Lifelong friends Peter Shapiro (second to the right in the second row) and David Rosenthal (third to the left in the second row) at age 15.

From Camp Alton to NewBridge on the Charles: 70 years of friendship



From Camp Alton to NewBridge on the Charles: 70 years of friendship

Lifelong friends Peter Shapiro (second to the right in the second row) and David Rosenthal (third to the left in the second row) at age 15.

Dr. David S. Rosenthal, a hematologist/oncologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, and R. Peter Shapiro, a retired lawyer who practiced in Concord, N.H., first met 70 years ago at Camp Alton, an all-boys summer camp located on 60 acres that fronted Lake Winnipesaukee in Wolfboro, N.H.

Today, both live at NewBridge on the Charles, a modern senior living community on a 162-acre campus in Dedham run by Hebrew SeniorLife, the largest nonprofit provider of senior health care and living communities in New England.

According to Rosenthal and Shapiro, Camp Alton, where they spent 16 and 10 summers, respectively, as camper and counselor, and NewBridge have a lot in common.

“Camp Alton had a lot of sports, some arts and crafts, music nights, drama nights put on by the counselors. and other activities. It was a good time. You’d get up in the morning, and pretty much do what you wanted. Whether you were athletically inclined or not, there was something for everyone,” Shapiro said.

They learned to swim and play baseball and other sports at Camp Alton, but they also learned something more important.

“We learned how to be neighbors, learned to live with other people because you were with them for eight weeks during the summer. Actually, there was an optional extension one year because of a polio epidemic. We stayed extra weeks because of the polio scare,” said Rosenthal, who was the first medical director of the Leonard P. Zakim Center for Integrative Therapies and Healthy Living.

“We learned to respect other people’s interests” back at Camp Alton, Shapiro said.

Through the decades, the pair and several of their former bunkmates stayed in touch, and often held reunions twice a year around Thanksgiving and after Passover. Wives became their own social group, and after two former campers died, their wives were still included.

The values they learned all those years ago at Camp Alton prepared them for NewBridge.

Rosenthal and his wife, Judy, moved to NewBridge in 2009, soon after it first opened. “There were three former counselors already there,” he said. He was predisposed to Hebrew SeniorLife because his parents had been residents at its flagship campus in Roslindale. Rosenthal’s father, who was his mentor, “took pride in a lot of the research programs at Hebrew SeniorLife. He was part of an exercise program called “Fit for Your Life” that came to the conclusion that even at age 90, you can still grow muscle. So we decided very early on to move into NewBridge. We thought it was going to be very much like camp.”

Shapiro and his wife, Betty, moved in eight years ago from Concord, N.H., for a very different reason: “If, God forbid you got sick, there was no place to go around there – maybe a couple of nursing homes that you wouldn’t want to be in,” he said.

In contrast, NewBridge offers a full continuum of care through a Harvard Medical School-affiliated medical clinic on-site for primary care, medication management and prescription refills, and physical therapy as well as fitness centers staffed by professionals experienced at helping older people gain and preserve function.

Additionally, Shapiro said, “One night, Betty and I were in Boston, visiting friends, and then driving home at 11 p.m. I said, ‘What are we doing here? We should live in Boston.’ I started to look for apartments in town but we knew what NewBridge was [because Rosenthal and other friends lived there] so we made the phone call.”

“We do have independence here,” added Rosenthal, who was interviewed while spending time at his home in Wolfeboro, N.H., near where Camp Alton operated from 1937 to 1992. “At NewBridge, there are so many things available to participate in and to enjoy. Movie nights, musical performances, book clubs, lifelong learning and lectures, gardening, swimming including the fitness center. You don’t have to do everything; like at camp, you can pick and choose what you want to do.”

“The big difference between camp and NewBridge is there are women here while there were only one or two dances all the years we were at Camp Alton,” Shapiro noted, laughing.

“I’ve said that being at NewBridge is like being on a cruise without water. I mean, you got everything here.”

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