The Hancock-Henderson Quill, Inc.
Jim Clayton, Quill Reporter
One of the most difficult decisions anyone ever has to make is whether or not to put a loved one into a nursing home.
Many of the most difficult things people have to face in life have to be discussed and talked about openly when this topic arises.
Terminal diseases and perpetual care all have to be brought up and there is no way to make it easy. And the finality of the choice can hang over families for many years.
It is rare that we hear about someone leaving a nursing home. But one La Harpe resident is in the process of doing just that.
After 30 years as the administrator at the Great River Klein Medical Center in Burlington, IA, Richard Miller is retiring. He is staying on until they find a replacement, but that is not a burden to him, "I still love the work and this is in no way a burden to me," said Miller.
As a matter of fact elder care has been a part of Miller's life really since he can remember, "I was the youngest of five children and my mom was a grandmother when I was born, so in a sense I have been and I consider that early preparation," he added.
Miller did not begin life in the medical field. He began as an educator.
He taught elementary school art for three years and when he finished his master's degree in administration became an assistant principal and 6th grade teacher, all in the Macomb School District at Mac Arthur Elementary (which is now the kindergarten center for Macomb schools).
In 1978 his career took an unexpected turn. "I was approached by John Louden, Sr. who was on the board of directors for the La Harpe Hospital and he asked if I would consider being an administrator for them," stated Miller.
"I applied after having a long chat in my living room with John and Ted Irish, another board member. When my name was one of the final two I told them I wanted to stay in the running and was fortunate enough to be selected. Doctor Pogue was still around and I remember when Monica Crim came on board."
At the time the La Harpe Hospital was a 15 bed hospital and a 49 bed nursing home. Miller remained there and in 1998 was appointed full time administrator and when the hospital was eventually bought by the Great River Group he moved to the Klein Facility, a 125 bed elder care facility. He remains there to this day.
Miller's wife, Martha, recently retired from the La Harpe public library after 25 years of service there. He also spent 18 years as a city council member in La Harpe.
"I found working with the elderly very gratifying. I still do. It was always my goal to make the facility seem as much like home as possible. There is something to learn from each person in your care and I would advise anyone thinking of entering this field to get to know each individual, walk beside them and learn," Miller added.
Miller does not intend to sit around and do nothing when his replacement is found. "I plan to substitute teach and see if that old fire is still there," he pointed out. "I also like to do stain glass work. I just purchased some supplies for that and I plan to do more in the future."
It seems Miller has not lost his penchant for art work either. His stained glass technique can be seen at the La Harpe United Methodist Church as he and a group of ladies spent a couple of winters refurbishing the stained glass windows in the church.
It seems La Harpe has a resident that we could all learn from. If we would take the time to walk beside Richard Miller, as long as his schedule permits, we might discover that there is indeed a lot to be learned by walking beside someone.