Looking back, and ahead

Written by Bill Rautenstrauch, for The Observer April 24, 2013 02:38 pm

At 98 years of age, Grande Ronde Retirement Residence’s most senior resident Neva Neill, along with GRRR’s executive director Jessie Huxol, are set to celebrate the residence’s 25th anniversary celebration Thursday. (CHRIS BAXTER/The Observer)
At 98 years of age, Grande Ronde Retirement Residence’s most senior resident Neva Neill, along with GRRR’s executive director Jessie Huxol, are set to celebrate the residence’s 25th anniversary celebration Thursday. (CHRIS BAXTER/The Observer)

by BILL RAUTENSTRAUCH / for The Observer 

Twenty five years from now, someone’s going to open a time capsule and find out a little something about the people who lived and worked at Grande Ronde Retirement Residence a quarter century before.

Residents of the facility on Gekeler Lane will have placed mementoes from their lives in the capsule, and they’ll have written letters, too.  Staff and local sponsors will add a few items as well. 

Grande Ronde Retirement Executive Director Jessie Huxol said that as time capsules go, this one will be special. It will contain the memories of people who have lived through tumultuous times, especially World War II.

 “We’ll put it all in the ground, place a memorial over it and it’ll be opened in another 25 years,” Huxol said. “We have people from all over living here. It’s neat to have that wide variety of history.”

The time capsule dedication is one of a series of events planned for Thursday, April 25, when Grande Ronde Retirement marks its 25th anniversary. The facility opened in 1988, offering both independent and assisted living arrangements for seniors.

 Huxol said the Thursday celebration marks more than an anniversary.

Recently, state inspectors visited the residence and gave it a deficiency-free rating.  It’s a point of pride for everybody there, Huxol said.

“The inspectors go through our records and make sure we’re truly caring for the seniors,” she said. “A deficiency-free inspection is not very common. We’re very excited about it, so this is going to be a dual celebration.”

Carl Campbell opened the complex at the corner of Gekeler Lane and 12th Street in 1988, and owned it until just last year when he sold it to Formation Capital, a private investment management company that focuses on senior housing and care.

Huxol said that while different owners have come aboard, not much else has changed. Durham, Ore.  based Frontier Management remains the facility’s contract manager, and there’s been little or no turnover is staff.

“We have many long-term employees, and that gives us continuity. Our staff is very loving and passionate about their jobs, and it helps that we don’t have that revolving door,” Huxol said.

Some 58 employees see to the day to day needs of Grande Ronde Retirement’s 99 residents. The employees include a registered nurse, a resident care coordinator, an activities director, a business office manager, dietary and housekeeping staff, and more.

Overall, they do a big job. Residents live in apartments, and need varying levels of care. Huxol said residents in the assisted living category get all the help they need with medication and nutrition management, and activities of daily living.

Work the staff does is bolstered by a host of volunteers who help with the facility’s activities program. Huxol said those activities range from slide shows to shopping and field trips. Just now, some of the residents are looking forward to a planned boating trip on Wallowa Lake.

“We do a wide variety of activities, it’s not just bingo every day,” Huxol said. “Volunteers make so much of it possible. I encourage anybody who wants to volunteer with a senior community to do so, whether it is ours or a different one. They’ll always be accepted. There are never enough.”

On Tuesday, Huxol and her staff were busy preparing for the celebration, which will include in-house activities for residents only, plus events designed to welcome family members and the public.

Those events include a 4 p.m. social time with wine and beer provided Earth and Vine of Baker City. At 4:45 p.m. Huxol will make some welcoming remarks, and at 5 p.m. a 25th anniversary ribbon cutting by the Union County Chamber of Commerce will take place. Huxol said La Grande Mayor Daniel Pokorney and other community leaders will be on hand for that.

There will be a barbecue for family members, and live music by the Blue Mountaineers. The time capsule will be dedicated at 5:30 p.m.