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PHOTOS: R.K. MacDonald Nursing Home in Antigonish celebrates 60th anniversary with open house


Memories aplenty during gathering

Let the trumpet sound – rejoice and be glad – for the spirit of celebration resounds, once again, in this special place, as we proclaim the 60th anniversary of the R.K. MacDonald Nursing Home.    

That’s how Sister Brendalee Boisvert, Sisters of Saint Martha congregation leader, began her remarks during an open house celebration at the Antigonish residence Wednesday afternoon (Oct. 3).    

“It is a time of deep joy for us to mark with those of you gathered here today – the significance of this special day of blessing for the community of Antigonish,” she said.    

Michelle Thompson, R.K. CEO, said “we are very proud to celebrate 60 years of caring.”    

She noted the R.K. is home to 136 residents and employs 265 staff members.    

“We are a small hive of activity within our larger community,” Thompson said.    

“There is a tremendous amount of productivity and work that occurs here on a daily basis, but more importantly there is a tremendous amount of caregiving, meaningful relationships and kindness.”    

Resident Lynn Mersereau visits with Michelle Thompson, R. K. MacDonald Nursing Home CEO, Wednesday afternoon (Oct. 3) during an open house celebrating the 60th anniversary of the facility. Corey LeBlanc
Resident Lynn Mersereau visits with Michelle Thompson, R. K. MacDonald Nursing Home CEO, Wednesday afternoon (Oct. 3) during an open house celebrating the 60th anniversary of the facility. Corey LeBlanc

The R.K. welcomed its first resident – Joseph Cesale, 92, of Havre Boucher, Antigonish County – on Feb. 24, 1958, which served as the culmination of more than 15 years of planning by the Sisters, clergy and many residents.    

“Its beginnings were characterized by struggle, commitment to caring, courage to risk and a desire to vision,” Boisvert said.    

In 1955, Roderick Kennedy ‘R.K.’ MacDonald willed $100,000 for construction of a seniors’ home, which served as the impetus to raise $450,000 to finance the initiative.    

As a sign of their commitment, the Sisters mortgaged Bethany Motherhouse to help reach the campaign goal.    

“From its earliest days, the values of courage and risk were essential qualities in making this project successful,” Boisvert said.    

Residents Sadie Boyd (left) and Mary Lou MacDougall enjoy their refreshments during the R.K. MacDonald Nursing Home's 60th anniversary open house Wednesday afternoon (Oct. 3). Corey LeBlanc
Residents Sadie Boyd (left) and Mary Lou MacDougall enjoy their refreshments during the R.K. MacDonald Nursing Home's 60th anniversary open house Wednesday afternoon (Oct. 3). Corey LeBlanc

Although there have been changes through the years, including the relinquishment of ownership and entrance into a management agreement with the Town of Antigonish and Municipality of the County of Antigonish in 1971, the Sisters association with the R.K. has continued in a variety of ways.    

“I loved every minute of it,” Sister Anne Aucoin said of her ministry in pastoral care at the R.K.    

During her time in that role, Sister Caroline Leahy became renowned for singing songs, especially ones of the Irish traditions, with residents.    

“It was always great to make those visits,” he said.

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‘Home away from home’    

Warden Owen McCarron of the Municipality of the County of Antigonish called the R.K. a “home-away-from home for so many.”    

“There have been changes and growth, but you have never wavered from your commitment to passionate care,” he said.    

In a letter marking the occasion, Town of Antigonish Mayor Laurie Boucher, who could not attend the celebration, agreed.    

“It is quite a milestone,” she said, noting the “exceptional care” residents have and continue to receive.

‘Caring and curing’    

Using remarks from a 1975 address he made to graduates of the R.K.’s personal care worker program, with modifications made for the open house celebration, Dr. Patrick Walsh spoke on the concepts of ‘caring and curing,’ ones he said are “intrinsically linked.”    

“There’s only a vowel difference but there is a big difference,” the retired St. F.X. English professor and former long-time R.K. nursing home corporation secretary said after the formal ceremony.    

Dr. Patrick Walsh (left) chats with Father John Barry during an open house celebration Wednesday afternoon (Oct. 3) to mark the 60th anniversary of the R.K. MacDonald Nursing Home. Walsh was a long-time secretary for the R.K. Nursing Home Corporation. Corey LeBlanc
Dr. Patrick Walsh (left) chats with Father John Barry during an open house celebration Wednesday afternoon (Oct. 3) to mark the 60th anniversary of the R.K. MacDonald Nursing Home. Walsh was a long-time secretary for the R.K. Nursing Home Corporation. Corey LeBlanc

“Curing never succeeds – the need for it is infinite. Then you have caring – caring is finite; it is hands-on, helping people. Caring is the thing that makes us human.    

“It is a sharing of love between the people who are doing and the people who are receiving,” he added.    

Walsh agreed the R.K. is a perfect reflection of that gift of caring, describing everyone who contributed to its first 60 years, and beyond, as “real heroes.”    

“You are real heroes because you care,” he said.

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