative curriculum.

“This particular lecture focused on techniques people can use to keep their brains sharp as they age,” she says. “We all bought the book the lecturer had written and still discuss it several years later.”

Marilyn takes full advantage of the many Wesley resources designed for active living. She begins each day with an exercise class, alternating between cardio and weight training. A member of the Advocate Committee, she visits several times daily other community members who may have social limitations.

“We visit to keep members of our community up to date on what’s going on locally and in the world. Our goal is to help where we can and to brighten everyone’s day,” says Marilyn.

Her afternoons are filled with meetings for various committees and classes, such as wood burning. Marilyn made a charcuterie board.

“I recruited several PLU retirees and members of my church to move here, so there’s a lot of socializing,” she says. “The best thing about Wesley is the people who live and work here. They are all fantastic!”

Water Color Art by Marilyn Knutson
Water Color Art by Marilyn Knutson

Diane also engages with community members as a Resident Ambassador, meeting with people who may feel intimidated or nervous about their new surroundings.

“Relocating at our age can feel overwhelming,” she says. “My goal is to show people what a friendly, warm, and inclusive community we have. I encourage new folks to participate in all the great opportunities like Wesley U.”

In addition to watercolor classes, a passion she shares with Marilyn, Diane never misses chair volleyball.

“I love to laugh,” she says. “And there is nothing funnier than chair volleyball. We play with a beachball, and the one rule is you can’t get out of your chair. Everything else goes, so when someone gets bonked in the face or head, we all burst out laughing. It is so much fun.”

Wesley U continues to evolve, adding more lectures and performances each month based on the interests of community members across the four Wesley campuses. Zoom access, introduced during Covid, allows everyone from any campus to enjoy all the Wesley U presentations. Diane and Marilyn encourage community members with a specific cultural interest to contact Paula or the Planning Committee.  

“Wesley U offers the opportunity to expand our thinking,” concludes Diane. “And we really appreciate it.”