Framed memories spotlight
Sunny Hill residents’ contributions to Will County
Kind-hearted. Faithful. Professional. Eclectic. Resourceful. These are some of the words used to describe women in the Builders of Communities and Dreams Gallery of Recognition and Achievement exhibit lining a hall at Sunny Hill Nursing Home of Will County.
Each of 29 residents, chosen at random, is featured in a frame that includes highlights from her life story, a large photo and two to four snapshots of her younger days.
“It’s been amazing… the response from staff and visitors,” said Assistant Administrator Becky Haldorson, who spearheaded the effort with assistance from Tracey Silio. “It’s brought some of them out of their shells. It’s been cool to see that.”
Sometimes the women will take visitors to see their frame on the wall. Other times, visitors will take the resident to the gallery and ask if that is really them or if they really did those things.
For some of the women, it was easy to share their stories. Some had a more difficult time, and family members were often called on to help.
To Haldorson, the biggest surprise was how difficult it was for the women to look back and see the things they’ve done that are substantial, “how hard it was to pull out the highlights of their lives.”
Helen Hare is a staunch supporter of the Ridgewood neighborhood where she raised her five sons. She also golfed until she was 81 and “enjoyed every game.” She loved to swim and draw. Oh, and one of her landscapes won an honorable mention at the New York World’s Fair in 1939.
When Anna DeMattie was widowed in 1979, she decided to run for her late husband’s position of Joliet Township Assessor and won – three times! She spent 17 years as the township assessor after going back to school and getting her license.
Mary Tait was a war bride; her husband was drafted shortly after they married. She was a secretary for awhile and raised two daughters. In 1958, she started a ceramics business, which she operated for more than 45 years. She loved to sing and has fond memories of being chosen to sign at the Opera House in Chicago when she was in sixth grade. She shared her rendition of Pop Goes the Weasel.
Emma Shelby helped make bombs for the Korean War at the Joliet Arsenal. She was happy to see the war end, even though it meant she had to find a new job. In 1955, she went to work at the Will County Poor Farm. She was “scared to death” of some of the residents, but by the end of her first day, she was comfortable around the residents and enjoyed taking care of them. She stayed with the facility when it moved to town and became Sunny Hill Nursing Home. “I started working as a maid, then an aide, and retired as the Housekeeping Supervisor. That is pretty good.”
Will County Executive Larry Walsh, who oversees the County-owned nursing home at 421 Doris Ave., said “Helen, Anna, Mary, Emma and all the others have made incredible contributions to Will County. They’ve helped make it what it is today. We owe them a lot.”
The exhibit went up on March 24 as part of a Family Night event. Haldorson read each woman’s story to the crowd and then a member of the Joliet Catholic Academy ROTC walked each frame through the room to its spot on the wall.
They will only be up a few more weeks, however. The women’s stories will come down and a new exhibit, I Remember Papa, Letters from their Families, will go up in June. An exact time and date will be announced later.
Haldorson has sent letters to the families of all 40 male residents, asking them to write letters to their fathers about memories of growing up. (There are far fewer men than women at Sunny Hill so she didn’t have to choose.) She’s also asked them to include old photos of their fathers with them.
Like she did with the women’s pictures, she’ll scan the photos and return the originals.
“I love the old pictures. They tell so many stories,” she said. “We want photos from as far back as possible.”
Walsh agreed. “I’m sure their families will have many wonderful, enlightening stories to tell. I’m also certain that some of our Sunny Hill residents will be surprised at what memories their children, and perhaps grandchildren, will decide to share.”
Residents cruise to a week of fun
aboard SS Sunny Hill
Residents at Sunny Hill Nursing Home of Will County set sail on a weeklong adventure with ports of call from around the world for National Nursing Home Week 2009.
The county-owned facility was turned into the SS Sunny Hill as the dining room became the scene for a Hawaiian farewell on Monday, May 11, complete with a welcome aboard party, a Polynesian lunch and afternoon entertainment from Jimmie Bestman’s Hawaiian Band.
Leis, flowers, and little nautical bags for their passports were given to residents for their whirlwind adventure.
