KEWANEE — If you have any doubts that age is just a number, spend a few minutes with Venita Ewing who, at 90, still puts in more than a full day’s work in the human resources department at Royal Oaks Care Center.
“She’s the most dedicated employee I’ve ever seen,” said Laurie Paxton, Administrator of the facility which currently houses 133 residents, many younger than Ewing.
After working at Mail-o-Graph proofing direct mail fliers, Ewing came to work at the nursing home 31 years ago, in 1987.
Her daily responsibilities include payroll, orientation, and “a million other things,” including just talking to residents and visitors who come into her office just inside the front entrance. She answers questions, solves problems, and is the care center’s “banker,” managing and dispersing each resident’s “spending money.“
Ewing said she and HR co-worker Linda Ince make a good team because “she’s stronger on the computer than I am.”
Paxton said Ewing comes to work every morning at 8:30 and seldom leaves before 7 that night. Many people didn’t know she had this “day job,” remembering her as a bartender nights and weekends at Lloyd’s, and then at the Andris Waunee Farm.
“I made the fancy drinks,” she said, “but I don’t drink, never did.”
Her bartending days behind her, Ewing now spends her free time gardening, spending time with her family, involved in her church, and sharing time with “Gizmo,” a Border Collie-Lab mix who was a facility dog from the pound who barked too mucy. Ewing took him home and he’s been there ever since by her side. A self-described sports fanatic who pitched softball in her younger days, she is an avid St. Louis Cardinals fan.
Her work ethic came from growing up in a family with seven kids on a farm in the Annawan-Hooppole area.
“I was raised right,” Ewing said. “You don’t wait to grow up to start working when you’re in a big family.”
Her patience and compassion comes from taking care of her baby sister who had special needs after suffering brain damage from mumps in childhood.
She said one of the best things that ever happened to the local nursing home was when Petersen Health Care, owned by Kewanee native Mark Petersen, took over ownership.
“The owner at the time was a week away from closing the home and Mark and Petersen Health Care stepped in and kept us open,” Ewing said.
She said she is happy, content and healthy and has no plans to retire soon.
“The place couldn’t run without her,” said Paxton.
Ewing said keeping busy keeps her going. Her mother lived to be 103 so she hopes she’ll be going for a while.