The former Grace Peterson became a RN, married Don Chewakin [a veteran of Korea], and moved to a farm in Emmons County. She and Don raised four children and was the first registered nurse at Strasburg Care Center.
“You’re in [patients’] lives completely. You have to be compassionate to care for them; you have to do your best whether they appreciate it or not. We used to have people that didn’t have clothing. They didn’t have anything for themselves. In fact, that’s why many of them were buried in one of Don’s old shirts or somebody else’s old suit jacket. I found out I was glad I lived 12 miles from work; I could gain control by the time I got home.
“But I think I was fortunate in that people did appreciate the little things, anything that was done for them. They appreciated everything we did, and it was always hard to say goodbye. The staff were told, ‘If you’re not doing a task, go visit the patients. Stand by and talk to them.’ Because they wanted that one-to-one communication.
“Most of the people I took care of have a good faith background, but those that probably didn’t either didn’t show an emotion or they brushed it off as not necessary. But I think most of them would like the pastor or the priest to come and see them, just comfort them.”
Grace’s attributes her ability to empathize with the ill and the dying to her parents’ influence. “We were told to do what’s right, whatever we did, and respect people. My parents were great on that. Maybe they need a good word once in a while, a kind word. We’re not all perfect, you know, a whole bunch of us came with a chip on our shoulder sometimes.
“I think I’m luckier than most. Because I got to go to school, got an education, I live in a good country, people have been good to me. I think our country has absolutely got me the best of anything on earth. Yeah, I got no complaint.”