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Column: Worthington has come a long way from poor farms to nursing homes

Editor's note: Former longtime Daily Globe Editor Ray Crippen died Dec. 27, 2015. We will continue to publish previously run "Isn't That Something" columns on Saturdays, until further notice, as a tribute to Crippen. The following column first ap...

Editor’s note: Former longtime Daily Globe Editor Ray Crippen died Dec. 27, 2015. We will continue to publish previously run “Isn’t That Something” columns on Saturdays, until further notice, as a tribute to Crippen. The following column first appeared Sept. 23, 2006.

WORTHINGTON - On the morning after Easter, many Easters gone by, Rose Markman stopped by our house to report an old man at the poor farm had hanged himself the morning before. Hanged himself on Easter morning.

I think I shivered. It was about the first time I had heard of a suicide. It also was one of the few times I had heard of the poor farm.

By that date, it was not a farm any longer. It was a large house on a large lot on Burlington Avenue. With one gone, there still were six old men in residence. They helped with a big garden, and they did chores. No trained care was provided. The men bathed themselves only irregularly. Their beds had no sheets.

This was the fate of many old people in that time before Social Security and Medicare, and before licensed nursing homes. It might have been the fate of some of us.

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Lately, I was talking Betty Atchison. Betty picked up the story at that date - six decades gone by - and traced the beginning of nursing homes at Worthington, which really is the beginning of nursing homes for all our region.

Dave and Effa Fauskee, with their young family, were living on 10th Street. Effa’s parents, Mr. and Mrs. Charles Erwin, lived in a large house on McMillan Street, at what later would be made the intersection with Clary Street.

“Grandpa went to mother [to Effa],” Betty said. “Grandpa asked mother to come home and to take care of Grandma. He said Grandma was very low.”

The Fauskees agreed to make the move. It fell on Effa Fauskee to care first for her failing mother and then for her father. Along the way, she found other local people in failing health and in poverty. She brought them to the McMillan Street house, and she cared for them as she did for her parents.

“She was just a totally caring person,” Betty says. “She did meals, she did laundry - she cut people’s nails.”

The Minnesota legislature ruled Minnesota’s poor farms must be abolished. John Manion, who was director of relief - welfare - in Nobles County went to Effa Fauskee. “We have to find a place for six old men,” Manion said. “Would you take them?” Mrs. Fauskee said she would.

The men arrived. Their trunks with all their possessions were brought to the front lawn. “That really was the beginning,” Betty says. Worthington had its first nursing home, Fauskee Nursing Home. An annex with three bedrooms, a dining room, and a bath was added to the house. The home was licensed. Betty and her mother both became licensed practical nurses.

Growth followed growth. The annex was followed by the first addition. “By 1952,” Betty remembers, “there was a big waiting list. Well, there was no other home around, none at Luverne, none at Slayton, none at Jackson.”

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Betty and Alfred Atchison opened a second home, Haven Home, at 706 Clary St., which continued the expansion. “Alfred built it room by room,” Betty says.

In 1954, the Atchisons bought the large, original H.J. Ludlow house on South Shore Drive. “That house is awesome,” Betty exclaims. “That certainly is one of Worthington’s historic houses. You know, the first story is all rock. The walls are 18 inches thick.”

The Ludlow house became Lake Haven. “That was for patients who were up and about. We assigned patients who were bedridden to Haven Home.”

“At that time, we had chickens - Charlie Burnham raised chickens for us. We always had fresh eggs. We all worked together. Alfred even would sometimes hang laundry on the line.”

Betty continued studies, becoming an RN and earning a separate BA degree in guidance and counseling. There came to be A Wing, extending west from the house. Then B Wing. C Wing and D Wing came through 1968 and 1969.

“Worthington had come a long ways,” Betty Atchison reflects. “By that time we were about 25 years from the days of the poor farm, those old men with no money, even battling bed bugs.”

“Once families cared for their own elderly,” Betty remembers. “Even 50 years ago, this still was true. Our society has changed greatly since those times. The coming of nursing homes was a Worthington milestone.”

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