Homeland resident Lorna Baer: Making Homeland feel like home


Lorna Baer homeland resident

Lorna Baer first knew Homeland through her past service with the Board of Managers. When she arrived as a resident, she knew her way around.

“That’s one of the reasons I was glad to come here because it felt like home,” she says.

Today, Homeland is her home, as she lives in a bright skilled-care room where attentive staff look after her needs.

Lorna is a lifetime resident of the Harrisburg area. Her father founded the W. Orville Kimmel Funeral Home. It was first in Lorna’s grandparents’ home before they moved it to Market Street in the city. He worked hard to make it a success.

“He took his profession extremely seriously,” Lorna says.

In a bit of Harrisburg history, Lorna’s grandfather was a foreman in the machine shop of industrialist W.O. Hickok.

“Back in the day, it was very common for people to name their children after their employers,” Lorna says. So her father was named W.O. Kimmel – the “W” for Wesley, after his grandfather, but the “O” for Hickok’s middle name of Orville, the name he used.

When her father died, Lorna hired a licensed funeral director who operated the family business for 19 years. When she sold the business, she took extreme care to find the right person with an ethical approach to business.

Growing up, Lorna excelled in Harrisburg schools. At John Harris High School, she had excellent teachers with college-level skills.

“That was a happy time,” she says.

Her family was active in the Church of God, and she graduated from the church-affiliated Findlay College, in Findlay, Ohio. Lorna married a few months before graduation, and her first job brought her back to the Harrisburg School District. She served as one of the district’s home and school visitors until the position was eliminated.

Her time operating the funeral home coincided with raising three children.

“That turned out to be a wonderful gift,’’ she says. “I could be a full-time parent when it was necessary and still do my job.”

Lorna also belonged to a book club with some women serving on the Homeland Board of Managers, and they recommended her for board membership.

The Board of Managers is unique to Homeland – an all-women group dedicated to sustaining Homeland’s renowned homelike feel in its décor and events. The board traces its roots to the 18 women who founded the “Home for the Friendless” in 1867 as a refuge for Civil War widows and orphans.

Lorna served two consecutive terms and was invited to return a few years later. She has also played piano for worship services lead by Homeland Chaplain Dann Caldwell. She first played piano in elementary school, when she and two other students alternated accompanying the school orchestra, which played to begin and end every day.

As an adult, Lorna attended Paxton Presbyterian Church, the historic church dating to the 1720s. In 2009, church leaders decided to sell the church’s vacant, rarely used circa 1855 manse. The church’s legendary pastor, the Rev. Morton Glise, had raised his family in the limestone home, complete with hearth fireplace and dumbwaiter shaft.

Lorna always wanted to live in a stone house, and now, there was more.

“I was pretty sentimental about the church, and I couldn’t stand the idea of some stranger unrelated to the congregation owning the manse and using the building for something else,” she says. “So I decided I would check my resources and see if I could maybe bid on it.”

She pulled together financing for a possible purchase, with enough additional for painting and kitchen renovations. The auction on a September evening drew a crowd that stretched to the sidewalk.

“They were waiting with bated breath to find out who was going to buy it, and my bid took,” Lorna says. “So I bought it, and that’s where I lived.”

Lorna came to Homeland before COVID. Today, she enjoys her room decorated with pictures of her grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

“I appreciate how caring a place it is,” she says. “And how nice everybody is to everybody else.”

Volunteer David Sherman: Always watching out for others


david Sherman final

When David Sherman retired from civilian service with the U.S. Navy, 150 people signed the framed picture of the facility where he worked for 41 years, attesting to the friends he made and the impact he had.

Now, David can add “Homeland volunteer” to a life full of accomplishment, athletics, and service. Every Thursday afternoon, he is a fixture in the Homeland hallways and gathering spaces, helping residents play dominoes or take a safe walk.

He also volunteers for Homeland Hospice, putting the monthly newsletter in envelopes for mailing. His volunteer service is an extension of his giving nature and a career devoted to protecting people and documents.

“That’s why I’m in security, to help people be safe,” he says.

David is a Harrisburg native, with a life that has taken many interesting turns. At age 2 and a half, he was diagnosed with hearing loss. For 15 years, he received speech and hearing therapy, learning to lipread from a Harrisburg therapist.

After graduating from William Penn High School in 1966, David learned sign language at Gallaudet University and attended the Pennsylvania Rehabilitation Center, in Johnstown. After getting a couple of jobs in Harrisburg, his parents were delighted and proud when he went to the Washington, DC, area and got a job with the U.S. Navy.

