Category Archives: News & Events

A life of service and celebrity

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Rose Bancks is working to defeat her second pandemic. She fought off her first when she was just two years old, back in 1918. Rose celebrated her 105th birthday on January 8, with her friends at Vista Prairie at Goldfinch Estates in Fairmont, MN. And just a few days ago, Rose rolled up her sleeves again, to keep COVID-19 out of Goldfinch. The community has not recorded a single resident positive test since this pandemic struck Martin County, almost a year ago.

As a nurse, Rose has spent most of her life in service to others, sometimes for famous people. She tells the story of care for Lucille Ball in 1943 while working in a California hospital during World War II. 

Born in Wisconsin, Rose was a teenager during the great depression, in a family that was frequently on the move. She began her 41-year nursing career in 1937 when she got her diploma in Spokane, Washington. During the war, she volunteered to be a nurse in the Army at the age of 25.

Stationed in California in 1943, she worked at Birmingham General Hospital in Van Nuys caring for injured soldiers as well as celebrities like Lucille Ball. She also was appointed to be the private nurse for Aurora Quezon, the wife of the Philippines president, after her gallbladder surgery. For several days after she was discharged to a private residence, Rose continued her care for the first lady there. She described Quezon as a gracious person. 

The hospital is also where Rose met her husband Leo, a Dentist in the Army. Leo was sent off to Japan during the war but when they were reunited after the war, they moved the family back to Minnesota. 

In Fairmont, Rose served as the Director of Nursing for the former Fairmont Hospital and retired in 1978 from the new Fairmont hospital, now part of the Mayo Healthcare System. Looking back on her life and career, Rose is very grateful for the time she spent as a nurse in the service, and for being able to help so many soldiers.

Rose and Leo had three children, eight grandchildren and 21 great grandchildren. Leo passed away in 1996.

Goldfinch Estates has been home for Rose for more than 10 years, second most in longevity of its some 119 residents. When asked what she has enjoyed most about her Goldfinch years, she said, “I have had so many wonderful girls take care of me and so many nice people here to visit with and we have had so many good activities.”

Goldfinch Estates offers 92 one and two-bedroom 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.

A pioneer in our midst

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Foster Dunwiddie doesn’t need an elevator as a resident of Vista Prairie at Brentwood, our new community in Rice Lake, Wisconsin. Brentwood is built on one level. Foster knows a lot about elevators though, as a pioneering architect with a rich history in iconic public buildings, including the old Met Stadium in Bloomington, MN. It was the original home of the Minnesota Twins after they moved from Washington, DC. Foster recalled a big design challenge caused by a budget shortfall early on.

“The initial design had a shaft for an elevator, but we couldn’t afford the elevator,” Foster recalled in a 2018 video about his career. “Once we got a commitment from the Washington Senators that they were coming, funds loosened up a great deal.”

Now 95, Foster was educated at the University of Wisconsin as a civil engineer but an interest in sketching eventually drew him to the School of Architecture at the University of Minnesota. He later helped establish the firm of Miller Dunwiddie where he remained for most of his 50+ year career. He became best known for his groundbreaking work in accessibility as a member of the Architectural Barriers Committee of the Minnesota Society of Architects.

“I had broken both my heels in a construction accident,” Foster remembers. “I suddenly found myself confined to a wheelchair and facing the problems of those in a wheelchair.” He pointed out at that time, there wasn’t legislation requiring the accommodations we have today. “I was lobbying the State Legislature to revise the Minnesota Building Code to require handicapped parking spaces, accessible door entry-ways and restroom modifications for people in wheelchairs.”

Foster’s other key contribution was in historic preservation. He pioneered what he described as a “detective project” to ensure that the restoration of Ft. Snelling was historically accurate. He also designed restorations for the Minnesota State Capitol building in the mid 1980’s.

“We had to make sure the public spaces were accessible so that witnesses for hearings could get into the building,” Foster said. “I also restored the House and the Senate chambers to make them accessible to people with disabilities.”

Foster and his wife Shirley moved to Brentwood in 2011. Shirley passed away a year ago, a short time after she and Foster had moved into memory care. “They’ve been very responsible meeting my needs here,” Foster concludes. And about the food? “I belong to the clean-plate club, and I’ve been working overtime.”

The Brentwood community offers 28 one and two-bedroom apartments for seniors who value their independence but want options for personal care and supportive services. We also offer 19 memory care suites that provide a long-term option for seniors diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia.

Holly and Jingles — out of quarantine!