Activity Director Larry Lindholm said subsequent days would be dedicated to Ghana, Italy, Australia, Canada and, on the final day, upon their return to the United States, welcome home activities that would include Patriotic Bingo, an American favorites lunch, and an Armed Forces celebration. The suggested attire for the cruise’s final day? Red, white and blue, of course.
Will County Executive Larry Walsh knew the scoop. “Larry gave me the whole travel package, and I would have loved to have been able to spend more time on board with their activities. I hope as many residents as possible participated and got their passports stamped every day.
“The theme, Adventures in Caring, tells you a lot about Administrator Karen Sorbero, Larry and the rest of the staff of Sunny Hill,” Walsh continued.
Walsh knows more than the scoop – he knows how to scoop. Ice cream, that is. He was the first of five Celebrity Scoopers to work in the nursing home’s Sweet Shoppe. From 2 to 3:30 p.m. each day, a local celebrity was scheduled to serve up ice cream and conversation to residents and staff, alike.
Walsh was followed by: Scott Slocum, WJOL 1340-AM morning man; Tom Girrante, Joliet City Council member; Pat McGuire, Will County Treasurer; and Lori McPhillips, a Friends of Sunny Hill Board member.
Thirteen residents of Sunny Hill Nursing Home of Will County named honorary graduates of Joliet Catholic Academy
They were starting families, working, or serving their country when it should have been their turns to walk into a gymnasium to the familiar strains of Pomp and Circumstance.
Whatever the reason they didn’t receive high school diplomas on schedule, the 13 residents of Sunny Hill Nursing Home of Will County named members of the Honorary Joliet Catholic Academy Class of 2009 were excited to receive their sheepskins following the school’s spring concert on Thursday, April 23.
The youngest member of the class was Donald Henry, 68. He had to quit school to get a job to help support his family. He earned a GED in 1992, but never got to go to college. He joked that perhaps now he could use his JCA diploma to go.
At 99, Anne Halik is the oldest “graduate” JCA has ever had. Like Henry, she needed to drop out of school to help support her family. She remembers having a great English teacher, but a bad experience in gym class left a lasting impact. Someone pushed her into the swimming pool – and she has never gone swimming since.
Five of the 13 residents weren’t able to don caps and gowns and attend the morning ceremony. Charlotte Mather, Admission and Marketing Coordinator, accepted the certificates for Otis Franklin, 87, Linda Gregorec, 71, Emery Gurnic, 87, Henry, and Rosemary Spencer, 82.
Others who were honored were Laura Anderson, 84, Aquilina Flores, 86, Mary Ann Knorr, 74, Mary Paluga, 90, Mary Scaccia, 85, Emma Shelby, 93, and Ina Thomason, 90.
The diplomas were presented by Sister Faith Szambelanczyk, JCA President, and Principal Jeffrey Budz, while Assistant Principal William Pender read the names. Each resident was accompanied by a member of the JCA Class of 2009, who was with them from the time the residents got off the bus at JCA until the honorary graduates left the gymnasium to Pomp and Circumstance, played in their honor by the JCA band.
99-year-old Sunny Hill resident gets ‘dream’ day at spa
Anne Halik has had the same beauty routine for years. She washes her face with soap and water, and then applies Oil of Olay.
When she’s getting ready to face the world in the mornings, “I try to put on eyebrows. Every morning they’re different,” Halik said with a laugh. She adds some blush and powder – the powder has to be Covergirl – and she’s done.
“And the years roll on,” she added, with another little laugh.
And roll on they have. On Wednesday, Feb. 25, her routine got a helping hand from the staff of Divas Salon & Spa in Shorewood, who fulfilled the 99-year-old Sunny Hill Nursing Home of Will County resident’s “dream” of a day at a spa.
The women at Divas were surprised when Halik, looking much younger than her years, walked across the parking lot and through the door.
“She walked right in and said, ‘Have you ever had someone this old in here before?,’” recounted Tanya Delrose, spa coordinator.
The answer was no. Until Halik, the oldest customer was 86. She came in regularly to get her hair done.