That was in 1971, the beginning of his 41-year career at the Naval Surface Warfare Center Carderock Division in Bethesda, MD. He spent 27 of those years in security and document control. Sometimes, his work was classified. He was responsible for picking up documents at the Pentagon for years.

Throughout David’s life, Harrisburg’s Jewish community, and Kesher Israel Congregation, also known as KI, have been constants. He has served on the KI board and had his bar mitzvah in the former synagogue in uptown Harrisburg on July 4, 1960.

In 2022, after the congregation moved to a beautifully renovated new home in Harrisburg’s Riverside neighborhood, David celebrated his 75th birthday with a Kiddush party. As with his bar mitzvah, he received the Aliyah – or call – to read the Torah in Hebrew. Today, David helps provide security at the new synagogue’s entry.

Another thread in David’s life is athletics. In high school, he lettered in cross country and track. He won ribbons for first and second place in the Navy 3K run and walk.

“The walk, I did in 19 minutes,” he says. “I was younger.”

He still runs, winning five ribbons in past Homeland Hospice 5K and Memory Walks and hoping for another at this year’s event on Oct. 22, as long as a bothersome knee heals up. In Bethesda, he also played right field for a softball team that won two championships, including one year when he won MVP.

Even when he lived in Maryland, he would come home on weekends to play basketball at the Jewish Community Center. He also played touch football for a Navy team and flag football for the JCC, where his best friend said he played the best defense.

David is also involved with the Hearing Loss Association of America. For 10 years, he served as treasurer for the organization’s 1,000-member Montgomery County, MD, chapter. He has traveled to 25 association conventions, helping provide security. He attended many of those conventions with his late wife, Deborah Beauregard Sherman, whom he met in a hearing-loss support group.

David Sherman 5KDavid retired from the Navy in 2012 and moved back to Harrisburg in 2018. Since 2019, he has filled his days with volunteering – delivering Meals on Wheels Friday mornings, helping at Homeland Center on Thursday afternoons. On Sunday mornings, you’ll find him at the Dauphin County Library System’s East Shore Area Library, where he set a personal record of 92 books shelved in three hours.

For a time, COVID restrictions kept David from coming into Homeland, but Homeland Activities Director Aleisha Arnold invited him back after they were lifted. Now, every Thursday, Aleisha gets a text from David to check that his volunteer shift is still on.

“The residents say how nice he is and warm to them,” Aleisha says. “He’s very pleasant. He’s very relatable to them. He’s very dedicated.”

David returns the compliment.

“I really like it here,” he says. “I’m very happy. Aleisha is happy for me to help people.”

Infection preventionist Liz Toci: Protecting and learning from Homeland residents


homeland center Liz TociLiz Toci felt at home when she came to Homeland Center for a job interview.

“When I walked in the door, I thought it was a beautiful place,” says Homeland’s new infection preventionist. She brings to Homeland a lifetime of caring for others, a deep interest in nursing for the elderly, and a passion for keeping people and places healthy.

Liz had always enjoyed caring for people, even when she was young and helping raise her younger brothers. She had some shadowing opportunities in nursing and realized that nurses “see people when they’re very vulnerable and need an advocate.”

The Middletown native earned her bachelor’s degree in nursing at West Chester University. For a time, she worked in nursing with psychiatric patients. Her dementia patients gave her an affinity for the elderly, and she went to work for a Harrisburg-area nursing home.

Liz says that advocacy skills are especially important for nurses who support dementia patients.

“It becomes about your intuition and trying to sense what people want and what they need,” she says. “It’s a lot of trying to interpret their desires and what’s going to make them most comfortable.”

Liz’s previous job as assistant director of nursing and conducting infection-prevention duties—all during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic—also raised her awareness of the steps nursing staff can take to educate themselves and protect their patients.

“Because we worked with a very vulnerable population, I wanted to learn as much as possible about how to prevent it from coming in, so the residents are at the least risk possible,” says Liz, who joined Homeland in 2022.

As an infection preventionist, she monitors antibiotic use among the residents, tracking to ensure they’re getting better. She also helps interpret and implement Department of Health COVID guidelines. She says that Homeland staff members are receptive to education about safety protocols because “when you work in long-term care, you see how hard even a minor infection can impact someone.”

She says that Homeland’s well-organized and collaborative operations benefit the residents and uphold excellence.

“It creates better outcomes because I have collaboration in my infection control efforts,” Liz says. “I can also lend a hand in the role of RN and help out with whatever needs the clinical staff might have. It’s a great team atmosphere, providing better support for residents.”

