Juneau Pioneers’ Home celebrates 25 years

The Juneau Pioneers’ Home opened its doors in July 1988.  It was the last of the six state-operated homes to be built.

The home celebrated its first 25 years at a party on Saturday, recognizing four staff members for their work.

Fred Abad was a certified nurses’ aide when the home opened with 21 residents. Twenty-five years later, Abad, Tessie Punongbayan, Nelda Reynolds, and Veronica Hermano are still on staff.

Like Punongbayan, they told the crowd assembled Saturday that the elders give them joy and pride in their work.

Fred Abad, Tessie Punongbayan, Nelda Reynolds, Veronica Hermano were recognized for their 25 years of service to the Juneau Pioneers’ Home. Photo by Dick Isett.

Giving the service for our residents, seeing their smile every day, makes me proud  to be working here.  

State Pioneer Home Director Ken Truitt thanked the staff for their service, then turned to the residents:

I think this is a celebration of you and your lives.  We’re honored and we’re humbled that you would choose to live your lives with us. 

The homes provide an intermediate level of care for people who need help with medications, meals, housekeeping and other daily routines, or care related to Alzheimer’s disease or other dementia.

Saturday’s open house showed off a new kitchen for residents who still like to cook as well as  the new grand piano.

T.J. Duffy is among several volunteers who come to the home each week to play the piano. Duffy organized an effort to replace the old one, donated many years ago by the family of Juneau music pioneer Carol Beery Davis.

“The more I played it the more difficult I realized the piano was to play,” Duffy said. “The Pioneer Home needed a bigger and better piano, because this is a big hall, it’s about two stories tall and it’s about 50 yards long, so it needed a bigger piano and something pretty.”

T. J. Duffy organized the effort to get a new piano for the Juneau Pioneers’ Home. He’s one of several volunteers who play for the residents each week. Photo by Rosemarie Alexander.

Duffy took the request to Rep. Cathy Munoz, who worked with the rest of  Juneau’s legislative delegation for a grant to the local chapter of the Pioneers of Alaska, which gave the money to the Pioneers’ Home for the piano.

The studio grand is an ebony Hailun.  The interior is birds’ eye maple. While it’s beautiful to look at, it also has a lovely sound and a number of special features Duffy thought would benefit the Pioneers’ Home.

“The lid is hydraulic and it won’t come crashing down. It kind of floats down and that’s unique to this brand of piano.  Same with the cover on the keys.  It won’t crash, it won’t hurt anybody, and there’s a lot cats here and people bumping into it,” he said.

Over the last 25 years, 366 Alaskans have called the Juneau Pioneers’ Home their home.

Of those who live there now, the average age  is 86; the oldest person is 99.

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