By HEATHER ZIEGLER The Intelligencer and Wheeling News-Register

WHEELING, W.Va. — Nearly 100 years ago, a Wheeling banker, civic and church leader knew that his beloved Wheeling community needed a place for aging men to live where they could be cared for and find friendship and peace of mind.

Dallas, West Virginia-born John Brown was that person whose foresight and generosity made today’s Home for Men in Warwood a reality. Recently the Home for Men held a celebration marking its 90th birthday in the original home — with many modernization projects over the years — at 1700 Warwood Ave. in the heart of Wheeling’s Warwood neighborhood.

Upon his death in 1919, Brown bequeathed money to establish the Home for Aged Men of Ohio County. It took 10 years to bring all the pieces together to open the doors in 1929 to the Home for Men.

Mark Knuth, current administrator of the retirement facility, said most of the requirements of 90 years ago remain in place today to become a resident of the home.

While the age requirement originally was 65 years or older, today residents can enter at age 62. Knuth noted that more people are retiring earlier, thus the need for the age change.

“You also have to be of good moral character and able to take care of yourself. We are a retirement facility, not an assisted living home,” Knuth explained. “We are seeing a lot of the baby boomers generation now.”

Residents at the home are free to come and go with no restrictions. The facility is staffed around the clock. Residents’ three meals a day, laundry and cleaning services, plus cable are included in their monthly rental fees that range from $775 to $1,000 depending on the type of residential setting they choose. In addition to spacious single rooms and suites, the home has several apartments at the rear of the main building, with free parking. The facility is smoke free and pet free.

Residents are responsible for their rent, internet and phone services.

“Living here is like a cruise without the water and sand,” Knuth quipped. “Fifty percent of our residents are widowers, some are divorced and some don’t have family in the area anymore. The Home for Men fills a lot of the needs of those residents.”

Knuth said some of the residents still are employed and enjoy the freedom of not having a lawn to care for or the hassle of maintaining a house. Some drive while others take advantage of transportation services offered by the home. Also, the home sits on the public bus line, just a few feet from the front door. One resident puts in a garden at the home and shares his bounty with residents and other friends.

Resident Joe Villani, who retired from several jobs over the years, has been at the home for six years. He is a widower who said he enjoys the camaraderie of the other residents and the staff. He worked at J&L Steel, and later Wheeling Linen in Warwood.

“I drove by this place every day going to work and had no idea it was here. It is a great place.

“We sit out here in the hall and shoot the bull. We have a good time. . They do everything for you here. It’s so clean and the girls are terrific. They look after us,” Villani said.

Villani, however, will be transferring to Wheeling Hospital’s Continuous Care Center to assist him with medical needs. He said he will be sad to leave but residents at the home have vowed to come visit him.

Knuth said they often pile residents into a van and take them to the nursing homes and other facilities to see former residents.

Gary Kenamond, board president said, “Mark and the employees do a tremendous job meeting the needs of the men that choose to reside here. When any major decisions are required, we always try to do what John Brown would have wanted when he visualized the Home for Men over a hundred years ago. His generosity and his idea showed great foresight.”

Retired Home for Men executive director Ron Mauck and his wife Mary Lou were on hand for last week’s luncheon celebration. Mauck said during his tenure at the facility, he met so many interesting people and learned a great deal from them.

“The Home for Men is the world’s best kept secret,” Mauck added.

To learn more about the Home for Men, people may call 304-277-1911.