She can also approach colleagues and Homeland administrators for answers to her questions.

“It’s great to feel like you can ask questions to continue learning,” she says. “It’s nice to feel like you’re learning something new every day because the knowledge base in this field is so broad.”

Maybe someday, she’ll get a nurse practitioner degree, but she will always work in gerontology. For Liz, it’s about helping the elderly who have “worked so hard their whole lives. As a society, we need to reward them for all their hard work—give them some time to rest and enjoy their retirement and life.”

Liz and her husband live in Middletown, and in her free time, she scours flea markets for jewelry that she takes apart and restrings into fun, colorful necklaces and bracelets.

“That’s my creative outlet,” she says. “I go to flea markets and put necklaces in plastic bags. For $10, I can entertain myself for months.”

She also enjoys reading, including such classics as “Anna Karenina” and “Madame Bovary.” She discovered her love of the classics in high school and expanded her reading list when college friends with diverse majors introduced her to their favorites.

It’s all about soaking up learning, including lessons from visiting with Homeland’s residents. She also loves the range of Homeland activities.

“Residents need more than just their basic needs met,” she says. “They need their social needs to be met. They need stimulation. I think it’s just wonderful when I’m walking around and see all the activities going on to help improve the residents’ quality of life.”

Pennsylvania proud: Fine artist Valerie Moyer brings memories to Homeland residents.


homeland center Valerie Moyer finalValerie Moyer doesn’t remember a time when she wasn’t doing artwork.

“It’s like breathing,” she says. “I was called to do it. It’s a gift from God and Kutztown University.”

The Pennsylvania native and proud Kutztown alum lives in Beaver Springs, proudly supporting the Snyder County art scene and preserving the commonwealth’s historic treasures. Valerie is Homeland’s featured artist for summer 2022. Her work is hanging in the Florida Room gallery as part of the Art Association of Harrisburg’s exhibition program.

The quarterly exhibits, selected by the Art Association, bring the beauty of works from local artists. Residents, staff, and visitors often stop to admire a painting and take a moment to choose a favorite.

In Valerie Moyer’s work, there is also a chance to play “Spot the Bunny”—as in, find the rabbit hidden in every painting. They are tiny creatures, often found only through the glimpse of a white tail. The bunnies are always on the ground—never in some un-rabbity spot like the clouds or a tree.

The idea came from the suggestion of her husband that a trademark would further distinguish her work.

“What is most common in central Pennsylvania? Rabbits,” Valerie said as she hung her artwork in the Homeland gallery. “I paint a landscape, and there are rabbits.”

Valerie says she doesn’t have a gift for portraiture, but her landscapes and buildings come alive with their own sense of character. Many may recognize the sites depicted in the paintings, such as the famous Neff Round Barn on the road to State College.

“My paintings are pastoral, peaceful, a nod to what life was like in the good old days,” she says. “There are a lot of barns, mills, and covered bridges.”

Valerie uses her artistic gifts to help preserve those landscapes and historical treasures. A portion of the sales from paintings created with Farmland Preservation Artists, a collaborative of the Art Alliance of Central PA, goes toward the Centre County Farmland Trust. And when organizations and individuals commission her work, they can buy the rights to the final piece and make prints for sale or gift giving.

“Some churches will use it as a fundraiser, and then they can buy new windows or mission trips or whatever they like, which is nice,” says Valerie. “That way, it’s more than one painting on the wall. Because it can be reproduced, many people can enjoy it.”

In Valerie’s world, the scenes sometimes choose her as their portraitist. In the Homeland exhibit, there’s the charming portrait of Bessie and Bossy, two calves in a barn door. Valerie was working at a historic barn with the Farmland Preservation Artists, “and I turned around, and they were sitting there going, ‘Valerie. Valerie.’ They were calling my name.”

The same goes for a pair of sheep named Ethel and Emmet.

“I was at my Amish neighbor’s home, and I walked out the door, and there they were,” she says.

Some of the paintings Valerie chose to bring to Homeland were first-place award winners at art shows. A vivid still life of bottles in a historic mill was another case of the subject choosing her, the beauty taking her breath away when she discovered it during an apple butter festival at Little Buffalo State Park. She says awards “validate that you are doing what you are meant to do.’’

Valerie recently joined the Art Association of Harrisburg at the suggestion of a friend, branching out into southcentral Pennsylvania. At heart, she is Snyder County proud and “local, local, local,” working with and buying from other businesses in the scenic county tucked between Harrisburg and State College. The day before hanging her artwork at Homeland, she took 16 framed prints to Snyder County courthouse.

