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Ted and Jane Settle Find More Time for Meaning at Laurel Circle

As Ted and Jane Settle approach their 59th wedding anniversary later this year, the Laurel Circle residents are happily sharing their story, and how the decision to move to Laurel Circle has accented their lifelong commitment to community service, while elevating their sense of purpose.

Ted and Jane met in June 1962, in Berkeley, CA, where Ted — whose home was in South Pasadena, CA, had graduated in 1961 from the University of California, Berkeley that he had attended on a student-athlete/baseball scholarship recipient from the University of California, Berkeley, and was attending Fuller Seminary in Pasadena, California — was to spend the summer as an intern at the First Presbyterian Church, Berkeley, providing programming for university students. Jane had just returned from two years as a student at the Beirut College for Women (now Lebanese American University of Beirut).  After that seemingly destined meeting in June, the couple was inseparable; they were engaged by September and married in August of the next year.  Their honeymoon began their journey across the United States, first to Chicago, then to Hamilton, Ohio, and finally to Bound Brook, NJ, where they lived until they moved to Laurel Circle in June of 2018.

In 2018, when the time came to sell their home in the neighboring community of Bound Brook, Somerset County, Ted and Jane didn’t hesitate to make Laurel Circle their new home, having visited many times to attend events with friends who lived at Laurel Circle. The Settles were comforted by the fact that they would no longer have to worry about the maintenance and upkeep of a large house, vegetable and flower gardens, and cutting grass; they would no longer have to worry about expensive heating and cooling bills, shoveling snow in the winter, or even what they would cook for dinner each evening. Especially important for them was that they were physically able to make this move themselves, and not need to have their children move them, and they could continue with the same set of doctors they have been seeing for many years.

Ted and Jane with Archbishop Chacour, Melkite Catholic Church, now retired. Elias Chacour is the founder of the Mar Elias Educational Institutions in I’billin, Israel, where Ted and Jane have volunteered six times, working with high school students in English classes.

All of the amenities at Laurel Circle were included (not to mention they would be a stone’s throw away from their decades-long friendships, and the Presbyterian Church Bound Brook, through which most of their community service is accomplished. At Laurel Circle, they found that church members already living there had arranged for the Sunday brunch, a large enough table in the dining room so that members could sit together after the Sunday worship service, and share in conversations with each other. The move to Laurel Circle also allowed the couple to focus more of their time on travel-volunteerism and community activism, and not have to worry about having someone stay in their home while volunteering for three months at a time.

For many years, the Settles have served as volunteers through a nonprofit organization, Pilgrims of I’billin, at the Mar Elias Schools in the Palestinian village of I’billin, Israel, near Haifa, Israel. They generally volunteered for three months, and one time, close to 11 months. There were guest rooms on the top floor of the elementary school, where the couple lived while volunteering. They worked primarily with high school students, to help them learn English (especially speaking English). They found that being at the school in the months leading up to the oral Bagrut exam (an exam like the SAT, but focused solely on English) was most helpful for the students, especially because they could engage students in conversations that helped them practice using their English.

The Covid pandemic hit while they were in their last stay as volunteers. As a result, instead of staying through April, the Settles returned at the end of the third week of March. Ted and Jane maintain contact through social media with members of the faculty, students they have taught, and other friends they have made during their stays in I’billin.

Upon moving to Laurel Circle, one aspect of their lives that the Settle’s enjoy very much is the evening meal in the dining room. Here they sit with different residents, finding the life stories of their friends and peers, most interesting. Based on this, Ted has started an oral history project at Laurel Circle, where he meets with individual residents and interviews them about their lives. Ted is able to use computer software to help record and transcribe the interview instantly. Because of Covid, the project is currently on hold.

As for Jane, who recently had knee replacement surgery, she is grateful to the physical therapy staff, for her remarkable and fast recovery. Together, the Settle’s credit Laurel Circle’s administration and staff with keeping the residents very safe during the pandemic, including making sure all residents and staff were vaccinated and had their booster shot. They appreciate the simple system that has been instituted so that all residents are unobtrusively checked on each day.

As a new year begins, the couple is continuing their active community service; the two are still bonded by the same connection and service interests that brought the pair together, nearly six decades ago. They remain active in their church, along with other members and friends at Laurel Circle. Ted continues to work with members of the Branchburg Rotary Club, and his church, to provide a food pantry for families of school children in Bound Brook. This entails going to Costco every weekend with members of the Rotary, to collect food and other items that would otherwise be discarded, since they have reached their “sell by” date. From there, they bring items back to the church, where one of the buildings includes a gym, with a basketball court. The space is then set up on Sunday mornings for use as a food pantry, which is open from 1 – 2:30 pm, and serves an average of 73 families each week, with family members totaling close to 300 people.

Ted and Jane at Petra, Jordan, in front of Al_Khazneh (the treasury), which is better known to the public in scenes from the film, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.

Ted and Jane cherish spending time with their two sons and their families, still living in New Jersey (one south and one north of them, but still within an hour’s drive). They enjoy going to Billings, MT, where their daughter, her husband, and their two grandsons, one now married, live. Here they explore and photograph the beautiful states of Montana and neighboring Wyoming (Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons). They will soon travel to St. Petersburg, FL, for the wedding of their oldest granddaughter, the daughter of their oldest son, who died after a brave battle with cancer in 2016. The wedding will be a time of great celebration, but with some sadness as well.

The Settle’s remain active residents of Laurel Circle, beyond just the “Sunday brunch table”; Jane helps to lead a short story reading group, and Ted works each week at the Heirloom Shop – where items are for sale to residents, staff, and anyone who happens upon the shop. Truly, this strong, remarkable couple has no plans of “settling down” any time soon.

If you and your family are interested in touring Laurel Circle and would like to meet its exceptional staff, and its wonderful residents, please call 908-595-6500, or visit https://laurelcirclelcs.com/.