Retired nurse on first-name basis with St. Monica residents
By Karen Mahoney
Special to your Catholic Herald
RACINE – Frances Hartwick knows that life after retirement need not be boring.
“People sometimes think all you do is sit around,” said Hartwick, 87, resident of St. Monica Assisted Living and Residential Facility. “But there is always something to do.”
A retired nurse, Hartwick moved to St. Monica five years ago after she was diagnosed with colon cancer and her children were concerned about her living alone in a big house.
“My husband Harold passed away in 2002, and my four kids were worried that something might happen to me,” she said. “Harold and I were married for 58 years. I had a lot of stuff, so I sold everything, including the car, and came to live here. My kids ran the sale because they kept teasing me that I would keep more than I sold – and they were probably right.”
Hartwick’s decision to move to St. Monica was easy; she had visited the residence often for parties and other social events, and felt comfortable in the home run by the Sisters of St. Rita, an Augustinian religious community committed to the physical, social and spiritual well being of families.
“I came and had a tour and already knew one of the nurses because she was someone I worked with at High Ridge Nursing Home,” she said. “I liked everything in general about the place.”
The St. Monica community spans 40 lush acres in a park-like atmosphere. Hartwick often sees deer, turkeys and pheasants roaming outside her first-floor window. Her large room accommodates a living space on one end and bedroom space on the other. Ample storage is located in the lower level for her off-season clothing.
“I face the south and I pull the drapes wide open to let the sun shine in,” she said. “I feel very safe here because there is always staff around and the outside doors are locked at night.”
Not one to sit still, Hartwick attends daily Mass, recitation of the rosary, Scripture sharing and Bible study. She also belongs to an exercise group, plays Bingo a few times a week and belongs to an offsite bridge group.
“There are days that I am gone the entire morning,” she said. “We have parties and entertainment, too, I never get bored here.”
While she participates in most activities, she draws the line at bowling and crafts.
“Nope, that is one thing I won’t do, because I get gutter balls most of the time,” she said, laughing, “and crafts and I don’t get along, especially if I have to glue anything, I am all thumbs and not too talented.”
A member of St. Lucy Parish, Hartwick appreciates the compassion of the sisters and Fr. Paul Daniels, the chaplain who celebrates daily Mass and is available for spiritual guidance and the sacrament of reconciliation.
“He is retired and is wonderful and makes himself available to all of us” she said.
Hartwick enjoys three meals a day at St. Monica’s, as well as housekeeping and linen service, laundry facilities, transportation for shopping and other group events, an onsite convenience store and beauty shop.
“Every Friday morning at 10 a.m. I have a standing appointment to get my hair done,” she said. “They have two operators there and I really like being able to stay right here to have my hair styled.”
Once a month shopping is available for those who are interested, but Hartwick is fortunate to have a daughter living in the Racine area that will pick up items for her, or take her out for a day of shopping.
Living in a Catholic community is important to Hartwick, who finds the staff accommodating and friendly, always going out of their way to please and assist the residents – whether it is holiday treats, seasonal placemats in the dining room or social events.
“They will even come to our parties when they are available and will dance with the residents,” she said. “We are one, big, happy family and you don’t find that in a lot of regular families.”
As a family, the residents find opportunities to share their personal lives with those who care for them. The activity director’s daughter recently celebrated her quinceañera and decided to do so in the chapel at St. Monica’s. It was an experience Hartwick will never forget.
“They had two Spanish (speaking) priests and a Spanish choir,” she explained. “It was so beautiful and lasted over an hour. I had never been to one before and I am so glad I went because it was a beautiful experience.”
A newcomer to St. Monica’s will find an array of activities, bus trips to the Mitchell Park Domes, musicians, scouting groups, crafts, exercise, gardening and spiritual enhancement. Although the new resident might be a bit shy at first, most likely Hartwick will be waiting to provide a proper welcome.
“I try to make it a point to know everyone and to be friendly,” she said. “I want to make a lot of friends and I call them by their first names; I know some by their last names, too, but I think first names are most important. It makes people feel good, don’t you think?”