Photos of relatives, including 33 great grandchildren, fill the wall of Gert Steele's Geneva Tower apartment in downtown Cedar Rapids on Thursday, May 28, 2009. Steele has lived in same unit in the building for almost 31 years and, at 97, is the oldest resident of the building. "This place saved my life," Steele said of the support she received after her husband passed away shortly after they moved into the building.
Dave Rasdal and I spent a couple hours at Geneva Tower a few weeks ago for this week's Ramblin' column. The tower, whose residents are a mix of elderly, disabled, full market price and section 8 housing, was evacuated last June as floodwaters rose in downtown Cedar Rapids, and, after months of renovation, is now at nearly full occupancy again. Gert in particular was such a delight to talk to. She brought a sack of pancake flour with her when she and her husband moved to CR during the Great Depression, just so they would have something to eat -- her generation's Ramen Noodle equivalent, I suppose. As we were leaving, she made a remark that Nile Kinnick was one of the cutest quarterbacks to ever play at Iowa -- can't find the notebook for the exact quote, and wasn't recording audio, unfortunately.
Deb Dufresne, far right, laughs with other Geneva Tower residents James Marugg, far left, Julie Fishel, center, and Katie Howrey, back to camera, on Thursday, May 28, 2009, during a coffee meeting in the building's dining area in Cedar Rapids. Residents gather three times a week for coffee, and this week was Dufresne's birthday, so another resident brought her a birthday cake.