Written by Jaimee Green
For a number of current employees at Faith Lutheran Home, the 1970s hold a special meaning. For Mary Boysun, Nov. 1, 1973, is a day to remember. For Sharon Hoffman, it’s June 1, 1977. These were the dates they began their employment at Faith Lutheran Home and today they are still making a difference with their work.
Combined, they have devoted 74 years of service to the facility.
Boysun has been involved with Faith Lutheran Home since high school when she worked in the kitchen and then as a nurses aide after school and on weekends. Her mother, Bea Heser and her aunt, Arlene Heser, were also nurses and after she had a chance to work in the medical setting, she was inspired to pursue it as a profession. In 1971 she attended Northern Montana College and after one year received her LPN licensing. She spent one year working at Trinity Hospital and then went to Faith Lutheran Home.
Thirty-nine years later, she still enjoys coming to work each day.
Over the years a number of milestones stand out in Boysun’s mind. Perhaps one of the biggest changes in the nursing home dynamic was the transition from a retirement home to a skilled nursing facility.
“Back then there were very few wheelchairs and medications in use. People were simply here to retire, not to be cared for. Back then, to have someone here in their 70s and 80s was old. Today, that is the average age of our residents and they are much sicker by the time they get here,” she noted.
She remembers when she used to get into trouble for playing cards with the residents before planned activities were incorporated into the facility.
Boysun is a wealth of information about every aspect of Faith Lutheran Home; from the technical intricacies of legislation that effected the nursing profession to the names of faces on pictures taken in black and white 50 years ago. She remembers uses for rooms that have been changed, nooks that served as offices and décor that came, went and made a comeback. Since 1973, she has quietly become the go-to girl for historical tidbits about the facility and the people who called it home.
To this day, she says she wouldn’t trade being a nurse for anything. “I love that you can establish a relationship with the residents. It’s been a privilege over the years to assist families with the dying process and I have many memories of staff and families crying together. It truly is one big family here,” she said.
Together with her husband of 39 years, Randy, she has two grown children, Jaronn, 37, of Wolf Point and Holli, 34, of Billings.
For 35 years, Sharon Hoffman has felt at home in the Faith Lutheran Home kitchen. She began as a dietary aide and, through the years, worked up to the position of food services director. Three of her brothers, Dwayne, LeRoy and James, worked here, too. James was still employed here when she came on board in 1977. Her parents lived here in their later years and she felt it was a great place for them to receive care.
“It was a simpler time in the kitchen back then. Everyone ate the same thing and there were no special diets. Today, the kitchen runs like a restaurant with many options and many more people. But when the residents comment on the presentation of the meal and how they enjoyed it I feel a sense of accomplishment,” Hoffman said.
She remembers the days when two stainless steel fridges served as the walk-in cold storage and food preparation was much more simplistic. With the construction of the 25 apartments in 1976, it became necessary to prepare more meals for more residents. With the 1996 merger between Trinity Hospital and Faith Lutheran Home, there were even more people to cook for.
Today, with menu choices for every resident available and employee meals to prepare, the kitchen stays plenty busy.
Today, there are patients that need their meals pureed, are on special diets or just enjoy eating something that is not on the regularly scheduled menu. Once a week, the working chef also enjoys making an undesignated special and often fixes a more unconventional meal such as Chinese food or Italian manicotti.
Today, 240 meals are prepared daily to include residents, apartment dwellers, employees and hospital patients.
“With so many regulations nowadays for the safety of food we provide our patients, there are strict protocols we have to follow. The days of local farmers stopping by with fresh beef and newly laid eggs are truly a thing of the past,” Hoffman said.
Hoffman has been married for 32 years to her husband, Vince. They have two grown children, Angela of Gold Bar, Wash., and Chase of Bozeman.