Poring over historical pictures at the Good Samaritan Society - Algona in Iowa is a person who’s been pivotal.
“It opened in March of 1966 and I began employment in the summer of that year,” Mary Hannover, LPN, says.
Do the math and Mary’s service at the Society, still ongoing, adds up to an unheard of 55 years.
"Half of my life. Half of my life has been living and working in a nursing home and supporting of," Mary says.
Administrator Joe Bartolo says 55 years in one place is "crazy" to think about.
“Good Sam is in her heart,” Joe says. “She knows the ins and outs of everything from day one in Algona."
Retired administrator John E. Kern adds, "When people in Algona think of Good Samaritan, they immediately think of Mary."
'We would not be here' without Mary
When the current long-term care facility opened in ‘66, Mary split time as a CNA between the new building and the old home down the street.
“We had three levels of residents. The guts of the operation was still in the basement. So, the washers and that. If you walked up the stairs from the basement and did not carry a basket of laundry, you were not well thought of,” Mary says.
It's hard not to see similarities to how the Society got its start nearly 100 years ago in a little house in Arthur, North Dakota.
“They didn’t have any elevators or lifts at that time. They’d have to carry food from the basement all the way up to the first, second, third floor. Same with residents – if you had to get a resident to the first or second floor, you had to carry them up the steps,” Joe says.
Lifting others up through care is the 73-year-old’s passion.
After she grew up on a farm west of Algona, her career got off to a slow start.
“I applied at three different community colleges to go into nursing. I was rejected by all of them,” Mary says with a laugh. “So I came to town, I got a job and I kept my job."
First as a CNA, then a licensed practical nurse and finally a fundraiser in resource development.
“If we didn’t have someone like her in our facility for the last 55 years helping get funding and things like that, and being a member of the community and church, getting people to come live here, work here, we would not be here in Algona without Mary Hannover,” Joe says.
'Proud' of Society's development in Algona
Mary's personal mission is to spread the word that the Lord is in this place.
“I remember going around in the community selling our point of view. ‘Why would you need that? We’ve never had that before,’” Mary says about the responses she would hear. “I’m kind of proud about the fact that we’ve raised some wonderful buildings here. I always said it’s well worth every dollar that you’ve had to ask for."
From independent living apartments to a rehabilitation center, she didn't shy away from promoting the cause.
"Mary would often remind me to 'never be afraid to apologize.' She was always about service to others. She was very loyal and committed to the residents, their families and to the staff. She loved talking about the history of Good Samaritan and specifically Algona," John says.
Looking back on all the additions to the campus, she says it's incredible to imagine the number of lives touched by the Society.
“You talk about someone who is here for the center, here for the residents and not concerned about her time, that’s someone who lives out the mission," Joe says.
“She’d do her Monday-Friday, resource development, and then she would come in on Saturdays and Sundays and feed breakfast. Every Saturday and Sunday, every holiday, she never missed any time unless she was really sick."
'Everybody is equal and the same'
Mary admits her body is showing some wear and tear these days as she nears retirement. Her mind, however, is sharp and her focus the same.
“In Christ’s love, everyone is someone. You can’t help but think that the smallest resident, the largest resident, the most active resident, the inactive resident, everybody is equal and the same. If you don’t have that squared in your thought process, life becomes more complicated,” Mary says.
“It’s a great organization. It’s served me well. I’ve enjoyed my time. Have I enjoyed every day? No. Nobody does. I’ve had some bad days and I’ve had some very, very good days. Your emphasis is always on life and where you can make life better."