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The gift of independence

By Staff | Jan 11, 2015

While it may be part of the overall St. Luke’s Lutheran Care Center campus, it is definitely not a nursing home.

In fact, it isn’t even considered assisted living.

Southview Estates is a senior only, independent-living apartment building.

“We still have many people who think we are an assisted living facility,” says Nicole Bruegger, the manager at Southview Estates in Blue Earth. “Our residents are senior citizens, but they are all able to live in their own apartments and take care of themselves.”

In fact, that is the two requirements for living there. A person must be at least 55 years old and must be able to take care of themselves.

What is offered at Southview Estates is a daily noon meal, paid utilities, laundry facilities, weekly light housekeeping of apartments, security controlled front entrance and many other amenities.

Those include emergency pull-cords in every room of every apartment.

“If a resident pulls one of those, nurses from St. Luke’s will be at their door within minutes,” Bruegger says. “And we won’t knock, we will just come right in.”

Built in 1997 at a cost of $1.3 million, this senior living facility features 24 attractive apartments.

“We have four different sized apartments,” Bruegger says. “Two sizes of one bedroom units, two sizes of two bedroom units.”

There are eight two-bedroom apartments, as well as eight garages available on a first-come, first-served basis.

There is rarely a vacancy for very long.

“We have a waiting list,” Bruegger says. “But many on the list are not ready to move, so they just stay on the list. But, a unit does not stay open very long.”

One apartment has never been vacant, Bruegger says.

“One of our residents, Ruth Underbakke, was the first resident at Southview back in 1997,” she says. “And, she is still here. In fact, she moved in before the whole building was completed.”

Underbakke, who is now 87, says she has enjoyed her 18 years at Southview Estates.

“It is a wonderful place,” she said. “All the people are so nice.”

It seems every one of the residents will echo that same sentiment, including the newest resident, Naomi Paul, who has only lived there for a couple of weeks.

“I just love it here,” she says. “I didn’t know how I was going to take care of my big, old house when my husband died recently, so my 10 kids decided to help me move here.”

Another recent set of residents at Southview Estates are Don and Marianne Kark.

The Kark’s moved in last month after having lived for the past 28 years in Florida.

Don’s father started Kark Rendering Plant (now Darling International) back in 1928, and Don worked for many years as the plant manager.

The couple built a home on North Main Street in the 1950s, next door to Don’s mother’s home.

They retired in 1987 and moved to Florida, year-round.

“We just wanted to get back to Minnesota and be near family,” Marianne Kark says. “Our daughter and my sister live here, and our son lives nearby.”

Plus, they wanted a place to live where they wouldn’t have to worry about maintenance or upkeep or even meals.

“This is perfect for us,” Marianne says. “It is full of wonderful people, a terrific staff and they treat us like kings and queens.”

Besides Bruegger, Diana Reineking and Dorothy Ristau man the kitchen, and Becky Garvick and Chastity Rengel assist and do housekeeping duties, also.

Reineking and Garvick have both worked there for 15 years.

“I worked at St. Luke’s at first, then over here at Southview,” Garvick says. “I love it here. I want to live here some day.”

Bruegger says she hears that a lot.

“This is a very special place,” she says. “In fact, there is no place just like it in the whole area. There are some senior apartments, and there are assisted living facilities. But, we are the only senior living apartments that serve a noon meal each day.”

She says that noon meal is a wonderful thing for the residents, despite the fact each apartment has a full kitchen.

“Many of them just have a small breakfast and light supper,” she explains. “The noon lunch is their main meal.”

There is also bus service to both Walmart and Juba’s SuperValu on alternate Wednesdays, as well as milk and grocery delivery.

“Our residents also have full use of all the facilties on the St. Luke’s campus,” Bruegger says. “The chapel, hair salon, physical therapy department, are all available. And all of the St. Luke’s buildings are connected so they can go from one to another without ever going outside.”

Bruegger knows the St. Luke’s campus well. She has worked there since she was in high school.

“I started at St. Luke’s in 2008 and I have been the manager here at Southview since 2010,” she says. “But I also worked here during the summers when I was in high school.”

She grew up living in Brush Creek and attended school in Bricelyn, Kiester and then Wells.

“My grandma worked at St. Luke’s and I worked here every summer while I was in school,” she says. “After college I returned to the area and started working here. I love being here at Southview.”

Bruegger is also the manager of the income-based housing apartments at New Life Manor on the St. Luke’s campus.

“I wish we could get more younger senior citizens moving out here, and not have them wait until they are in their 80s and 90s,” Bruegger says. “It is a wonderful place for seniors of all ages.”

She likes it so much that she helped move her grandfather and grandmother into an apartment there. The same grandmother Bruegger worked with when she was a teenager.

“It is always remarkable to see how our new residents almost always mix right in with the seniors who have been here a while,” she says. “And to see them thrive and become active and healthier than they were. It sometimes is like a weight has been lifted off of their shoulders and they don’t have so many worries.”

The features at Southview Estates makes their lives pretty easy and enjoyable.

And, if you visit with the residents there during their noon lunch time, you will find them pretty much in total agreement. It is a great place to live, and they don’t want to leave it.