After over 40 years at Manitoulin Lodge, retirement ‘bittersweet’ for Debbie Wright

Debbie Wright, an employee at the Manitoulin Lodge Nursing Home in Gore Bay for the past 43 years, will be retiring later this week.

GORE BAY—Debbie Wright has seen and been a part of just about everything involving the Manitoulin Lodge Nursing Home in Gore Bay, having worked there for the past 43 years. And to say that it is a bittersweet moment that she will be retiring as of June 11 is an understatement.

“It’s almost scary to think I’m going to leave,” Ms. Wright told The Expositor. “It’s going to be hard to leave, working here at the Lodge has been my life and I’ve had a wonderful career.”

“I’ve had so many wonderful opportunities since I started working here,” said Ms. Wright. “It’s been a great career. And the Jarlette family (which owns the Lodge) has been absolutely fantastic to me. They really make you feel like you belong. Even when they come to visit they ask and talk to staff by name and about how you and your family are doing.” 

“I would never hesitate to have a person I know move into to live at the Lodge,” said Ms. Wright. “The staff here is fantastic, everyone works so hard to meet the needs of the residents and fellow staff members.”

Jaime-Lynn Kalmikov, administrator of the Lodge, told the Expositor, “Debbie has been a dedicated employee at the Lodge for the last 43 years. She has held many positions throughout the years and has a wealth of knowledge about all aspects of the home. She has been a dependable go-to for all the staff and management team and she will be greatly missed by all.”

“We wish her all the best with the next chapter of her life and truly wish here a very happy retirement to enjoy her family and the lake life,” said Ms. Kalmikov. “She is not only hanging up her nurse’s cap after 43 years, but also her superhero cape.”

“I am in my 43rd year working here,” said Ms. Wright. The Manitoulin Lodge Nursing Home opened in May 1977 and she began her career as a nurse at the Lodge in October 1978. “I came here fresh out of school and Marie Foster took me under her wing. I started as a night shift registered practical nurse (RPN), and Marie was the day charge nurse. She taught me everything.” 

Ms. Wright’s next job role at the Lodge was as a restorative care and volunteer services coordinator. Then I took over the role of administrator, taking over after Lorna Fogg had her fatal (vehicle) accident in 2009. I was the administrator for five-and-a-half years. Later she took on the job of staff education, right through to 2017 when she took over as co-director of care.

Ms. Wright noted, “I find that a lot of people like to job jump, there are not many people that stick it out in a job or one place for a really long time. Here at the Lodge only Gloria (Hall) and I stuck it out for this many years. I’ve seen so many changes here over the years.” With her wealth of experience and knowledge accumulated over the years she has been sharing all of this with her co-workers in her department. 

“For the past month I’ve been purging stuff in my office, trying to make life for the employees that work with me easier,” said Ms. Wright. “And they know they can call me whenever they need something.”

“It’s going to be very hard to break away from all of this,” acknowledged Ms. Wright.  “It’s the staff members, and the residents I’m going to miss the most.” She noted, “when I was the administrator  years ago I found that I lost touch a little with the families and the residents. The first thing I did when I took on the staff education role was to get to know and spend time with everyone.” 

“Every employee at every level of service here at the nursing home, from the person who does the garbage pickup to the administrator, is important,” stated Ms. Wright. “But I can tell you we would be nowhere without our personal support workers (PSWs). Every day they provide important care and service for our residents. They are the pivotal core of the nursing home and work so hard.”

“We  have been fortunate to not have had any (COVID-19) outbreaks in the Lodge,” continued Ms. Wright.  “Some homes in the province have not been as fortunate and have been hit hard with outbreaks.” She said everyone at the Lodge has done a great job following the pandemic protocols.

Ms. Wright said, “I have never before had a summer off. I’m going to enjoy this summer. As for the winter I don’t know what I will be doing then, I’ll play it by ear. In the past, even when I’ve been on vacation I’ve been available took respond to messages from staff and sending emails back and forth. I’ll no doubt be thinking its April or October and we have to carry out this type of work at the Lodge. But I promise I won’t bother the staff,” she quipped. 

However, she did indicate she will be keeping her nursing licence so that she can do flu shot clinics on the Island.

Ms. Wright was born and raised in Sudbury, with her dad being from Manitoulin and her mother being from Garson. Her husband Mike is from the Island, but had worked at Inco in Sudbury for a number of years. Even though she is not originally from Manitoulin, “when I was younger I worked here in the summers at Northernaire Lodge. My mom was a pastry cook at Northernaire. Dad worked in Copper Cliff. After they retired they moved to the Island.”

“We live at the lake and I am looking forward to going kayaking, working in the garden and doing anything that I wouldn’t normally have to cram into a two- day weekend,” quipped Ms. Wright. 

Ms. Wright acknowledged, “today I’m looking forward to retirement, tomorrow I could be hesitant. When I was down to 24 months until retirement I posted this on my office wall. But when it hit six months I stopped posting it.”

“Management has been great to work with over the years,” said Ms. Wright, “and I’ve been proud to work with all the employees I’ve been fortunate to work with over the years. They all work very hard. We have a really good group here. A PSW, for instance, might say there may be a problem we should be looking at, and then say ‘but I might have a solution to the problem.’ Everyone really cares and they and want to be part of a  solution. I have always felt if you could help new staff by sharing your experience, do it. If you teach them well they become great employees. That’s what we have in every department of the Lodge.”