Baldwin Oral History cover sheet:
Interviewee:Mary Ellen Baldwin
Place of Interview:41 Chatfield Drive, Lakeville, Ct.
Date:January 21, 2014
Summary of talk: Family background, years as a nurse and supervisor at Noble Horizons 1976-2014. Bought Caddy Shack in Canaan in 2011, President of EXTRAS in early days, Jane Lloyd Fund, Palliative Care, and the CNAs.
This is file 70. I am interviewing Mary Ellen Baldwin who is going to talk about Noble Horizons, her time working there in various positions, her Y2K project on the residents of Noble Horizons and anything she happens to think about. The date today is January 21, 2014. This is Jean McMillen.
JM: What is your full name?
MEB: Mary Ellen Baldwin
JM: Your birthdate, please?
JM: Your birthplace?
MEB: Rockville Center, Long Island, New York
JM: Your parents’ names?
MEB: Mary Katherine O’Donnell Winters, Francis James Winters
JM: Did you have siblings?
MEB: I am one of six, 4 boys and 2 girls.
JM: Their names?
MEB: Paul is the oldest, I am the second oldest, Robert is the third, Kathleen, Peter Carey, and the baby is Timothy.
JM: You had a wonderful story of how you came to Lakeville through your husband’s connection. Please tell me that.
MEB: My husband’s father James Baldwin was a banker for Matt Chamberlin who at that time was running the Wake Robin Inn in Lakeville. He was doing some work in Florida so my husband‘s father was helping him financially how to figure it all out. My husband (Jerry Baldwin) would come up here to the Wake robin when he was a boy. He remembers at age 7 saying, ”I’m going to live here someday.” They loved to go out to the rock island out there in the lake. They called it their Treasure Island. So when we were married, he kept telling me we were going to move here, but I had always lived on Long island, and I wasn’t going anywhere! Yeah ha ha here we are. Silly me. So he did find a job in Hopewell Junction, New York, so we could live here in Lakeville.
MEB: Yeah it was; I wouldn’t go back at all. At that time I wasn’t sure though.
JM: It is a big change.
MEB: Oh yeah. There was no television for the kids. How could they watch Sesame Street?
JM: What is your educational background?
MEB: I am a registered nurse. I went to St. Vincent’s School of Nursing in New York City.
JM: A RN?
JM: When did you start working at Noble?
MEB: When we first moved here in 1975, I started at Noble probably 1976 or 1977, probably 1976. I was pregnant with my daughter, and they needed a private duty nurse for one of their residents. I was asked by Betty Thompson, my neighbor, if I would be interested in helping do that. I took that on part time and then after my daughter Erin was born in 1977, they needed a nurse to work evening shift 4 hours. So I worked on a Friday evening for 4 hours and then slowly but surely they hooked me in more and more.
JM: Are you still there?
MEB: I am still there, but part time doing some odd jobs. I “retired” and then I came back.
JM: You flunked retirement!
MEB: I flunked retirement. I just can’t separate from them. I need to go in and touch everybody and say hello and be there. I assist the dentist (Dr. Elizabeth Dekker) who comes in once a month. I do activities with her, I help in other areas that they need help in.
JM: Do you with the residents in Wagner and Riga?
JM: As well as the cottagers?
MEB: The cottagers, if there is an emergency and they need to see the dentist they can come in, otherwise they are capable. They are independent so they go to the doctor appointments themselves. Except that Noble does have a transport systems so if they need help, they can have that, but otherwise the cottagers are independent.
JM: You became a supervisor at one point?
MEB: Yes, I retired as one of the supervisors.
JM: When did you technically retire?
MEB: Technically I retired probably 3 years ago. I retired to buy a business and to take care of grand babies. I still have the business, I still have the grandbabies and I still work at Noble.
JM: What was the business?
MEB: We bought the Caddy Shack up in Canaan which is mini gold and a restaurant. My husband and I and my daughter Erin and her husband bought that. This will be our third summer so we retired to buy a business; isn’t that why you retire to buy a business? I make a mean chocolate shake.
JM: I’ll bet you do.
MEB: I don’t do the cooking but I do wait on the windows and my husband helps do the mini golf, batting cages, arcade. We have a pavilion, publicity plug!
