Former staff share experiences at facility
By Angie Landsverk
For those who worked at Lakeview Manor through the years, their roles at the nursing home were much more than jobs.
What they did there would be best described as callings or vocations.
Whether they spent a few years employed there or their entire careers, the feeling they shared about the place was the same.
To them, Lakeview Manor was their home and family.
“Our lives have been touched by so many inmates, patients and residents and co-workers through the years. My only hope is that we touched as many lives as well,” said Joan Paulson.
She was 17 years old when she began working there in 1974 and worked there for about 30 years.
Paulson was among those who shared memories about the nursing home during a March 28 program, in Weyauwega.
The Weyauwega Area Historical Society presented “Remembering the Waupaca County Ayslum to Lakeview Manor Nursing Home.”
It did so as a way to celebrate the facility’s 115 years of history, following its closing this year.
Approximately 110 people attended the evening program.
The historical society borrowed an additional 20 chairs from a local church as people continued to arrive for it.
“We have lots of people here who worked there and others who had loved ones there. Let’s celebrate each other tonight,” Mary Jane Baehman, president of the historical society, said in beginning the program.
The early years
The Waupaca County Asylum opened in 1902.
The original site totaled 480 acres and included a farm, orchards and gardens.
Don Gensler began working there as the gardener on March 30, 1948.
By then, it was called the Waupaca County Hospital and housed about 225 residents.
Gensler and his wife, Tina, lived in a home on the grounds.
That was part of his pay.
He worked there for 38 years, and they also raised their three children there.
“Our kids grew up there. They got an education, and they also learned to respect, and they were known by the residents,” Gensler said.
He shared photos of the farm and described it as “pretty much self supporting.”
The gardens and orchards provided fruits and vegetables for the facility.
Any surpluses were sold.
The residents helped with a variety of jobs.
The corn and grain brought in revenue, and there was a also a creamery and greenhouse on the property, Gensler said.
He recalled a 1949 fire and a 1950 tornado.
Cars lined the road after the tornado, with everyone wanting to see the damage.
“We had to eventually shut down the traffic to get the work done,” Gensler said.
He retired in 1986 and said he remembers how even when he worked at Lakeview Manor, there was “talk about closing the place, because some taxpayers didn’t think it was paying the bills.”
The Genslers had been married just six months when he began working there.
“It was out in the country, but it had indoor plumbing. That was a big plus in my eyes,” she said of the house in which they lived.
She eventually began working there as well, after there was an opening in the sewing room.
Her work included mending the clothing of the residents, making white aprons for the attendants on the wards and sewing drapes for the bedrooms.
Duane Bork recalled the connection between Country Pride 4-H Club and Lakeview Manor.
For decades, members of the club visited the nursing home and played bingo with the residents.
During the March 28 program, the club served beverages and treats.
A changing facility
When Paulson began working there, it was common for as many as nine beds to be in one room.
The new facility opened in 1977, and she recalled the changes that took place through the years.
Paulson said residents began going out into the community.
Employees stopped wearing clothing that was all white.
The facility downsized the number of beds, eventually going to private rooms.
Several commented on the meals provided throughout the facility’s history and how everything was always made from scratch.
Jeanne Zempel was an administrator there for 25 years.
Keeping Lakeview Manor was an issue for years, she said.
“Waupaca County was very good, very generous to us,” she said. “I think there were changes at the federal level that made it where we could not compete anymore.”
Zempel described the staff as excellent and dedicated.
“When we look around tonight, we can only miss the ones who are not here among us anymore,” she said.
Zempel said, “We did help a great deal of people, and I’m proud to be associated with that.”
Roy Luellen worked at Lakeview Manor for about 20 1/2 years.
He began working there right out of high school.
“It helped me grow as a young person, It helped me to respect people,” Luellen said.
He described the years he worked there as being the best years of his life.
“I’m proud to be part of Lakeview Manor and its history. It’s kind of like we weren’t just co-workers. It was family. It wasn’t just a place of work. It was family, home,” Luellen said.
He remembers the old building and its dining room, where the staff sat with the residents to eat their meals.
Luellen said some of the highest functioning residents worked at the workshop in Manawa.
The residents also had a booth at the county fair each year, where they sold items they made.
Even though Luellen stopped working at Lakeview Manor in late 1995, he still felt a connection to it.
“Many times, I felt like I wanted to go back. I worked in health care my entire adult life,” he said. “Of all the places I worked, I have to say Lakeview was my favorite place to be.”
He said attending the March 28 program brought him closure.
Dave Johnson, a member of the Waupaca County Board, spoke on behalf of the county.
During the last 20 years, the county employed 692 people at Lakeview Manor, he said.
“There were 58 at the end,” Johnson said. “They all stayed with us until the last resident found a new home. Many visited them at their new homes.”
He said it was a sad day when the board decided to close the facility.
The county plans to sell it.
“There have been some things going on, but nothing concrete yet,” he said.
Various county departments will decide what equipment they may use. The rest will go out to bid.
The land around Lakeview Manor will continue to be farmed for now.
Johnson described those who worked at the facility as caring people and said, “I want to thank the people who worked there.”