A Gift of Love

Image of The Borms and their Hummel Collection

/ Community News /

A Gift of Love

December 15, 2022

Arlene and David Borm possessed an innate knowledge of what most of us define as a journey. To them, the travels, tribulations, and triumphs of each path forward represented what was the ultimate goal: to spend time with loved ones during every life passage. Along the way they made sure to gather memories but also mementos marking their family times together. For the Borm family, one of the most iconic physical symbols of their shared history is their collection of M.I. Hummels figurines; spanning the decades and distances of their voyage together.

...they made sure to gather memories but also mementos marking their family times together...

The point of origin for this love story is found all the way back in Arlene and David’s adolescence; courting as high school sweethearts in Canterbury, CT. The pair fell in love through their collective adventures during these early years as David made great efforts to see Arlene frequently. Most notably, he accomplished this by driving his first automobile to her house from his family farm, hoping to take her out for a leisurely ride. Arlene’s sisters always wanted to join David’s drives—fortunately his chariot was an early model car with a fold-out rumble seat in the back. This whole-family inclusion represented more than siblings simply tagging along. It chartered Arlene and David’s lifelong desire to travel wherever destined and whenever possible with the accompaniment of kith and kin.

The Borm’s love remained steadfast despite any distances that separated them. After they graduated from Griswold High School in Jewett City, CT, they both pursued professional development and further education. David attended technical school; graduating from the Ward School of Electronics in Hartford, CT—concurrently, Arlene attended the Backus Hospital Nursing Program in Norwich, CT and graduated as a Registered Nurse. Following these educational achievements, they were married at the Danielson, CT Nazarene Church and committed to their lifelong love in March of 1956. David then responded to the call of duty and enlisted in the United States Air Force to became a Navigator. By gaining this technical and cartographical knowledge he became an expert at wayfinding, but Arlene always sparkled as his North star; forever guiding his love in her direction.

Various Air Force posts in America and in Europe required David’s service over the next few years. He and Arlene moved to Houston, TX for one of his first assignments. Arlene took a nursing position with the prominent heart surgeon Dr. Michael DeBakey at Baylor College of Medicine’s Methodist Hospital. David received orders to serve at US Air Force stations around Germany, and it was there he became aware of the growing popularity of M.I. Hummels figurines. This keepsake collecting trend had been developing among American soldiers and their loved ones back home, and David knew that Arlene would love to have some of these charming porcelain characters in her own possession. He began bringing back a new Hummels figure for Arlene following each of his European military tours, and these collectibles became chronological touchstones for the rest of their lives. The Hummels figures took a prominent position as landmarks along their love journey.

...these collectibles became chronological touchstones for the rest of their lives...

David would continue to gift new figures to Arlene throughout his Air Force detail. When he was discharged from duty, David took a position at IBM in Red Hook, NY, and moved himself, Arlene, and an increasing collection of Hummels to this Hudson River suburb. Arlene and David went on to raise their two daughters, Karen Borm and Donna Wright (née Borm) in central New York state, living there for 36 years. During this time of family growth, Arlene continued to receive new Hummels pieces with seasonally-specific anticipation. Major holidays, family milestones, and her birthday each year going forward provided whimsical wishfulness as she hoped to add another Hummels figure to her collection with each celebration. David delivered the desired decorations with regularity—sometimes going above and beyond to give Arlene a rare figurine she never would have expected. Their daughter, Donna, warmly recalls these moments growing up.

“All my life I have known of my Mom’s collection of Hummels figures. She just loved to fill her shelves with them—it was her passion. They were always displayed proudly around the house, and I remember how excited she was every time she received another figure. They were priceless to Mom.” Donna elaborated on the significance of these gifts beyond their status as keepsakes. “Each figure provided us all with a new feeling when Mom would get another one. Whether it was a holiday-themed Hummels or one featuring a figure with symbolic reference to a family memory, looking back at Mom’s collection would always remind us of those special shared moments together.”

Donna remembers her mother’s Hummels collection with great fondness and reverence. She speaks of her joy when she and her sisters were able to buy additional figures to give to their mother. During all of these family years together, Arlene and David traveled more—always including their daughters and any other relatives available in the adventure. A favorite destination for Borm family excursions had been Maine for a long time, as Arlene had family roots there. They all enjoyed one particular house in Princeton, ME for family reunions every summer; travelling to this lakeside destination annually to stay connected with their loved ones despite the gaps of time and distance. After nearly four decades of raising their family and working in upstate New York, Arlene and David bought that house, the one their family had loved for all those summers, and retired to life in Maine.

...She speaks of her joy when she and her sisters were able to buy additional figures to give to their mother...

The Borms cherished many years living up north in Vacationland. As time rolled on, they collected memories with friends, momentous occasions with family, and of course, more Hummels figures. Arlene and David maintained their faith with active participation in their church and community in Maine, and they continued to count their blessings with their grandchildren and great-grandchildren during these years.

The chapter of the Borm’s love story in Maine transitioned to another narrative setting when Arlene experienced a life-altering falling accident. Though tremendously challenging, this situation deepened their faith in God and strengthened their bonds with the family and caregivers rallying around them. Most importantly, it brought Arlene and David even closer together as they charted their next course. While Arlene began recovering and recuperating in Maine, her family recognized that the unique challenges she faced needed more extensive therapeutic interventions. They remembered hearing about Westview Health Care Center (the Dayville, CT skilled nursing facility) and inquired about transferring Arlene there. She was admitted to Westview and made the trip from Maine to Connecticut with David joining her in transit. Furthermore, he practically joined her in residence throughout her rehabilitation. David stayed with family in the quiet corner during this time, and spent every available minute with Arlene during Westview’s visiting hours: day after day, morning through night.

