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A tearful goodbye at Picton Manor – Home with a Heart

Julie Allison carefully wheels Phoebe Way down the ramp at Picton Manor for the final time.

Betsy Cole has a last chat with Phoebe Way before she leaves for her new home at West Lake Terrace.

Emotions ran high Friday morning at Picton’s Home with a Heart as staff gathered for their final shift and said tearful goodbyes to the nursing home’s final three residents.

Known as the “Home with a Heart”, Picton Manor has been part of the community for more than a century. In the early 1900s the older part of the home on Hill Street was Picton’s first hospital. It has operated as long-term care facility since the 1960s.

Picton Manor’s 90 employees, 57 residents and their family members learned in late May that the 78-bed long term care facility was closing due to electrical, structural and financial issues.

Since, the residents and their families were to apply for new homes from 36 available locations in the south-east LHIN area which includes Prince Edward, Hastings, Leeds-Grenville, Lanark, Lennox-Addington and Frontenac counties.

Staff members have been looking for jobs.

Julie Allison has been a health care aide for the past 26 years. The position was grandfathered into nursing homes as applicants today must have a PSW (personal service worker) designation.

“I just finished my training and final exam and I’m ready to complete the final placement component,” she said, noting she hopes to find a job in the County but suspects she may have to work in Belleville, or beyond.

“Everybody has applied here, so I will probably have to go to Belleville. This has been my life. Right out of high school I worked at Beckers on Main Street then one day I came here for an interview and the next day I had a job and I’ve been here ever since. And today is just a sad, sad day all round. It’s so tearful to say goodbye.”

Betsy Cole, a 27-year staff member, said she was pleased to see many of the Manor’s residents were able to find a bed at one of four Prince Edward County nursing homes  – H.J. McFarland Memorial Home, Kentwood Park, Versa Care Hallowell House and West Lake Terrace.

“Some, with family members in Belleville or other areas, went with them, but the ministry has been very good working with the families,” Cole said. “As for us, we didn’t know when our last day was going to be except that it would be when the last resident found their new home. Many tears have been shed.”

Diane King was the food services supervisor and has been working in the kitchen for the past 31 years. She will take a bit of time off before looking for another job.

“It was a sad day when I woke up this morning. All I wanted to do was cry. I’ve been coming here for 31 years. It’s hard.”

Cole, who was born in the Picton Manor building when it was Picton’s first hospital, said she was thinking the same thing as she drove down Main Street on her way to work her final shift this morning.

“It’s been a really busy week here,” she said. “All the equipment we rented is being taken out and all the paper work has been looked after.  What the future is for this building is unknown.”

The Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care took over the operation of Picton Manor in May and appointed Extendicare Canada, based in Markham, as interim manager. Safety concerns following fire inspections in January turned into inspections from the Electrical Safety Association and the posting of an “immense threat to life” notice until repairs were made. But further concerns remained and new admissions to the home were stopped in February.

About four years ago, owner Steve Bordo had announced plans to upgrade the Class ‘D’ facility (‘D’ meaning it does not meet 1972 standards) but facing opposition from neighbours and the municipality, he decided to build a 96-bed facility in Belleville. To date, his plan has not received required approvals. He also owns SeniorsCare which operates homes in Brighton and Bracebridge.

Phoebe Way, 94, of Milford was the second last resident to leave what has been her home, and extended family, for the past seven years. Phoebe is the third generation of her family to stay at Picton Manor, which was also home for her mother, and for her son.

Grandchildren, Brenda and Blaine arrived Friday morning to help her on her way to her new home at West Lake Terrace.

“We’re so glad she got to stay for as long as she did,” said Brenda. “When she came here she was in very good health and knew a lot of the staff, their parents or their grandparents. And a lot of these girls I went to school with so we all had a real connection here and it was always good.”

Phoebe most enjoyed the huge contingent of volunteers we had coming here all the time, said Betsy. People like Bill Sallans, who played his music here often. “And she loved Rennie McIntosh (Thompson) ” Brenda adds, who was just a little girl when she started singing here.”

A few of the staff members have gained employment at West Lake, so there will be a few familiar faces for Phoebe.

The weeks leading up to her move were as usual.

“The care continued to be exemplary right up until the very last resident and the staff rose to the occasion in a very difficult time,” said Sharon Gilmour, of Extendicare.

Phoebe helped husk corn for dinner and enjoyed a trip to the Picton Fair where she ate a candy apple and had a visit with horses she so loves from her days on the Way farm.

“The staff here always had her best interests in mind,” said Brenda.

As Phoebe waited in the sun room for her ride to West Lake, she munched a few cherry tomatoes picked from the residents’ garden just a few yards away, and she sipped a fresh coffee.

“Gramma used to like to break beans and husk corn around the table with the others here she knows so well. They would talk about recipes and the old days. That’s one of the reasons we’re happy that she’s staying in the County. We’re hoping it will be the same out at West Lake.”

Picton Manor’s residents’ council has donated its many purchases – including televisions, Christmas ornaments and the bingo machine – to other homes. A $1,200 donation has gone to Picton’s Kinsmen Club to sponsor a Monster Bingo in November.

“One last swallow of the coffee, Phobe. It’s time to go,” says one of the staff members as she adjusts the afghan warming Phoebe’s knees.

The other staff members gather in the hallway to follow Pheobe outside, wish her well, and say goodbye.

“You’re leaving, Phoebe. We’re going to miss you,” one says as they gather on the patio for a photograph.

“Well, I’m going to miss you, too,” Phoebe replies. “And your coffee.”

With a few light-hearted comments about making sure she asks at West Lake for her favourite bacon and tomato sandwiches, Julie carefully wheels her down the ramp for the final time and helps get her into the Access Van for her drive to West Lake.

Betsy runs in for a final hug and kiss.

There’s tears all round in the driveway of the “Home with a Heart”.

“It has been the same story for every goodbye here,” says Betsy as she watches Phoebe’s van pull away.

“It’s a sad day.”

Staff members gather around Pheobe Way to wish her well, and say goodbye.

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  1. Fran Renoy says:

    Sue-your story on Picton Manor was extremly well done. I like Doris will miss seeing the volunteers and staff walking or wheeling patients along Hill St. They always had a friendly greeting for you. It was nice that you conducted interviews with the residents and staff as it must have been very difficult for them to leave after so many years. It probably was very theraputic for them to relate their stories. Picton Manor was truly the “Home With A Heart” run by amazing and very caring staff.

  2. Sheila Calnan says:

    Thank you for all the wonderful care you gave our Aunt ( Pheobe Way). She always had very nice things to say about the Staff and Home. Sheila Calnan & Sharen Kitchen

  3. Marisa says:

    Thanks for spending some time with us yesterday Sue, during our final hours. Very much appreciated!

  4. Dale and Muriel Wager says:

    We want to let everyone know how much we enjoyed over the last almost 20 years that we have come to Picton Manor for a little church every month. I have told many times that I have never gone anywhere that people were so happy to see us come. We have met so many wonderful people and have counted them as true friends. It truly is a “sad” day to see the home close. I honestly can say that it was the “Home with a Heart”

  5. Dee Alder says:

    Goodby Girls, you were loved by my Mom and she sorely missed you when she left..thanks so much for everything!!

  6. Doris Lane says:

    Well I miss seeing the residents walking or being pushed down Hill Street and greeting me when I was in the front. I miss seeing them enjoying a picnic in the park.
    It is a sad day for the residents, the staff and the neighbours on Hill Street.

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