Pioneer (noun) [pi.o.neer] – someone who is one of the first people to move to and live in a new area.

Mr Sacks (2)In 2001, on his 80th birthday, Al Sacks became a pioneer.

That was the day that he and his wife, Sylvia, moved into Aston Gardens At Parkland Commons, two of the very first residents of the new Discovery Senior Living community.

Fourteen years later, Sacks, now 94, is still there, and is still called a pioneer, one of just three residents to have called Aston Gardens home since the day it opened nearly a decade and a half ago.

The Sacks had been living in Florida for 15 years already by the time they moved to Aston Gardens. They had moved around the Sunshine State a bit after moving from brisk Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, but wanted to change to a residence where they could enjoy life more and give some of their responsibilities to others.

“My wife decided that she didn’t want to cook anymore,” Sacks remembers with a laugh when he recollects the early days of the transition. “We went scouting around and looking for some place to live and one day we noticed this little office on the grounds here before this place was built.”

Aston Gardens, now six communities strong, was just a fledgling idea when the Sacks first moved to Florida. In the 1990s, Discovery Senior Living starting building its vision and its communities. In 1990, barely 3,500 people called Parkland, Florida, home. Now that number has leaped to some 28,000.

Sacks was born and raised in Pittsburgh. Graduated from Duquesne University in 1942. Spent 3 ½ years in the Air Force as a Staff Sargent before becoming public accountant registered with the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. He ran a successful business with a partner for most of his working years, married Sylvia when he was 22, and had two children with her; a daughter who still lives in Pittsburgh, and a son who relocated to another picturesque setting – Colorado.

Sylvia passed away in January of 2014, and while Sacks thinks about her daily, he is thankful for the 71 years they spent together, and for the community at Aston Gardens, which keeps his days busy with friends and activities.

“I’ve been pretty active in Aston Gardens. I am in the chorus, and I also work with a lot of different funds,” Sacks says. “I also work as the treasurer for the local chapter of the American Red Magen David for Israel (ARMDI)”. In addition, his children, who have given him the added joy of nine grandchildren, visit Florida regularly,

“There are a lot of nice people that we have met and made friends with here,” Sacks said. “You kind of get to know everyone when you’ve been here a while, and Aston Gardens has been very cooperative in supporting the activities that I am a part of and that I enjoy.”

And while you can take the man out of Pittsburgh, you can never truly take the essence of Pittsburgh out of the man… at least not when it comes to his passion for his favorite professional sports teams.

“I love the Pittsburgh Steelers and I am a huge Pittsburgh Pirates fan,” Sacks says fondly of his hometown 11 and 9, respectively. “I watch the Miami Dolphins some since we’re living here, but nothing can ever stop the Steelers for me. They have had some great teams and I love to watch them whenever I can.”

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