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December 10 was a big day for Holly and Jingles as the two elves ended their 14-day quarantine.  They are back for their third year, making spirits bright for Vista Prairie at Garnette Gardens in Redwood Falls, MN. The COVID-19 safety protocol made this year’s visit a little different.

“The residents have really enjoyed them these last two years,” reports Colleen Marcus, Garnette’s community outreach manager. “A few will go around each day and look for where they might be.” 

With their new-found freedom, Holly and Jingles will be roaming around the community from now ‘till Christmas Eve, making sure everybody is ready for Santa. You can track their adventures on the community’s Facebook page

Holly and Jingles got their invitation from Garnette Gardens Executive Director Natalie Seehausen, whose daughter hosts their friend Elf on a Shelf each year at her house. Will the two elves will be back?

“We do plan to bring them back next year, under less difficult circumstances,” Colleen says. “They show up Friday after Thanksgiving and after Christmas eve they go home to the North Pole.”

The Garnette Gardens community is making spirits bright in 61 one and two-bedroom apartments for seniors. We also offer 16 memory care suites that provide a long-term option for seniors diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia. Care Suites round out the options, offering enhanced care for people recovering from surgery or illness.

First Impressions

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Anna Petersmeyer visited Vista Prairie at River Heights just a week after she assumed her new role as Vice President and Chief Operating Officer for Vista Prairie Communities (VPC). Unfortunately, the visit was cut short. Our community in South St. Paul had just learned of a positive COVID-19 test in a staff member. All non-essential visits were halted.

In her initial two weeks on the job, it was a strong first impression for the veteran senior housing executive. She’s taking on a daunting responsibility to ensure safety and compliance with a myriad of health care policies from multiple agencies. That visit also was a dose of déjà vu.

“My River Heights visit was a homecoming of sorts,” Anna recalled. “In 2003, I managed River Heights when it was owned by a different long-term care organization. It was great to be back there to see the care and thorough precautions being provided during the pandemic.”

Anna brings a wealth of experience to Vista Prairie. She came from Volunteers of America – Minnesota and Wisconsin where she served for more than eight years, the last three as that organization’s Chief Operating Officer. At VPC she will be responsible to lead our assisted living and memory care services for the residents of all our communities, working closely with and leading the executive directors in each community, as well as our clinical staff.

“One of my great joys will be to further refine and develop our plans to ensure an exceptional lifestyle for our residents,” says Anna.

She is well suited for that visionary role and for the locations of our communities. Anna grew up farming in rural Wisconsin. She remains a self-proclaimed ‘farm girl’ and is a Licensed Social Worker. She also has served on LeadingAge’s Housing, Home Care & Assisted Living and HUD/Affordable Housing Committees.

Anna received the 2015 Leadership Award from National Volunteers of America for outstanding operational management in Housing, Older Adult Services and Assisted Living. She holds a BA in Social Work from University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire and an MBA from Bethel University.

Welcome aboard Anna, and by the way – today is her birthday!

Vote for Vista Prairie

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With more than nine years of appetizing service for Vista Prairie at Monarch Meadows, Chef Barry Ahl is the senior Culinary Manager among all his peers at our eight communities. While he’s not running for office, his involvement in the Mankato area has earned wide community support.

Among Monarch’s unique features, Chef Barry and Executive Director Andrea Rupe have a virtual culinary demonstration on the drawing board, where residents, family members and the public can get help in preparing favorite holiday dishes. They’re planning the first installment this month.

“I can show them how really basic and easy it is to make a traditional Thanksgiving meal, right down to the homemade cranberries and giblet gravy,” says Chef Barry. “You know, some people don’t even know how to dress a turkey.”

The Monarch dining room recently opened for residents to have their meals, spaced one person per table, after a summer where all meals were delivered to each apartment – to ensure healthy nutrition.

“We made sure that we were taking care of every resident, one by one, going into their apartment, making sure that they ate three meals a day and a snack.”

Now that the dining room is reopened, the residents are delighted to see more of each other.

“One lady come up to me and said – ‘This is the best meal I’ve had nine years.’ Everybody’s walking around and smiling so I’m kind of like Santa Claus, because every day I get to cook really good meals,” Barry reflects. “That puts a smile on their face. That’s what joy basically is — with a smile or getting a compliment or getting a wink.”

Can we count your vote for Vista Prairie at Monarch Meadows? Call 507-386-2451 to book a tour. Monarch Meadows, located in North Mankato, MN is one of our largest communities, with 86 one-and-two-bedroom assisted living apartments and 12 care suites.