Homeland resident Anna Guidara: A life built around faith – and cookies


Since coming to Homeland two years ago, Anna Guidara has made many friends and has earned a reputation as Homeland’s “prayer chain queen.”

When people need a prayer for their health, they stop by Anna’s room, and their requests go into Anna’s prayers.

“When I retired, I had more time, so I went to church every morning, and I started praying and praying and praying, so I keep praying,” she says. “I pray every day for somebody.”

Anna’s steadfast faith has been a comfort through a life of tragedy, resilience, and family. That tight-knit family includes a granddaughter and great-grandson who work at Homeland, keeping them close every day.

Anna grew up in Steelton, the youngest of seven children. Her parents married in their native Italy, and the old country traditions remain central to her family. Her granddaughter, Homeland Clinical Manager Kelly Weldon, recalls, “We had spaghetti dinners every Sunday.”

“And meatballs,” Anna adds. “And homemade wine. They made their own wine.”

Anna’s father worked for the railroad but times were tough, and Anna left school at 16 to take a job in the packing room of ice cream maker Hershey Creamery, where two of her brothers were supervisors.

Two years later, in 1946, Anna got married. Not long after their 20th anniversary, her husband, Bill, went to work and was electrocuted on the job. He was 37 years old, and Anna was a young, widowed mother.

“My daughter was 12 years old, and I raised her,” Anna says now. “I put her through school, and she was a nurse for 40 years. I’m proud of her. I’m proud of all my family. God’s been with us all the time.”

Anna supervised the deli counter at Karns Food Store for about 25 years, and though she was busy with work and family, she still made the time to help the nuns at her church serve meals to students.

“I used to make around 500 subs a day for fundraisers,” she says. “Karns gave them the lettuce and the tomatoes. They gave them the ham. They sold them for a dollar. You can’t do that now.”

After she retired, Anna moved across the Susquehanna River to Marysville to be closer to her daughter and help watch her granddaughters.

“She liked to shop,” says Kelly of those years. “She always took my sister and me shopping for school clothes. It was a tradition.”

Another Italian tradition that Kelly enjoyed with her “Nanny” was holiday baking.

“We always baked a ton of cookies at Christmastime,” says Kelly. “We would give them out. We had a routine. We would pick up nut rolls the week before Christmas and hand them out. We would give out the cans of cookies, too. Now, my mom and I do it.”

When Anna could no longer live independently, Homeland was the logical choice because Kelly was working here, as is Kelly’s son, Drew, in dietary. Since moving to Homeland two years ago, Anna has enjoyed morning worship, exercise classes, walking, and her longtime passion – playing bingo.

“I know everybody here,” she says. “I talk to everybody.”

Faith remains an integral part of Anna’s life.

“I pray for my health and that everybody up here is well,” she says. “I pray for everybody who’s sick and everybody who’s in the hospital. Every time I talk to somebody, I’m praying for them.”

Kelly admits that she can’t cook as well as her grandmother, but she learned more essential lessons from Anna.

“Faith, number one,” Kelly says. “And I learned to be strong. Nanny was a widow at a very young age. She raised my mom by herself. She did remarry, but her second husband was very sick, and he died when I was young. I’ve learned from her what it’s like to be a strong, independent, do-everything-on-your-own person.”

Anna hopes that she has been an inspiration.

“My one friend said that God has me here for a reason,” she says. “She said, ‘He’s not done with you.’ I’m 93 years old. When He’s done with me, He’ll take me. Everybody says I don’t look 93. They say I look 75. I say, ‘Get out of here.’”