JM: That’s alright. I can go for that. When you were working at Noble, what were some of your duties?
MEB: Some of my duties were as a supervisor we helped take care of the Cobble, and cottagers with their needs, and then overseeing each unit in the main building.
JM: Now the Cobble’s function has changed when Foster was there for a week to give me a break (2004) it was individual rooms for rehab or a mini break. Now it is more of a hotel situation?
MEB: I always said the Cobble was the college building where you had your own unit with your own room with a full bathroom, showers and whatever. Then it was combined with living room, dining room kitchen, library and activity room. You could own a car; some were there 6 months, some were there 2 months; some were there all the time. You could come and go as you wanted. It has expanded now; there’s a club house with a full bar. It is beautiful with a gas fireplace that the Perotti family donated. There are units that have a living room, kitchen, an efficiency type, bathroom, bedroom- a full unit so that you can cook your own meals if you want. There are still the single bedroom units. But you can always come and go. Now as an addition there is the Out Patient Rehab Center which was built in the corner of the Cobble so some of those rooms were taken away and now it is a rehab unit.
JM: Wonderful. They keep adding functions. One of the things that I really was impressed with with Eileen Mulligan is the community outreach for so much. It’s a focal part of the community and a lot of ways and people go there without felling inhibited or intimidated.
MEB: A lot of people go in there. The Taconic Learning Center has the Learning Center as we call it. It has programs constantly. Some of them are given by the residents Mr. Bob Julien gives a beautiful musical program. Barbara Hesse has great stories and is very knowledgeable woman gives talks, and then there are other programs offered. A lot of people from the community come in to them.
JM: Yes, I have been to some of the Taconic Learning Center programs that have been there.
MEB: Of course they have a great gift shop, and Caroline Burchfield constantly has something going on in the community center or the learning Center.
JM: There are usually Saturday lectures or activities that she provides.
MEB: There’s a volunteer program that is unbelievable, a pet program, pet therapy. The Auxiliary are great they do a lot of functions; people donate to them if you have talked to Mary Barton about that.
JM: It is a great community.
MEB: It is a great community and your neighbor, Janet Neary, her granddaughter Josie has fallen in love with the building itself, the residents but has zeroed in on one woman. She visits her every Saturday morning; she plays the piano with her. Josie has taken up piano lessons, so she plays with her and visits her. But all the other residents around want her, to talk to her. So she visits many of them; she absolutely loves it, a 9 year old little girl, but she absolutely loves it.
JM: There are a lot of grandparents that she has acquired. That is fine because you need the relationship and the interrelationship for the generations.
MEB: Oh yes, and just the knowledge from this 9 year old that a 94 year old person is a person; it’s is not an old grumpy old lady that I hear about. She puts a smile on this woman’s face. It is great.
JM: Other memories?
MEB: Oh there are so many memories; I just loved every person that I ever took care of and that’s why I loved it and stayed there for thirty some-odd years. You can learn so much from the elderly. I can remember when I first went there; there were a husband and wife team and she would always be a little crabby and I’d say, “Oh she’s just like a 3 year old.” Somebody said to me years ago, “You never say that.” and I learned so quickly that you never say that because we all have our grumpy times and we all have our baby times, but they are human beings. They had a life and no matter who they are then, we accepted them for who they were then, not caring about how they were before. They were just wonderful. A family member said that to me, “I lost mother to Noble.” And I said, “We gained your mother at Noble. She became our person.” We learned to love her no matter what dementia she was in and what illness she had or what crotchety old ways she created for herself. That’s what it is at Noble; we learn to love these people at a different level and space that they are in right now.
JM: That leads me to my next question about your Y2K project. Tell me about that.
MEB: Well when it was going to be the turn of the century, I said, “Geez all these people that we know who they are now what were they and who were they back then?” So I just decided to interview as many as I could in the building about their memories or their 100 years because a lot of them had those memories way back to the beginning. So I just interviewed them and asked them if they could not remember a lot, I would ask for one memory. So they would give me one memory. Some of them talked forever. It was so much fun to go back and I learned so much. I learned so much about the cabs that they used to take, the shows they used to see, and places they lived in; who they were and where they were and how they came to Noble. A lot of them just brought smiles back and the gleam in their eye. They can’t remember what their name is today, but boy they sure can remember what happened when they were 12 or 13.
