When Charles Edward Wetegrove and his brothers Joe and Raymond inherited the family’s 500-acre Las Majadas Ranch in Willacy County, they knew they wanted to keep the ranch, their heritage, intact. Their great-grandfather had come to the Wild Horse Desert in 1872, began rounding up wild horses and cattle and herding them north to markets. Eventually he established the 6,800-acre ranch where the homestead’s 1886 chimney ranks as the oldest structure in the county. He also founded the town of Raymondville.
But the Wetegrove brothers are entrepreneurs and had established themselves in careers away from the ranch. Becoming cattle ranchers was not a viable scenario. The solution to their dilemma is named La Jarra Ranch Senior Living.
Their mother Winnie Wetegrove, an expert on the plants and wildlife of the area, had lived on the ranch until 2007 when she moved to an independent living high rise in Corpus Christi. “We learned through her experiences, and we saw the value of assisted living. We started talking about what we could do to the home place, this asset, our legacy. Mother didn’t want it broken up. Our roots are here.”
Wetegrove said his brothers Joe and Raymond did considerable research and visited numerous facilities dedicated to assisted living, memory care and day care across Texas and the U.S. They formed La Jarra Ranch Senior Living, named after the jarra or pitcher brand that E. B. Raymond had registered in 1882. The company hired an assisted living consultant, “who walked us through the paperwork.” They took on a partner, a builder in Austin who was putting up high tech, state-of-the-art senior living facilities in Austin.
“Our goal was a smaller, more manageable, more home feeling place for seniors. The emphasis is on the natural, not the institutional. It’s our vision of what would we want our mother to have: connected to nature, spacious, walking trails, interesting activities,” Wetegrove said. That’s why they promote La Jarra as a place to “Live Next to Nature.”
This fall La Jarra Senior Living opened its first phase: three buildings – assisted living, memory care and a senior activity center/dining room – connected by covered walkways. The facility is set in the middle of the property to provide a ranch atmosphere. Along the nature trails, visitors can observe flocks of turkeys, migratory and resident birds, Texas tortoises, and even nilgai.
“The natural setting is therapeutic, a connection to nature. It’s all about quality. We make it easy for the residents,” he said. La Jarra, one mile east of I-69E, provides transportation to medical services.
Wetegrove said the next phase will consist of independent living cottages of approximately 800 square feet. The senior neighborhood will be set slightly away from the first phase, but close enough that residents can walk to the activity center for meals. (Full disclosure – the cookies are delicious.)
“Our vision is in the pioneering spirit, much like our great-grandfather who came and experimented with various crops, including citrus in 1886, looking for ways to make land profitable. We want to explore the possibility of Telemed for rural areas and interface with doctors.”
Wetegrove said, “There’s no turning back, but it takes a while to navigate the bureaucracy.”
La Jarra has long-term plans, of course, that include providing on-site rehabilitation services, an RV park and adding more native plants and improving trails. “We have enough land, and we will build as we need it.”
La Jarra’s use of solar panels for well pumps is not the Wetegroves’ first experience with green initiatives. Earlier they, as Las Majadas, leased 22,000 acres in Willacy County for wind farms which they sold to French developer EDF.
“We’re proud to continue the historical legacy and be tuned in to nature.”