As Arlene improved and made progress towards her medical goals, Westview staff looked after her comfort—but they also wanted to preserve David’s wellbeing as they witnessed his devotion. Relaxed seating, various snacks, and basic provisions were made readily available to keep their long hours together as worry-free as possible. Quality of life continued to improve for Arlene at Westview, and in March of 2016, the Borm’s celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary in Westview’s Formal Dining Room. They were joined by numerous members of their family at this celebration. Four generations of the Borm’s heritage spanned between them—all gathered on that day because of the unending love sparked between a pair of teenagers 60 years prior.

...the Borm’s celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary in Westview’s Formal Dining Room...

The celebration of their love carried on over the next year, with David devotedly spending every hour that he possibly could at Westview with his beloved Arlene. She always had the largest, most prominent place in David’s heart. Still, at this intersection of their existence together, they added space in their hearts to harbor the affection they developed for Westview Health Care Center and their dedicated staff. After the years of medical compromises and triumphant moments, Arlene passed away in May of 2017. Grieving her loss but celebrating her life, David found comfort in the collective support flowing from the family that he and Arlene started. David returned to his life in Maine with a full soul but an empty passenger seat. Down the road, there was one more spiritual journey that he would take with Arlene.

The familiar lakes and coastlines of Maine soothed David as he navigated uncharted waters in his own life. He loved being out in his boat and worshiping in his church; perhaps finding Arlene in his thoughts, dreams, and prayers during these serene and solemn pauses. Westview Health Care Center continued to be graced with his visiting presence over the next few years as he stayed connected with the patients, residents, and staff members that he and Arlene had come to know so well.

Health concerns began to develop for David, but nothing would stand in the way of this man’s fortitude—fueled by faith and love. Understanding the reality of his prognosis, he resolved with paramount importance that he needed to make one more visit to Westview. With incredible generosity, he wished to give Arlene’s entire collection of M.I. Hummels figures to Westview as an attractive display, and moreover, as a symbol of the Borm’s gratitude towards the facility. He even provided a full-size wooden cabinet to house all of the figures. The plaque centered at the top window is inscribed “In Loving Memory of Arlene.” Despite not feeling his best, David carefully loaded his truck with all of the cherished Hummels figures and the massive display case, and personally drove 390 miles from Princeton, ME to Dayville, CT to deliver the gift.

...he wished to give Arlene’s entire collection of M.I. Hummels figures to Westview ...

David carried out this wonderful act in the early fall of 2020, at the height of the pandemic—a time when many people were managing multiple challenges in life. For him, the gift was a mission; an act of thanksgiving; one more spiritual journey propelled by his love for Arlene. The Borms gave such a generous quantity of figures to Westview that dozens of Hummels can be displayed at Westview Health Care Center as well as across the street at Country Living at Westview Commons. Westview’s leadership was honored by the thoughtfulness of this contribution, and stunned by David’s determination to present it, literally, with personal touches. The cabinet David provided is placed prominently in Westview’s Formal Dining Room and the figures at Westview Commons are showcased in two cabinets in the Family Gathering Room; anchoring the Borm’s place in the hearts of their residents, patients, visitors, and employees.

The nature of this amazing gift is derived from the Borm family’s deep gratitude for Westview. As Arlene and David’s daughter, Donna, recalled: “Dad really wanted to give the Hummels to Westview because the facility made such an impact on him and Mom. He would tell us that Westview became like another home for them. It was so special—the way they treated Mom so kindly and allowed Dad to stay there from morning into night, every day. In the process, Dad was also treated with such kindness; offering him things to eat and drink, and generally making him feel at ease amidst Mom’s difficult medical situation.”

David’s hope for the legacy of Arlene’s Hummels collection is a shimmering reality at Westview, and it precisely reflects what Donna always knew about her parents. “My father wanted people at Westview to have something light, cheerful, and beautiful to look at during their time there. To give everyone there an opportunity to enjoy the figures in the way Mom did. That was my parents: always looking out for other people.”

...My father wanted people at Westview to have something light, cheerful, and beautiful to look at during their time there...

Westview Health Care Center Administrator, David T. Panteleakos, has seen unending love and devotion between older couples during his life-spanning career in skilled nursing facilities, but rarely has he seen an example like Arlene and David Borm. “I am revitalized by witnessing their commitment to giving thanks and praise for everything they experienced in life; and I am profoundly impacted by the generous gift that the Borm’s bestowed upon Westview and how it was personally presented by David’s loving hands,” stated Mr. Panteleakos. “Reflecting on my years of personal service to the health care industry, the Borm’s gift stands out to me as a remarkable act of everlasting love, selfless generosity, and tremendous fortitude.”

Country Living at Westview Commons is a 75-unit independent and assisted living community conveniently located in picturesque Northeastern Connecticut. Affiliated with Westview Health Care Center, a nationally-ranked nursing facility according to CMS and U.S. News and World Report for the past years, Westview Commons is a 115,000 square foot catered living facility dedicated to a genuine 5-star experience including outstanding service, culinary expertise and professional in-house entertainment. Located in Dayville, CT, Westview Commons combines convenience, tranquility and comfort; providing a lifestyle that seniors deserve.