Whether they come for the schools, the sense of community or the job opportunities, Oakland County often becomes a lifelong home for its residents.
For David Ross, the diverse cultures and opportunities for engineers are among the county’s attractions. Johanna Medranda likes living near stores and restaurants in an area where there are plenty of places to work.
For Dr. Stephen Williams and his wife, Beth, Oakland County means a family atmosphere where they can establish long-term roots in a community that offers hiking, biking and parks.
For retirees Patty and Matthew Hoffman, the perks include being able to take advantage of such amenities as bike trails and programs for older adults. Mervet and Edward Boules like that the county is so walkable.
In fact, Oakland County is a dining, entertainment, shopping, education and health care destination for all Southeast Michigan and beyond. More than 32 downtown areas boast unique retailers, historic character and up-and-coming restaurants.
Put it all together and it means a high quality of life for residents of all ages and backgrounds.
AT THE CENTER OF IT ALL
Detroit native David Ross first moved to Oakland County to attend Lawrence Technological University in Southfield. He never left, going on to work as a mechanical engineer specializing in automation and robotics at Fanuc in Auburn Hills.
He appreciates that there are so many engineering career paths here.
“It (Oakland County) has a lot of facilities dedicated to engineering, like the auto industry, that provide room for growth and improvement,” he says.
Ross puts in long hours at his job, so he appreciates coming home to Ferndale, where he can quickly transition from work to play. When he isn’t throwing the ball for his rescue dog, Aurora, he enjoys drawing with a sketch group in Royal Oak and listening to local bands.
“I play the guitar and bass for my church, so it’s nice to get out and listen to the different styles of the bands that play,” he says.
He also likes to meet new people and show off what Ferndale has to offer.
“Everything is very walkable,” he says. “From where I live, I can pretty much walk anywhere in a short amount of time, which is convenient.”
Johanna Medranda also lives in Ferndale and works as a server at Hazel, Ravines and Downtown in Birmingham. The longtime county resident chose to stay in Ferndale after college because it’s the perfect home base for accessing the best that metro Detroit has to offer.
It also means being able to live among other creative types, which gives her a chance to explore new art forms, including comedy.
Medranda and some friends formed the Independent Comedy Club to host locally and nationally known performers, and she is proud of the spotlight the club has given so many up-and-coming comedians, including herself.
“We do live stand-up comedy every weekend,” she says. “It is a comedy club run by comics offering independently produced comedy shows.”
HOME AT LAST
Both Steve and Beth Williams grew up in Oakland County and met at Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak. At the time, Beth was caring for Steve’s ailing father when she was a nursing student at Oakland University and he was a medical student at Wayne State University.
They married and moved to New York, where Steve completed his residency. When he was finished and their first child was born, the couple knew they wanted to return to Michigan to begin their new lives as parents.
“We both wanted to come home and raise our family,” Beth says.
The couple saw there were ample jobs available in health care in Oakland County and were excited to snag positions at
Beaumont. Beth’s mom also had worked for Beaumont, so she felt comfortable in that environment right away.
Eighteen months in, they welcomed their second child and, later, a third. They made several more moves, eventually deciding they wanted to be closer to the hustle and bustle of a downtown. About a year ago, they built a house in downtown Rochester and are loving every minute of being close to stores, restaurants and the city’s well-developed trail system.
“I’ve always loved the park systems in Oakland County,” Steve says. “We wanted to build something that put us close to the parks but also had a timeless feel. We hope to be (in Rochester) for a long time and that the house will be there 100 years from now.”
After spending years in Northwest Indiana, retirees Patty and Matthew Hoffman packed up their home and moved to Oakland County.
“We have two sons and five grandchildren,” Patty says. “Spending time with our family was more important to us than staying in Indiana.”
Currently living in Rochester Hills, Patty, a registered nurse, has been retired for four years. Matthew, an electrical engineer, retired a little over 10 years ago. Now, rather than spending hours on the road traveling to see their family, the couple devotes time to enjoying the amenities of Oakland County.
For one, they’ve discovered the Rochester Older Persons’ Commission (OPC), which is dedicated to improving health, enriching life and helping members connect with people who share similar interests.
“We spend most of our spare time at the OPC,” Patty says. “The exercise classes are my favorite and where I met most of my friends.”
Patty enjoys working part time behind the cashier desk and visiting her husband in spin classes, where he’s a substitute instructor. When Matthew isn’t cycling through a workout, he’s assisting other bicycle enthusiasts at the Rochester Bike Shop two days a week.
The couple also takes advantage of the numerous bike trails in Rochester. They’ve both loved cycling for years and are happy they have more time to enjoy the shared hobby.
Retirees Mervet and Edward Boules also appreciate having the time to enjoy life in Oakland County, where they have lifelong friends and like to take advantage of the area’s recreational opportunities.
While the couple first came to Oakland County because they knew their children would receive a top-notch education in the Troy School District, they decided to stick around after their kids left the nest.
The county’s walkability is key, they say. They try to walk for exercise, heading to downtowns like the vibrant scene in Birmingham.
“There are so many places to exercise and work out here, from the fitness clubs to the parks to the community centers,” Mervet says.
They also appreciate the availability of top-notch health care. “As we’ve gotten older, we want access to good doctors and hospitals, and Oakland County has that for sure,” she says.
Their favorite places to meet friends are community centers in Troy, Birmingham and Bloomfield Hills, depending on what their companions want to do for the day. It might be table tennis. It might be pickleball. Or it could be a hearty game of bridge.
“I play bridge anywhere and everywhere I can,” Mervet says.
This article was originally featured in the 2020 edition of Oakland County Prosper magazine.