Randie Duretz, Director of Activities, Luther Woods Nursing and Rehabilitation Center
Randie Dale Duretz was named after a race horse, and by all accounts her parents must have been prescient.
The veteran director of activities at Luther Woods Nursing and Rehabilitation Center has a seemingly endless supply of energy and enthusiasm. She’ll often arrive at work during the 5 a.m. hour and not depart until after 6 p.m. She owns 133 costumes, which she wears to work to celebrate every little holiday or occurrence.
In the past, she’s roller skated by residents’ rooms, trying to get them to participate in activities.
“My goodness, I don’t think the woman ever sleeps,” says John Thomas, an occupational therapist at the Hatboro, PA, nursing home.
“She is one of a kind,” adds longtime Administrator Lynn McLaughlin, recalling one recent instance when Duretz had all of the residents wearing pink tutus to celebrate breast cancer awareness.
While Duretz’s boundless energy was inherited at birth, her desire to work in eldercare came much later on. She grew up in a “hopping neighborhood” of Winfield, PA, with two younger brothers (who are also “go-getters”) and was treated “like a princess” by her mother, a homemaker who dabbled in talent management, and father, who was in the photo-finishing business.
She went to commercial arts school in the early 1970s, looking to become a professional greeting card artist. But she had a change of heart after visiting her grandparents at a nursing home. Seeing Bubby and Zeda parked in front of a window each time, with little to keep them entertained, she decided to go back to school with an eye toward nursing home care.
After working in photography with her father and for Philadelphia City Council member James Tayoun, Duretz landed her first nursing home job in 1985 as an activities assistant. She directed activities for nine years, followed by several years of jumping from one facility to the next, helping with openings. After a break for a few years, she made her way back to Luther Woods in 2011, where she’s been ever since.
“Our activities department was never the same, so I recruited her to come back,” says McLaughlin, the home’s administrator for more than 30 years.
Duretz has implemented numerous programs over the years. One of her favorites is “Brush Stroke,” which has residents using household items, such as credit cards, to paint pictures. She’s also brought her love for boat excursions to the residence by hosting week-long “cruises,” where residents get to visit different ports throughout the facility to play games and sample different cuisines. “I feel like I’m a cruise director on land, but the ship’s always in a calm mood,” says Duretz, who’s been on 13 real cruises herself.
Earlier this year, the National Association of Activity Professionals recognized Duretz as its Professional of the Year.
Duretz — happily divorced since 1985, she says — likes to spend time with her boyfriend of 14 years, Michael Cohn, and 4-year-old black cat, Melley. She has a special affinity for animals and has often lent her spare time to doing voluntary pet therapy work after hours. She also has a special place in her heart for another animal — her beloved Philadelphia Eagles football team.
The “Energizer Bunny,” as her co-workers call her, said she has no interest in hanging up her activities director hat anytime soon.
“Nope. Not right now,” she says. “I’ve still got lots to do. Endless energy and so much still up my sleeve.”
Earns a two-year certificate from a community arts school
Lands first nursing home job as activities assistant at Ashton Hall Nursing & Rehab Center in Philadelphia
Earns director of activities license from the National Certification Council for Activity Professionals
Joins Luther Woods for the first time as director of activities and volunteers
Leaves to help open the RidgeCrest assisted living facility, followed by several stints at other providers
Earns personal care home administrator license
Rejoins Luther Woods as director of activities and volunteers
Recognized as the National Association of Activity Professionals’ “Professional of the Year”
Publishes, with two co-authors, “168 Hour Caregiving Work Week: Activity and Behavior Interventions for Low-Functioning Individuals”