Charles Fetterhoff has seen the inside of many nursing homes, visiting friends and his sister, born with cerebral palsy, as she went in and out of rehab.
He also knows Homeland Center from the years that his mother and his sister – both named Mary – lived there.
“You couldn’t compare anything to Homeland,” he says. “It was night and day.”
Now, Charlie is putting his love for Homeland into service, joining the Board of Trustees in September 2021. He has watched Homeland grow in renown as it extends its legendary excellence in care. From residential services at Homeland Center into the community through Homeland at Home, the continuum of care provider boasts Homeland Hospice, Homeland HomeHealth, and Homeland HomeCare.
Charlie’s mother spent her final three years in Homeland, enjoying “happy hour” in personal care and flower arranging in skilled care. His sister, who lived independently until age 70, lived there for her last seven years. She loved to play bingo and, as an avid reader, would pick out biographies in the Homeland library.
“Those were good years for both of them,” he says. “At that point in their lives, Homeland helped them live a very nice quality of life. Homeland was always clearly above the rest.”
Charlie grew up in the city of Harrisburg, in the historic Bellevue Park neighborhood. His father was an obstetrician, who inspired him to pursue a career in health care – but one with better hours. He chose dentistry, earning his bachelor’s and DMD degrees at the University of Pennsylvania. He stayed in Philadelphia for his internship but returned to Harrisburg for a quieter lifestyle near his family.
For 45 years, he had a practice in Harrisburg’s Colonial Park area. He joined a group practice for the last three, but now, beginning October 2021, he is retired.
Charlie also chose dentistry for the chance to work with his hands. It’s in his blood. His great-grandfather and ancestors were blacksmiths and wagon builders in the Dauphin County town of Lykens. As a kid, he built model railroads.
“We’ve always worked with our hands,” he says. “You have that three-dimensional way of looking at things in dentistry.”
Retirement leaves him more time for building things and working around the house.
“When you have a house, there’s always something to fix,” he says. “Some people relax in the kitchen, but for me, if I can be down at my workbench puttering with something, that’s joyous. When you’re finished, you’ve created something or repaired something, and it’s meaningful.”
Recently, he became quite good at working with plastic wood, staining, and polyurethane. It’s all due to his greyhound, Marla, who “has an affinity for furniture. I don’t mean sitting on it. I mean chewing it.”
Marla is the newest of five greyhounds Charlie has owned for over 25 years, all of them ex-racers. He started with one after a friend introduced him to the gentle dogs.
He quickly realized that, as track animals that lived their whole lives in kennels, they are used to being around other greyhounds. So, he got another.
“You realize how much they enjoy each other,” Charlie says. “It makes it a happier time for the dog.”
Marla’s companion is Jimmy, aka Lebron James. As Lebron was a champion basketball player, Jimmy was a champion racer, but some of the others weren’t destined to succeed at the track (which is now illegal in Florida).
“There’s something about a rescue,” he says. “When I went to State College to pick up Marla, she not only had her head on my lap, but she pressed her body against me. They’re happy to have a home.”
Charlie serves on the Market Square Concerts board and is president of the Medical Bureau of Harrisburg, a phone answering service for medical and other offices. He has helped with fundraising with Homeland, including the successful 150th-anniversary gala that raised funds for Homeland’s benevolent care.
“Homeland is in a class by itself,” he says. “I’m hoping that with everybody’s support and care, it will last another 100 years.”