Interview with Rita Ann Stonefoot who lives in St. Columban’s on the Lake Retirement Home by Sr. Anne Carbon:
Sr. Anne : When did you begin your connection with the Sisters in the Columban Retirement Home in Silver Creek?
Rita: “It began in 1974. My grandparents from Silver Creek knew Fr. O’Brien, a Columban Chaplain in the Retirement Home. He was one of our regular clientele for his car repair and was a good friend of my grandparents. When grandpa died Fr. O’Brien would go down to see grandma and I did not realize that until my parents moved to Arizona and I had to stay with grandma. During that time, she told me that Fr. O’Brien wanted her to live with him. And I said, “What exactly is this?” “Well, it was a seminary which I had known all these years and it is now a Retirement Home and other people go there to live and Sr. Corona is the administrator and Father said I need to meet her”, was her reply.
So, I went to see the Home and met Sr. Corona and asked her if grandma could stay. And Sr. Corona told me that I should bring grandma and let her see if she would like to live here. I brought grandma to see the Home and her room and that was it, grandma moved in! My grandma was Scottish and a Presbyterian but when I got her up here the next thing was she was going to Mass because Fr. O’Brien was saying the Mass and she liked to go to Mass with him! She and I were very close.”
Sr. Anne: How did your connection deepen?
Rita: “In my association in the Home because of my grandma, they found out that my husband John was an Art teacher and so they invited him to give art lessons to the residents and this lasted for several years. Eventually, my grandma died but we kept the connection with the Home because my husband continued his art classes. And even myself was interested to work in the Home and Sr. Corona asked me “What would you like to do?” I replied that I would like to take care of the residents. And she said, “Would you believe it, I have somebody who walked out of the job last night so, would you like to take it on?” And that was July 1979 and I am here ever since, until last year!”
Sr. Anne : In which Area did you begin to work?
Rita: “ I started to work as a personal care staff and aid. In 1984, when Sr. Francesca moved to Chicago, I was asked by Sr. Corona to do some office work because my background was working in one of the Banks of Silver Creek for years as a secretary.”
Sr. Anne: How was your experience working with the residents all these years?
Rita: I always enjoyed working with elderly people. My grandpa lived with us and as a child I went everywhere with him and I suppose just to get out from my mother’s hair! I am always comfortable with elderly so when I went into nursing I loved doing personal care and I really enjoyed working with the residents. I usually worked in the afternoon shift so I could be with my children in the daytime.
Sr. Anne: How was your experience working with the Columban Sisters?
Rita : “My first boss was Sr. Evelyn Frieder and I love working with the Sisters and I always did! The one thing that I had to get used to was being adaptable because I am a very structured person. So, this is the thing that I found a little bit challenging because I am always organized. But because I am so organized, the Sisters appreciated it and let me have a free reign and let everything fall into place.
I just adore Sr. Corona, she is so lovely and I could never in a million years could do her job! She is very adaptable and never gets rattled and she is always in everywhere doing things and like Sr. Fran, she makes sure that things get done.”
Sr. Anne: You are part of the residents since last year, when did you decide to eventually come as one of the residents?
Rita: “When my husband died, that was the first time in 52 years that I was alone in the house. I always had somebody. I remember the day of his funeral that my kids have to go home. And they said, “Mom what will you be going to do?” And I said, I have the dog. Actually from the time that I was 7 years old I always had a dog. Last year, the dog died and I said, I am 75 years old and I don’t like living alone without a dog and out of the country and all my neighbours unfortunately have died. The whole neighbourhood has changed so I felt it’s time to make a break and come over and so I asked Sister if there was a room since I was interested in coming and that is when I moved in.”
Sr. Anne: How is the retirement Home for you?
Rita: “This Home is very precious to me since this is where my grandmother, my mother and mother in law lived. Also all 3 of my children have worked here. My son John is still here for years working in the cutting of the lawn. God bless Sister she gave him a full time job and he has done that for over 30 years.”
Sr. Anne: What changes have you seen in the Home from the time you started working here and up to now and what does the Home offers?
Rita: “There are lots of stimulations here and when one is getting old there are only minimal things that you can do at home and you can be bored.
The Home offers you nourishing meals which as a single person at home you would not be able to prepare for yourself.
The security of knowing that all you have to do is push a button and there is somebody to do for you rather than to call one of your family members and say, I don’t feel well. They have their own lives so we are hesitant to intrude on their life style
The compassion of the Sisters and staff is fantastic and they listen when you tell them something.
There is a structured activity to lead them since there is a routine.
There is a lot of companionship and opportunities to visit someone else.
There is privacy if we want to stay in our rooms and an opportunity to engage in other activities.
Over the years, the Sisters gave me so much and especially since that my husband died. It was tough to be alone but here they give me compassion, they listen to me and that has meant and means the world to me.”