Wisconsin Veterans Get New Lease on Life at King

By: Elizabeth Schilder Email
By: Elizabeth Schilder Email
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Every day more of our nations bravest move into nursing home across the country, but in your town Waupaca they have a very special place to go.

From the air it looks like a college campus. Set foot on the grounds and you realize these aren't students living here, but America's heroes. Founded in 1887 by The Grand Army of the Republic, The Wisconsin Veterans Home at King was the first in the state.

"They had a competition, if you will, an application process in the state of Wisconsin for a veterans home and several towns applied and Waupaca was chosen," Wisconsin Veteran's Home at King Commandant, Jim Knight, explains.

Sprawled across 78 acres on the chain of lakes, the location was a perfect fit and so was the name.

"It was named after General King," Knight tells NewsChannel 7. "He was a good person to name the facility after because he had spent 70 years of his life in military service, starting with the Civil War and going until World War I."

Today, most of the near 700 residents who live at King have served in the military. The majority of them served in World War II, Korea and Vietnam. Gary Mader was in the navy during Vietnam. Now a resident at King, he's far from retired.

"When I first got here they says you have 4 positions, part-time staff without pay, a mentor, a volunteer and a resident," Mader laughs.

Like many of the residents, Mader has a part time job working in the library as a computer specialist. He also serves in the Color Guard and started a mentoring program for new residents.

"They say I've helped about 10 members make a difference in their living here," Mader says smiling.

When Mader is not busy working, which he admits is rare, there is plenty for him and other residents to do. From taking in a movie, to getting a drink at the bar , to even knocking down a few pins at the bowling ally King has it all.

The numerous activities are only part of what sets King apart from other nursing homes. They also have a full scale dentists office, lab, x-ray and pharmacy on the grounds. The most unique feature, however, is something you can't put a price on.

"It's not only veterans we accept, but there spouses and this is the first veterans home in the country that would accept spouses as well as the veterans themselves," Kinght explains.

Ruth Gravelle came to King with her husband four years ago. A World War II veteran wounded at Iwo Jima, Gravelle's husband was suffering from Alzheimer's. Unfortunately, Gravelle's husband passed away a year after moving in, but she stayed. '

"I know a lot of my friends said, where are you moving next? Or where are you going next? I said I'm going to stay here as long as they'll have me," Gravelle recalls. "I just love it. It's just, I would be so lonesome in the apartment all by myself."

King continues to be supported by numerous veterans service organizations. One of the most recent donations was used to erect a Medal of Honor Memorial on the grounds, recognizing all the Wisconsin residents who received the Medal of Honor.

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