Author Archives: Jeff Smith

Perfect Timing

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It’s not the honeymoon Andrea Rupe was anticipating when she assumed her role as the new executive director of Vista Prairie at Monarch Meadows in North Mankato. Beginning March 23 she was immediately immersed in preventing a case of COVID-19 at Monarch, during the most serious pandemic in her lifetime. In many ways, Andrea’s timing was perfect, applying her 17 years of health care experience to this new challenge.

“On a few occasions already, I have tapped into my ability to manage stress,” Andrea said after her first week in the position. “I tend to look ahead at the end goal, in this case to keep all our residents and staff members safe from this virus.”

Andrea reports that the social distancing precautions have prevented her from getting to know the residents as quickly as she would have liked. She’s used to having coffee with residents at mealtimes and being involved with larger group activities, all of which are on hold – replaced with one-on-one interactions. 

“I was very impressed with how well structured everything is at Monarch Meadows, even in these unprecedented times,” she remarked. “We have an exceptional team, which was clear on the first day. They have been delivering high quality services for 20 years. That will continue, with more added intensity.”

Andrea completed the Leading Age Assisted Living Administrators Certificate program in 2019 and will earn a bachelor’s degree of Healthcare Administration this spring.

“We are eager for Andrea to contribute her expertise to our mission of compassion and joy,” said VPC President and Chief Executive Officer Jim Bettendorf. “Her enthusiasm and skills in quality care are a great fit for Monarch Meadows.”

Monarch Meadows is one of our largest communities with 86 one-and-two-bedroom assisted living apartments and 12 care suites. Unfortunately, one of Monarch’s signature hospitality offerings, its Wednesday Breakfast in the Meadow, will need to be on hiatus while we’re responding to the threat of COVID-19.

An inquiring mind

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Martin under model of a Farmall tractor and bailer

Farming and agri-business are the roots of the geographic region we serve in Minnesota and Iowa. And few people personify that spirit better than Martin, a 92-year-old resident of Vista Prairie at Fieldcrest in Sheldon, Iowa. He’s pictured here below a model of his trustworthy Farmall tractor, towing a baler. Implements like this got plenty of use during his 80 years of farming, which started when he was a boy.

Martin’s heritage goes back to 1913 when his family immigrated from Holland, in part, to avoid the bloodshed that would soon overtake Europe in the First World War.

“We lived on five different farms,” Martin recounts, “and the last one we lived on we bought.” That farm was 160 acres, close to Sheldon. Martin, his wife and five children did just about everything you can do on a farm, raising dairy and beef cattle, hogs, and cultivating corn, soybeans, alfalfa and oats.

One of his sons bought the farm and still maintains it. Martin was as wise as his years when asked if he thought his son is doing a good job running the farm, “He’s the son of his mother, so he’s smarter than I am.”

About 18 months ago and after he had lost his wife a year earlier, Martin moved to Fieldcrest with the support of all five children. While he’d rather be back on the farm, he’s made the most of his time, with his humor and his inquisitive mind. ”I would ask questions,” Martin says, “and when you ask somebody a question they talk, and you may learn something.”

Fieldcrest assisted living offers 69 one and two bedroom apartments for seniors who value a variety of ways to spread joy, and want access to personal care and supportive services. We also hope you’ll visit our 12 memory care suites that provide a long-term option for seniors diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia.

Now it’s her turn

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Vista Prairie at Windmill Ponds in Alexandria has been home to Delores for 13 years, longer than any other resident there. When you live to be 101, like Delores, it’s possible to outlive your resources. Social Security helps but doesn’t cover the full cost of assisted living services, food, medicine and other needs.

It’s a common situation in Minnesota, where more than 30,000 people get assistance from Elderly Waiver, a Minnesota Medical Assistance program for people who qualify based on their care needs, total assets and income. Delores is one of those people. The sale of her house in nearby Brandon, MN plus other savings and Social Security provided for her expenses for many years.

For the generation that Delores represents it’s the least we can do. Through their hard work and courage, they helped build the economy we enjoy today. In her case, after her husband died eight years earlier, Delores decided at 88, that it was time for assisted living.

“It was getting to be a little bit too much,” Delores remembers. “I did my own taking care of the place, mowing the lawn and having a garden.” That’s when her son and nephews helped her move to Windmill Ponds.

