PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Several local luminaries showed up on Friday afternoon for the dedication ceremony of the new veterans assisted living facility on West Union Street.
The Rev. Peter Gregory, formerly pastor of St. Charles' Church and now chaplain of Soldier On, gave the invocation. Mayor Linda Tyer spoke for a couple of minutes. State Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier was there. U.S. Rep. Richard Neal had a representative there. There was a full color guard presentation and firearms salute.
But the real star of the show proved to be the extraordinary facility itself.
The 20-unit, full-service home is appointed more like a boutique country hotel than an assisted living facility. Rooms are small yet sleek and each with its own roomy bathroom. The bottom level has a full gym, recreation room, small chapel, and even a barbershop/salon.
The facility is dedicated to Roman Sadlowski of Pittsfield. A petty officer in the Navy, he was stationed aboard the USS Oklahoma on Dec. 7, 1941, and perished in the Pearl Harbor attacks.
The privately financed project was the idea of Steve and Yvonne D'Antonio, Lenox residents who own the adjoining Side By Side assisted living facility. They are both New York City police veterans and Steve served in Vietnam as part of Force Logistics Command for the Marines. The emotion in his voice was simmering when he spoke of the project.
"We have 56 units next door, and we wanted to make a dedicated building just for veterans. So we bought the building [a four-family that was on the property], knocked it down, and we built this," he said. "In 2024, Vietnam veterans come of age for assisted living. We weren't treated like the veterans of today. The right way. It's just my way of helping."
Some of the vets the original Side By Side facility has housed include a scientist from the Manhattan Project, a personal cook for General Patton, and a commander of a destroyer that fought in the Battle of Midway.
The new facility is for all veterans and sometimes stretches even further.
"It could even be veterans' wives, it's a veterans building. We have 19 veterans at the other building so a few of them are coming down here."
Steve's friend and fellow Marine, Joe Jalbert, came up from North Carolina for the ceremony.
"We served together in the Force Logistics Command just north of Da Nang. When we got out we lost touch. That was around 1972," he said. "When I retired, I started looking up Steve D'Antonios. The first one I called, I left a message and two weeks later he called me back. It turns out we both have places in Myrtle Beach maybe a half mile from each other! Steve is awesome. That's the only word I can use for him. He's done an amazing thing here."
Yvonne D'Antonio has been front and center throughout the process and is just as passionate as her husband.
"We sat down and we discussed what we should do. We had some money saved and we said let's just rip it down and start from scratch," she said. "This is 100 percent all in. We knew we could make this work. What makes us work is we take no security or deposit. It's one fee. The only thing you might have to pay for is if the hairdresser comes in."
Although not a military veteran herself, Yvonne still carries the same determination as her husband when it comes to giving veterans the life they deserve.
"Steven put a lot of thought into all this. When he goes for something I'm behind him 100 percent. We work very well together. We just want veterans to come here and be happy and safe."
Still sporting a Brooklyn, N.Y., accent, Yvonne made it clear she has been a Berkshire County convert for a long time.
"We've made a lot of friends. This is my home now," she said. "I was telling Steve '25 percent of my life I've lived up here!' This is where I love."
Executive Director and Pittsfield native Emilie Papa was the unofficial host of the event and Yvonne was effusive in her praise of the former Berkshire Medical Center employee.
"She's a godsend. She's a registered nurse. I stole her from BMC, the critical care unit. I made her an offer she could not refuse," she said tongue in cheek. "She's smart ... smart."
Papa tried to boil down the team's philosophy into a few words.
"We are a team committed to providing compassionate care and enriching the lives of all our residents while promoting dignity, choice, and independence."
Steve D'Antonio said 15 of the 20 new units are already reserved and he expects the others to go quickly.
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