Caring for veterans in their old age is a pleasure and a privilege for Montecillo War Veterans Home & Hospital acting chief executive Lynley Kloogh and senior nurse aide Lenore Ellison.
Founded on June 26, 1918, as the Red Cross Military Convalescent Home – a place of recuperation and retirement for returned servicemen from World War 1 – Montecillo marks its centenary this week.
Both women have worked within the organisation for more than 20 years, first at its original tree-lined Eglinton Rd site, and latterly at the purpose-built Bay View Rd facility it has occupied since 2006.
Formerly financial officer, Mrs Kloogh took over as Montecillo acting chief executive after long-serving chief executive Fred Daniel retired in December, 2016.
The retirement of stalwart, long-standing staff, such as Mr Daniel, receptionist Pat Daniel, and nurse manager Bev Brook – who was replaced by Jenna Kitto in April – meant change for the organisation, but its ethos remained the same, Mrs Kloogh said.
“It is a big responsibility, taking on the history and the ethos of the place, and maintaining its military connections,” she said.
The “special character” of Montecillo was nurtured through its involvement in Anzac Day and Armistice Day commemorations, and through helping to ensure residents received their medals.
Having the Dunedin RSA and RSA Welfare Trust officers on-site at Montecillo was also a valuable connection to the veteran community.
Historical records showed that Montecillo had cared for more than 2000 veterans during its 100 year history, although records from the 1950s had been lost.
“That is a remarkable record, and something we can be very proud of,” Mrs Kloogh said.
Senior nurse aide Lenore Ellison, who celebrated 25 years at Montecillo in November, had worked with veterans from many conflicts, including World War 1 and 2, Korea, and Vietnam, and said they were “a unique set of people”.
None were keen to talk much about their respective wartime experiences, but they tended to be caring people who “look after each other”.
Over the years, Mrs Ellison had come to know individual veterans very well, and found it wonderful to hear their stories.
“The families are very loving, and really want the best for their relatives.”
Anzac Day was a very special time at the home and hospital, and staff had preparations “down to a fine art” to get veterans prepared in time for the ceremonies.
“You feel very proud of them, when they are all done up nicely and wearing their medals,” she said.
Mrs Kloogh welcomed the work of Christchurch-based historian Billy Barnz, whose book Holding the High Ground – A History of Montecillo 1918-2018 would be launched as part of the centenary celebrations.
The project had been funded through Lotteries’ WW100 scheme.
MONTECILLO CENTENNIAL CELEBRATIONS
Montecillo War Veterans Home & Hospital will celebrate its centenary with a “beating of the retreat” sunset ceremony tomorrow after 4.15pm, involving a colour party made up of combined services personnel.
There will be an invitation-only cocktail function, to launch the book Holding the High Ground – A History of Montecillo 1918-2018 by Christchurch historian Billy Barnz.
On Saturday, an afternoon tea for residents, friends, family, and previous staff will be held from 2.30pm to 4pm at Montecillo. Billy Barnz will give a presentation on the history of Montecillo at this event.
People wishing to attend are asked to RSVP by phoning Bridget on 466-4778.