Retirement is usually not an unusual occurrence.
But this summer at Friendship Manor in St. Elmo, it was a special event, as Versie Baucum had worked 39 consecutive years in the same position – a certified nurse’s aide – in the same location, caring for nursing home residents in an occupation that is very fulfilling and satisfying, but one that can also be both physically and emotionally taxing.
One tends to become very attached and bonded to their patients, often regarding them as an extended family, even as an uncle or aunt.
“I have never wanted to work anyplace else,” Versie said.
Versie entered this occupation as a labor of love, to provide food and shelter for her young children, for whom she was suddenly left alone to care for and raise.
For 39 years, she walked to and from work at the nearby nursing home … at night, through snow, through rain.
And, 39 years later, when she retired, she still considered it a labor of love, for the residents of Friendship Manor she has taken care of all these years.
Versie has an unassuming, sweet, kind and helpful personality, which is manifested in her friendliness, cheerful countenance and frequent, brilliant smile.
Thirty-Nine Years Ago
When asked what had inspired her to choose being a nurse’s aide as her lifetime occupation, she said that initially, it was out of necessity – the sudden circumstance of finding herself as the sole provider and caregiver of her four children.
“I had a baby not yet a year old, a 4-year-old, and two teenagers. The nursing home was close to home and I could walk to work.
“It was close enough, they would let me come back anytime during the night, two or three times a night, to check on my children. It just worked out better for me, and I have never wanted to work anyplace else.” she said.
Her Chosen Profession
Versie has always worked the night shift – 11 p.m.-7 a.m.
“There have been a lot of changes (in nursing home staff requirements) over the years,” she said. “When I started, there was no nurse on duty during those hours. There would be two aides, and the one that had more service would be the one that would chart.
“If something happened, we would call the director of nursing to come in. We have a lot more people working now, and that is good. It is a real nice nursing home.”
Versie and the Resident/Patients
Versie has a compassionate nature and admits to developing a special fondness for patients through caring for them.
“There are some patients you don’t forget; you remember them forever,” she said. “Even yet I remember them.”
Versie also remembers past owners and managers of the facility.
Changing of the Guard at the Home
“The Lavernias owned the home at the beginning,” she said.
“When I first started working, the patients were from Anna and other places. None were from here locally. Then the Mays, Howard and Angie, bought it, and they wanted to have the elderly people from around the area, so changes were made.
Versie has high praises for the present administrator and staff of Friendship manor.
“(Administrator) Chuck Hutson has Friendship Manor now, and I have really enjoyed working for him; he is such a nice guy,” Versie said.
She also praised the director of nursing, Sherry Baker. “She is real nice – I don’t think I have ever worked under anyone that I liked any better than her. Not as much, even. She is so caring.”
Versie’s Yesterdays, Todays and Tomorrows
Yesterdays – Versie faced her yesterdays with the spirit of courage, conscientiousness, determination and amazing stamina.
“It (the job) made a living for me, it was close to home and they always let me come home and check on my children; the older ones took care of the younger ones” she said.
“But I didn’t just do that work. During the day, I cleaned houses and babysat. I did other stuff, too, to make it,” she said.
“When I would get off at 7 in the morning, I’d come home, sleep a couple of hours, then go on to another job. When my youngest daughter was in kindergarten, I’d clean for different people, and they would pick her up from the bus for me.”
Today- Still a night owl, she admits, “I sleep better in the daytime, like going to sleep at 4 o’clock in the morning. After 39 years of working nights, I’m just better adjusted to that.”
Her daughter, Sandra Evans, added, “Sometimes she will be up at 3 o’clock in the morning, cleaning house or cooking.”
Versie’s six children – Michael, Sandra, Russell, Steven, Darren and Michelle – were instrumental in her decision to retire. They regard her as “Super Mom.”
“We all just adore her,” Sandra said.
“I’m retiring from everything,” Versie said. “The years of work have taken its toll on my back. I have an epidural coming up, and then I can do things and not hurt,” she said. “Otherwise, she shared, her health is not too bad, to which Sandra said. “We go walking every night, and I can hardly keep up with her,” Sandra said.
“My kids were mostly the reason I retire now,” she said. “They were afraid I would fall and break something, especially walking back and forth in the ice and snow. It will be kind of nice when I don’t have to get out,” she admitted.
Tomorrows-She has plans to travel with her children when her back is better, work out in the yard, watch TV and, she said, “I enjoy taking my cup of coffee outside.”
Versie’s Labors of Love…
…those of caring and providing for her children, spilled over onto the patients she cared for. She went down the hall during her retirement party to give them a hug goodbye.
She will be missed at Friendship Manor, but she will most likely keep the path worn down between her house and the facility.