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.”