Teamwork has helped Lutheran Community Home shine since the retirement community was established 50 years ago in Seymour.
Rita Fields played a big role in making that happen.
After working nearly a dozen years as a nurse’s aide, she was a part of the housekeeping staff for three years before being named the housekeeping supervisor.
Together, the housekeeping and environmental staff members work hard to make sure it’s a clean environment for residents, employees and visitors.
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“I was proud of what we were doing,” Fields said. “Everybody would always have good compliments about clean it was and how it smelled so good.”
She was happy to carry on the philosophy of her predecessor.
“It was very important because our last supervisor did the same thing,” she said. “I wanted to make it look as good as she did because she was here for a long time, too.”
Even though she retired July 31 after 40 years of service, Fields, 60, is confident the staff — led by Karyn Fleetwood and Anita Carter — will continue to make Lutheran Community Home a nice place to be.
Fleetwood, executive director of Lutheran Community Home, said Fields’ tenure sets an example for her coworkers.
“I think that’s what makes Lutheran Community Home different because we do see that kind of tenure,” Fleetwood said. “If you walked around the building and talked to some of our nursing staff, you’d find that we’ve got people that have been here a very long time. I think a lot of it is that family environment because we all support one another. It’s kind of your home away from home.”
Fleetwood said Fields has done a tremendous job in every capacity she has worked.
“She mentored so many employees here and demonstrated that work ethic and what it means to be a Lutheran Community Home employee, that loyalty to the organization and to our residents,” Fleetwood said.
While it’s tough to see Fields go, Fleetwood said she wishes her the best.
“It’s bittersweet. We hate to see her go, but it’s a well-deserved retirement,” Fleetwood said. “She can retire with the satisfaction that she made a difference in the lives of so many people. I think that’s what I like about what we do, being the service provider we are.”
Fields grew up in Schneider in northern Indiana. After graduating from Lowell High School in 1977, she moved to Kurtz, where her father was born and still had family in the area.
She spent time working at Morgan Packing Co., Excello Shirt Factory and a state hospital in Butlerville until a friend told her about a job opening at Lutheran Community Home.
“I wanted to be closer to home,” she said. “I didn’t like the drive, so I applied here and became a nurse’s aide.”
She helped take care of residents, from giving them their medication to walking around with them.
“We had A and B wing, and then C wing at the time was apartments for residents,” Fields said. “Most of the time, there were only two aides on a wing.”
She worked with the same residents on second shift.
“I loved it, hearing their stories, old remedies, their smiles,” she said.
In 1981, when she and her husband, Tony, had their first child, she moved to day shift. She remained on that shift until retirement.
“I was the floater,” she said. “By then, we had D wing. There was a lot of construction back then.”
When she became a housekeeper, Fields said she got to interact with even more people.
“Just talking with them, learning,” she said. “We talked a lot about gardens because I have a garden and I can.”
In 1993, her supervisor retired, so the administrator at the time, Don Bruce, asked her to fill that role. She accepted it.
She said she was glad to still be able to interact with residents and help with cleaning, but she had added responsibilities of scheduling and managing timecards of her staff and helping train them.
Tonya Mattern said Fields was a big help to her when she started at Lutheran Community Home 18 years ago.
“I worked here for a couple of years and became supervisor for the laundry department, and I really didn’t know what I was doing,” Mattern said. “I was real young and got thrown in the position, so she kind of took me under her wing and taught me what she knew, taught me the ropes.”
Mattern wound up working up to her current position, environmental supervisor.
“Rita and I have always been able to rely on each other, and we basically got the work done, did what we had to do to get it done,” she said. “We always basically stuck together here. We got our work together done. We had very good teamwork.”
Fields said she started contemplating retirement when she was on paid time off earlier this summer.
“My mind kept saying no, but my body kept saying yes,” she said.
“My husband had a lot to do with it, too. He just said, ‘Enough,'” she said, smiling.
On her birthday, June 20, she was at Lutheran Community Home for a celebration and officially made the decision to retire.
“I was having trouble walking, and I just thought, ‘Can I stand there eight hours again?'” she said, noting she also had been helping in the kitchen for a while. “I thought, ‘No, I don’t really think I can.'”
She told Fleetwood and Carter her last day would be July 31.
“It has always been a dream of mine to retire on the day that I was hired,” she said.
Sharing the news with her coworkers and residents was tough, she said.
“I had asked to wait until sometime in July to post (her job opening),” Fields said. “It was very hard to do. It’s my second home.”
She said she will always remember the residents and staff she worked with over the years.
“I went through three generations of families, and they all remember me,” she said. “I’ve made a lot of friends.”
That includes Mattern.
“We’re friends, so we’ll keep in contact,” Mattern said. “Rita has been more than just a coworker. We’ve established that relationship.”
Mattern said she wishes Fields the best in retirement.
“I look at her and think, ‘That’s going to be me. I’ve already been here 18 years. Why start all over now?’ I feel like this is where I’m going to retire unless they kick me to the can before then. I don’t see Karyn doing that any time soon,” she said, smiling.
In retirement, Fields said she will have more time for gardening and canning.
“I just got done putting corn up over the weekend,” she said, smiling.
She and her husband also have pets at home.
“I have a little Dachshund that I just adore. He’s my third one. That’s my baby,” she said. “Then we’ve got four cats, and we’ve got a dog outside.”
Fields also will be found relaxing in her wooden rocking chair that was a gift from Lutheran Community Home.
And she will always cherish the memories of the place she considered her second home for 40 years.
“I just loved it,” she said.
[sc:pullout-title pullout-title=”Fields file” ][sc:pullout-text-begin]
Name: Rita Fields
Education: Lowell High School (1977)
Occupation: Recently retired after 40 years at Lutheran Community Home in Seymour, having served as a nurse’s aide, a housekeeper and the housekeeping supervisor during her tenure
Family: Husband, Tony Fields; children, Susie (Jason) Cowles and Nikki Fields; grandson, Peyton Hayes; three stepgrandsons; one stepgranddaughter; one great-stepgranddaughter; brothers, Rod Bowman and Ray Bowman