A Baptist Home blast from the past

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Elizabeth Newman
Elizabeth Newman

Coming from a long line of folks who hate to throw anything away, culling more than 250 books this summer from our house has been physically painful. But the cleaning also has resulted in some unexpected treasures.

In a family Bible belonging to my husband's great-grandfather, a Missouri Baptist minister, we discovered notes on Christ, a magazine short story and a May 1968 copy of The Baptist Home newsletter, sent from Ironton, MO.

I learned that The Baptist Home was founded by Milford Riggs, with legend having it that he stood on Sunset Rock at St. Francois Mountain envisioning the spot. He and Mary Riggs opened a rented house in Ironton in 1913 with two residents, according to a 2006 newsletter.

Obviously, the newsletter is a window into an era long gone, not just of nursing homes but of life. In the newsletter, under each birthday listed for June (with the residents born between 1873 and 1894) is a note that says “And what is a suitable birthday gift? Sometimes it's hard to decide, but a nice greeting card with a dollar bill is always acceptable.”

Every resident listed is given a courtesy title of Miss, Mrs. or Mr. Three obituaries list the person's name, age, site of burial and date of death, which you'd expect to find today. But unlike other obits, the Baptist Home also listed when they arrived at the home, how long they had been a Baptist, and where they were a church member. Each new resident has a separate photo with her name and where they are from, along with a note that “on average they had been Baptists for 59 years and seven months, and have served faithfully and well.”

A lot of space is given for resident poems or quotes about prayer.

What's charming about the newsletter is what hasn't changed. Much of what you highlight in your newsletters today, or what we share in McKnight's, still remains newsworthy. The newsletter starts by discussing who has visited, such as the Franklin Association Preachers and various ministers. It highlights a medical missionary, Mariam Misner, who came back from Indonesia to visit her mother, a resident of the home since 1965. The newsletter writes that she had spent a month at the home and “it has been a rare and thrilling experience to have her speak on several occasions to our people.”

Sunday School classes from Carondelet Church visited with oranges and apples, and the section concludes with “It is always good to have church groups and other visitors come our way.” There's a large photo of the home from the driveway with a caption that notes, “The Home occupies one of the most beautiful settings to be found anywhere.”

What's evident is not only the sense of caring, but the sense of pride, both in the residents and in the campus. Today, sometimes we focus so much on residents' needs that we forget the importance of employees taking pride in their setting, in their work and in the mission of what they do.

I suspect that's part of the reason why The Baptist Home is still going strong: Today it has several campuses, including the Arcadia campus still in Ironton. But most notably, across the masthead in 1968 is the passage, “Cast me not off in time of old age; forsake me not when my strength faileth,” from Psalm 71.9 (NKJV). 

That can still be seen across the top of the Baptist Home website, a sign that while we may not give dollar bills in birthday cards, our values do not, or should not, change with time.

Follow Senior Editor Elizabeth Newman @TigerELN.


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Daily Editors' Notes

McKnight's Daily Editors' Notes features commentary on the latest in long-term care news and issues. Entries are written by Editorial Director John O'Connor, Editor James M. Berklan, Senior Editor Elizabeth Newman and Staff Writer Marty Stempniak.