The youngest of seven children, Delores was raised on a diversified farm in Douglas County. She and her husband eventually operated the farm for 15 years, but farming took a toll on her health. That led to a seven-year career in the Douglas County Welfare Department where she assisted county residents who needed help.

Delores found more perspective later in life about what it takes to operate a community like Windmill Ponds. She and her husband devoted several years to manage motels and apartment buildings, both in Arizona and back in Minneapolis. While she has outlived many of her fellow Windmill Ponds residents, she still enjoys its care and comfort. “I consider it’s like a community of friends,” Delores says. “You make of it what you do with yourself.”

103 Valentines

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Ken and Kathryn in their Goldfinch Estates apartment

Ken was born on Valentine’s Day 103 years ago. He and Kathryn are at home in a beautiful Goldfinch Estates apartment where they have lived for three years.   

That 1917 Valentine’s Day brought a blizzard to the family farm near St. James, MN. Summoned to look after the birth, the doctor relied on a one-horse sleigh to race seven miles through the night. After he hurried to get the horse in the barn and wipe it down, he attended to his duties. Ken described what happened next, after the doctor cared for the new arrival.  

“The doctor wanted to go home, and when they went to the barn, they found out the horse died.” Ken’s dad did the right thing. He replaced the horse with one of his own. “He didn’t want to keep feeding the doctor,” Ken remarked with a twinkle in his eye.   

Among the traits Ken and Kathryn have shared for 71 years of marriage, is their humor. They met at a party in Minneapolis after Ken got back from combat in the North Pacific during World War II. Ken was enrolled at the Minnesota School of Business at the time. 

“He had dark hair,” says Kathryn, who at 95, does not color her hair. “He asked if he could take me home and three other girls also got in the same cab. When we got to my house, I jumped inside and closed the door. He had to pay for the other three too.” 

Their spirit resulted in marriage after Ken finished college, and successful business careers for them both. Over his 17-year career with Allis Chalmers Ken became a sales promotion manager, serving a three-state region. A short stint with DuPont followed that. Meanwhile, Kathryn’s career was in accounting. 

“My very first job was for Imperial Printing and the head accountant was one of Ken’s teachers at the business school,” Kathryn recounts. That may have influenced her confidence in the romance. 

They lived and worked for nearly 50 years in the Twin Cities until it was time to retire. Those decades led to weekend camping trips throughout Minnesota and eventually winters in Texas and trips around the country in their motor home. 

Kathryn’s back injury prompted their move from Lewisville, MN a few miles south to Fairmont and their assisted living apartment where they get the care they need. They’ve become active members of the Goldfinch Estates community, which offers 92 one and two-bedroom senior apartments for seniors who want access to supportive services. We also offer 41 memory care Suites that provide a long-term option for seniors diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia.

BFFs to the rescue

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If your best friend forever (BFF) is a herpetologist for a zoo, Gary has some advice for you. Be ready for some unusual adventures. Gary recently brought the newspaper account of one famous escapade to his new home, Vista Prairie at River Heights, in South St. Paul.

The 1963 stories picture Gary’s role in helping BFF Bob Duerr recover an 11-foot-long crocodile from St. Paul’s Lake Phalen. Bob got the call when someone spotted the croc and quickly surmised that it had been stolen from the nearby Como Zoo. Bob was the zoo’s expert in reptiles and amphibians at the time. Gary set the springtime scene, which was around high school graduation.

“Some kids drove their car right over the fence at the zoo and lassoed the croc from a moat filled with water,” Gary remembers. “Then they did a really dangerous thing. Of all the places to take it, Lake Phalen, the playground for the kids.”

When Gary arrived at the lake Bob was already in the water, in the process of capturing the croc. Bob suffered a nasty slash on his arm so Gary took over, as the photo shows, and subdued the croc until it could be transported back to safe surroundings.

An accomplished writer, Gary described the aftermath of their adventure in an essay about his life, “My first and second grade daughters dipped into their piggy banks and bought several copies of the morning papers, both St. Paul and Minneapolis, with the whole story, complete with lots of pictures. They cut out the stories and took them to school and boasted and bragged and went on about their dad.”

After a life of ups and downs, one of his four daughters recently helped Gary move into Vista Prairie at River Heights. At the age of 84, he feels secure and well cared for. Want to learn more about River Heights? Call Danielle at 651-326-6501.