Perhaps few residents of Denver have reached the place they now call home by as dangerous and arduous a route as the one taken by Petru and Maria Fedur.
Married in Romania in 1986, they are currently the proprietors of Mary's Assisted Home Living, a facility nestled on a four-acre farm on Webb's Chapel Church Road in Denver.
Natives of Arad, a small town 200 miles from Bucharest, Romania, Petru, 46, and Maria, 43, immigrated to the United States, by way of Austria, in 1990.
The journey from Romania to Austria and then to America was, however, fraught with peril.
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Petru (he prefers to be called Peter now), married just two years, escaped communist Romania by sneaking across the border into Hungary and from there to Austria in 1988, leaving behind his then-pregnant wife, Maria, and their young daughter, Trina.
Their plan called for Petru to somehow have Maria join him within a year.
The collapse of the communist government in December of 1989 left Maria, along with her young children, Alex and Trina, free to join her husband in Austria, where Peter, a journeyman electrician, had been able to obtain a visa as a political refugee.
Recalling their life in communist Romania, Mary reflects, "Nobody smiled. We didn't have much of a future there, a chance to be happy. I enjoy the smiles of people in the United States!"
During a recent visit to Romania with her husband and four children, ranging in age from 15 to 21, she was struck by the changes she saw.
"All you see in Romania now are old people," she said. "All the young people are gone."
Peter had a brother and sister living in Anaheim, Calif. They sponsored Maria and Peter, enabling them to emigrate from Austria to California in 1990.
Neither spoke English when they arrived, but they quickly learned enough to get by.
"We listened to others speaking English and we gradually taught ourselves," she said.
Despite a noticeable accent, Mary and Peter's command of English is excellent. Their children understand Romanian but prefer to speak English.
"I speak to them in Romanian, and they reply in English," Mary says.
After 15 years in Anaheim, during which time Peter worked as an electrician and Maria operated two small family home care facilities, they moved once again, this time to Denver in 2005.
Their family had grown with the addition of Demi, 19, and Naomi, 15, both born in the United States.
They purchased Three Oaks Farm on Webbs Chapel Church Road in Denver with the idea that it might one day serve as a home care facility. They also opened a Euro grocery store in Hickory, eventually moving the business closer to home, with the opening of the Euro Grocery store on N.C. 16 in Denver.
At the time, Mary had hoped to be a stay-at-home mom, but the idea of starting another assisted-living facility persisted. Her own mother in Romania had taken care of elderly parents and grandparents.
"It was for me a natural step to take care of other people," she said. "I know to do this and I like it. To do from my heart, to help someone in need, is a blessing."
The declining economy, meanwhile, forced them to close Euro Grocery after a year and a half, leaving Maria free to devote her time and energy to Mary's Assisted Home Living at Three Oaks Farm.
The six residents at the state licensed facility, the oldest of whom is 93, are free to enjoy the amenities of farm life. Their menagerie includes one cow, seven goats, two sheep, three peacocks, a few ducks and a flock of chickens, not to mention their three dogs.
Besides collecting eggs from the laying hens, the residents may, at their request, enjoy fresh vegetables from the garden, or simply relax on the patio, enjoying the view of the meandering animals against the backdrop of Lake Norman.
Mary and Peter's daughter Trina is a CNA (Certified Nursing Assistant) as well as a licensed activity directory, making the running of the home yet more of a family affair.
With a fire blazing away in the fireplace and Christmas decorations everywhere, there's no question that, as Mary likes to say, "For all my residents, this is a place to call home."