Resident Spotlights

Community theater enlivens Towner Crest — and extends man’s legacy



Today we share a story from our Better Together series. What begins as a story of fun, humor and play ends in a dramatic view of eternity.

Towner Crest Players
Some members of the Towner Crest Players including Dan Burke (top center).

The “Towner Crest Players” are a theatrical group of residents who live at our Presbyterian Homes & Services community in Oconomowoc, Wis. They offer clever, fun-filled stage performances to lift the spirits of their neighbors.

Campus Pastor Mark Triller reflects on why he started the group. “I was thinking, ‘How can I connect with this community in a subtle way of introducing good news to them while just laughing together and enjoying one another?’”

No theater expert himself, Pastor Mark felt delighted to discover that residents Dan and Patty were! For years, Dan and Patty Burke had successfully led a fundraising business, entertaining others in murder-mystery play performances. Dan wrote scripts, Patty played music, and together they acted while involving audience members.

Now Dan’s passion was rekindled and, as Patty explains, “this was the first time he started getting out into the community and really meeting people.” For example, Dan met Janet, who is 90, and Norm, who is 95, two of the oldest members of the Towner Crest Players.

Towner Crest
From left: Campus Pastor Mark Triller and Patty Burke recounted today’s story.

Dan excelled at writing lines to uniquely fit the personality of each actor. Patty describes the eruption of laughter from the audience during the first performance. “People were hungry for it because we had been [mostly isolated] from each other [during the pandemic].”

But just before the second play, Dan’s health took a sudden turn for the worse. His last words whispered to Patty were, “The show must go on.”

So that’s what happened – in a performance dedicated in memory of Dan, the actors received a standing ovation.

Remarkably, before he passed, Dan had had one last conversation with Pastor Mark in the hospital. Pastor Mark recounts, “We had a really frank talk about faith. And Dan accepted Christ right there, with a certainty that I look back and go, ‘This is what this was all about.’”

So for Dan, the show will indeed go on, all the way into eternity.

Meanwhile, for the Towner Crest Players, the show will go on the road … with a performance this month at Kirkland Crossings, a neighboring PHS community. “We’re going to spread the joy and the love with people there,” Patty says.

Find out how you or an older adult in your life can pursue purpose and make a mark at a PHS community in MN, IA or WI. Visit

You might also be interested in:

Friendship matters: two campus pastors’ story at Presbyterian Homes & Services



Get news, stories and updates on PHS communities, residents and employees, plus resourceful information on living well!

More stories