“Snyder County Courthouse will now be decorated in Snyder County prints by a Snyder County artist,” Valerie says.

Valerie can be found on Facebook and Instagram or contacted at vmoyerartist@verizon.net.

“These are our friends and neighbors, and we should support each other. That’s what makes a community,” she says. “Everybody working together makes small towns so great.”

Memories of Winnie Reese: Three daughters credit Homeland with extending their mom’s life.


Edwina “Winnie” Reese rarely made snap decisions, so her daughters were surprised when she visited her sister at Homeland and, on the way home, asked, “What do you think of Homeland?”

“Within 48 hours, she had her house on the market, she had made all these decisions, and she gave a deposit to Homeland,” says her daughter Kathy Wilson.

Today, Winnie’s three daughters agree that Homeland extended the life and vitality of their mom, providing excellent care and socialization during her final 10 years. They also agree that their mom’s decision to live at Homeland was a gift, offering them peace of mind with knowing she was safe and secure.

Winnie’s daughters continue to support Homeland, and the two who live in Pennsylvania attended the Homeland 155th anniversary gala honoring Betty Hungerford. Winnie also left a gift for Homeland before she died in October 2021 at age 97.

Winnie dove into the life and activities of Homeland, making close friends who brought laughter to the Homeland halls—and a bit of spice to political discussions.

Winnie grew up in the Philadelphia-area town of Roxborough. She married her childhood friend and sweetheart William in 1944, and they had three daughters—Sally Herzog, and twins Bette Hoffman (who jokes about being “the middle child” because she was born first) and Kathy Wilson.

Winnie was a rarity in her time—a working mom serving as administrative assistant to the executive director of the Girl Scouts in Philadelphia. Her daughters recall her mastery of robbing Peter to pay Paul, prioritizing which bills to pay first. When John F. Kennedy was assassinated, Winnie determined that her children needed a television to witness history. She bought a set on layaway at a local appliance store—and then talked the salesman into letting her take home the 150-pound “portable” while she continued to pay it off.

William died when he was only 61, after years of bad health. Ever resourceful, Winnie managed on her own. In 2011, she found her perfect fit at Homeland, enjoying the attentive staff and calling herself “blessed.” Her sister, Lou Hepschmidt, was already a well-known resident whose philanthropy included the gifts of Hummel figurines bringing cheer to spaces throughout Homeland.

For Winnie, one of Homeland’s selling points was the naturally lit, bay-windowed corner room where she stayed when visiting with her sister, and which ultimately became her personal care suite.

“There was a church across the street, and she would talk about the weddings and funerals she saw there,” says Kathy. “She stood at that window and watched elements of the community at that church and felt connected to it in some way.”

In her 23 years with the Girl Scouts, Winnie saw how hard her colleagues worked just to get by. She developed a liberal point of view and became a diehard Democrat.

“I have an Equal Rights Amendment pin she gave me in the early ’70s,” says Kathy.

With the move to Homeland, Winnie made it her mission to be a “bastion of liberalism” in central Pennsylvania, Kathy adds. In retirement, Winnie had a talent for making and keeping friends, and her Homeland friends formed into a group that would play cards—pinochle was Winnie’s favorite—and share their political views proudly. In the runup to the 2020 presidential election, they became known as “The Biden Babes,” for their vocal support of Joe Biden’s successful campaign.

“On Inauguration Day, they had their lunchtime meal in the Homeland Diner instead of in the dining room so they could watch the inauguration together,” says Bette.

Even in her final years, Winnie enjoyed her birthday parties, a 2019 Christmastime family gathering at the shore, and the day she finally met her youngest, COVID-baby, great-grandchild. That was a cold, rainy day, but she turned down Bette’s offer of a heavier jacket.

“She said, ‘My heart is so warm,’” Bette recalls. “She was holding a baby, and she was thrilled.”

On her 97th birthday, the family gathered in Homeland’s Chet Henry Memorial Pavilion.

“She had a shrimp cocktail, Jersey Mike’s hoagie, Dr. Pepper, and chocolate birthday cake, and she looked like a million bucks,” says Sally.

Just a few days later, Winnie died peacefully. Winnie never failed to praise her daughters, calling them “three of the most wonderful women you’d ever meet.”

During their mom’s decade at Homeland, Sally would take the train from Long Island to Harrisburg once a month, rent a car, spend time with her mom, and take the train home. Kathy and Bette visited together monthly from their homes in the Philadelphia and Allentown areas.

“When we would leave,” Bette recalls, “she would always say, ‘I’m the luckiest woman in the world.’”