May 18, 2003

The Beginning of Woodside Lutheran Home

The vision of a nursing home began with Pastor Dean Kilgust, Grace Lutheran Church, and Pastor Clarence Solberg, Trinity Lutheran Church, and some of the members of their congregations. A fund was set up where gifts could be given towards building a nursing home. An organizational meeting was held in June of 1963. I was not at that meeting, being on a family vacation at the time. A board of directors and officers were elected as follows:

  1. Hlmer Eliason – Ashwaubenon
  2. Ray Fedler – Suring
  3. Dr. John Goelz – Green Bay
  4. Ray Johnson – Manitowoc
  5. Pastor Dean Kilgust – Green Bay
  6. Melvin Markwart – Sturgeon Bay
  7. Harry Olson – Green Bay
  8. Pastor Clarence Solberg – Green Bay
  9. Pastor Gordon Thorpe – Escanaba, MI

The officers elected were:

  • Clarence Solberg – President
  • John Goelz – Vice President
  • Dean Kilgust – Secretary
  • Melvin Markwart – Treasurer

One of the first meetings was with Pastor John Mason, the representative of the American Lutheran Church, an advisor for groups wanting to build nursing homes. I remember one of the things he told us was that it would take about five years before the home would be ready for occupancy. As a group we felt it could be done in a shorter time, but it is interesting to note that the organizational meeting was held in June of 1963 and the first resident moved into Woodside in May of 1968.

The first three tasks of the Board were:

  • Find a site on which to build the home.
  • Hire an architect.
  • Finance the project.

A number of sites were considered and some were offered for sale and as donations. One was an offer of the donation of five acres and the sale of five acres to the home. The site that was chosen, and where the home was built, was purchased for $55,000.00 and consists of 18.8 acres lying between Pilgrim Way on the South and Anderson Drive on the North. At that time it was a cornfield with a huge gravel pit in the center and a small area fenced off in the Southwest corner with grass and trees on it. Some of the trees are still there South of the Nursing Home and Manor I.

A number of architects were interviewed and the firm of Berners and Schober Associates was chosen and retained. The architect designed the Nursing Home in such a way that it was built into the south wall of the gravel pit so that the resident rooms are at ground level on the south side. Because of the depth and size of the gravel pit the central part of the home is a two-story building with the top story also being at ground level on the south and the lower story is at ground level on the north end.

The corporation was formed with twenty-nine Lutheran congregations in Green Bay and outlying cities as members of the corporation. Some of the outlying congregations have joined others in their communities in building nursing homes in their areas. There are eighteen congregations as members of Woodside Lutheran Homes at this time. Some of the board members visited nursing homes in Milwaukee, Minnesota and Iowa to get information as to the financing and operation of a nursing home. A fund drive was organized with the help of professional fundraisers among the member congregations and the individual members of those congregations and the communities where the congregations are located. The response in all of these communities was good and approximately $400,000.00 was raised in this drive. The ultimate cost of the home was approximately $1,200,000.00. The difference between these amounts was financed with a mortgage to fifteen Green Bay, and outlying city banks to be administered by Marine Bank (now Bank One). The cooperation of these banks was excellent.

June Mecklenburg became the voluntary secretary of the fund raising drive in October of 1967. In 1967, Robert Jaecks was hired as administrator to assist in the building of the home and to administer it once it was occupied. June Mecklenburg was hired as his secretary in January, 1968. Robert Jaecks left Woodside as administrator on August 1, 1970, and June Mecklenburg was hired as administrator and received a letter of call to that position from the American Lutheran Church.

The home was completed and a staff hired and organized and the first resident moved in May 13, 1968. In a reasonably short time the home was fully occupied. The staff consisted of the Director of Nursing, Director of Food Service, Director of Housekeeping, Director of Activities, Maintenance Engineer, and the employees in the various departments.

Pastor Solberg accepted a new call and moved out of the community in 1964. At the 1964 meeting I was elected Chairman of the Board, Dr. John Goelz, Vice President, Pastor Dean Kilgust, Secretary and Melvin Markwart, Treasurer. I served as President and Chairman of the Board for ten years until November of 1974, at which time Dr. John Goelz was elected chairman of the Board and President. A number of different people served on the board of directors during that time. The Home was fully occupied and plans were developed for Woodside Oaks apartments, fronting on Anderson Drive. They were built and occupied during that ten-year period (September, 1977).

The volunteer organization, consisting of members from the member congregations and communities and the excellent staff and employees have made Woodside Home one of the best nursing homes in the region. The member churches and their individual members and the community have supported the home generously financially. Perhaps the most notable contribution was that of Albert and Teckla Hoppe. Mr. Hoppe died August 5, 1971, and in his will created a trust to be used for his wife’s benefit during her lifetime and upon her death the proceeds of the trust to Woodside. Mrs. Hoppe died on October 29, 1979, and the trust consisting almost entirely of Fort Howard Stock was transferred to the Home. This very generous gift enabled the Home to get the financing for the several additions to and the renovation of the Nursing Home and the building of Manor I (1988), Manor II (1990), and Manor III (1996).

I have not been personally involved in the operation and development of the Home since leaving the Board in 1974. Many individuals have served as board members, officers, staff members and employees since that time. They have been involved in giving direction to the Boards and Officers of the home in its operation and the various expansions that have taken place at Woodside. The detailed history of the operation and expansion of Woodside, after 1974, will have to be written by other individuals. It has been interesting and rewarding for me to see how the Nursing Home and the other facilities have expanded and developed over the years on what was a cornfield and gravel pit forty years ago.

– Harry O. Olson