JM: That is so important. It validates them in that moment.
MEB: It sure does. It is amazing how they can remember and you put on a Frank Sinatra record and they are all tapping their feet, dancing if they can, and singing the song. Luckily they don’t know the rock and roll of today. I shouldn’t say the rock and roll, because that’s a fun thing, the rock of today. My grandmother’s hair would be curled for sure if she ever heard some of this music.
JM: I don’t know that we’d call it music.
MEB: No, the blast, but the kids today do.
JM: Besides Noble, what are some of the civic things that you have done for the community, either through your church or other activities?
MEB: Well, I was on the Extras board; I was President, Steve victory and I helped with that along with Dick Taber back in the beginning days. My kids when there that is one of the ways I could go and work an evening shift before my husband came home. So they would go to Extras or I had a babysitter. Then my daughter was Director of Extras so it was a positive way that I could help there. At Church (St. Mary’s) I was on many of the parish councils and boards there under Father Forte. I take care of my grandkids.
JM: Jane Lloyd Fund?
MEB: Oh yes, I worked and helped with the lobster/ clambake every year, and the Relay for Life. I walk there. We had a team this year having received a good clear report on a good friend of mine, so we were called “Dean’s Dollies”. We had red bows around our neck and we walked for him. I have walked for the Relay for Life because I’m a7 ½ year cancer survivor. My daughter (Megan) and I are in charge of desserts for the Jane Lloyd lobster/clambake. All of them contribute.
JM: CNA and Palliative Care?
MEB: Oh yeah the Palliative Care at Noble. I was part of starting that as I always say, “Nobody should be alone in their final moments.” Palliative Care is really pre hospice days now so that when we first did it, it was really Hospice time, but now that we do have an active Hospice program (SVNA) in town, it is pre there. It is just zeroing in on that person the needs they have; some family members do get involved. Do they want to have them hospitalized when you see that there is definitely a decline, and it is going in a certain direction, how do they want to take care of it? What support do we give those residents at that time? Many residents don’t have people visit at all or very seldom, so therefore they need to have one on one or zeroing in. At Noble they do get everybody out of their room; nobody stays in bed, nobody becomes a loner, but you know when people are at the point where they are in their declining days, they don’t need to be in the congestion of a room, they actually have a quiet room there where they can go in; there is music and soft feeling there. Otherwise we create that atmosphere in their room so that they are not agitated, and they need to be soothed. So the Palliative Care is bringing all the disciplines together and zeroing in on that person and their needs at that time. Now we have Hospice where we can have the community come in; the VNA and volunteers come in and sit with people, but we wanted to make sure that there was always somebody with somebody.
JM: It is a wonderful program.
MEB: Yes, it is. We have actual bunch; we have had family come in that wanted to be with their loved ones, my father included, where we had a weekend of people just bunking down and I ‘ve had families come in. They were out in the hallways so we finally said, “Hey we have to find places for these people. We now have a cart that actually has toiletries, if they need to shower, or slippers. We can have blankets for them and/or bath robes so we can have them stay at an alcove or at an activity room where they can actually rest themselves, so they can be with their loved one. There is a DVD player or music boxes of whatever and disc, cd’s so we can play that music from Frank Sinatra to Beethoven to whatever it is that person zeros in on.
JM: Do you have anything else that you would like to add to this interview?
MEB: Just that I loved working with the staff and the residents. The CNA’s are wonderful; there are some that were started or came right after I started. They are so devoted; it is a very difficult position. You can very easily get frustrated or get tired of it, but they know when that point comes they regroup, they take over and they are just so wonderful, the care that they can give.
JM: What is a CNA?
MEB: Oh a certified nursing assistant. You have the nurse who is doing the nursing jobs, the medication, and the dressing procedures, but the CNAs are the ones who give the hand-on. They are the ones that dress, toilet, bathe and console residents on a daily 8 hour basis. It is a very big job and they are wonderful. With these people I would go forever taking care of the elders because they are a wonderful generation.
JM: Thank you so much for this interview. I really appreciate it.
MEB: You are welcome.