Caring for family is important to Pat Wise, whether it was helping to look after her siblings, her own daughter and granddaughter, or children at the residential Milton Hershey School.
Pat and her first husband, Robert Samuel Townsley, moved from where they grew up in Huntingdon County to Hershey in 1958 and spent more than a decade as house parents at the school. When Robert’s father died, they returned home, buying the family farm.
“We had a nice time,” said Pat of life with Robert, who died in 1972. “It was a nice few years.”
Recently Pat and her daughter, Lisa Myers, talked about a life rich and well-lived. Pat now lives in Homeland’s Ellenberger Unit, enjoying the activities and the attentive care. Her daughter, Lisa Myers, appreciates the small size of the dementia-care wing and the responsiveness of the staff.
Pat was born in Kistler and raised in Mt. Union. Her father worked in one of the brickyards where many of the area’s men worked. She had an older sister and brother and a younger sister named Sandra, who died from sleeping sickness at age 3. The loss weighed on Pat, who was only a couple of years older and had always wanted a sister.
She had fun with her good friends, but there were always chores, especially after her father died from silicosis – caused by breathing in particulates in the brickyard – when Pat was about 12 years old.
In 1948, Pat married Robert, who she knew from school. He had served in World War II in a highly secure area, interpreting messages. During their time at the Milton Hershey School, they lived in three houses where students – all boys in those days – also resided.
Robert would take the “barn boys” to care for the school’s dairy cattle. Pat would oversee the “house boys,” ensuring they did the cleaning, cooking, and laundry every day. They had fun, too, playing baseball, making jack-o-lanterns at Halloween, visiting Hersheypark, and skating in the Hersheypark Arena.
One of those boys was Anthony Colistra, who grew up to be superintendent of Cumberland Valley School District and, from 2009 to 2013, president of Milton Hershey School.
When they moved back to Huntingdon County, they purchased the family farm and an adjoining property. Together with their son and daughter, Pat and Robert had about 250 acres. In addition to working the farm, Robert took a job at a sneaker factory. Pat worked at a sewing factory, making men’s suits.
Pat enjoyed sewing and knitting – skills she learned from her mother, a meticulous seamstress.
“I had all handmade clothes,” Pat said. “She was really good. When I was little, I thought it was terrible, but really, I was lucky.”
In 1972, Robert died from multiple myeloma. A year later, a friend introduced Pat to a widower named Jay Robert Wise, who everyone called Bob. They married in 1974 and were together for 43 years until he died in 2017.
When Lisa was growing up, her mother taught her how to cook – “cakes from scratch, and the icing,” Lisa recalls. “She would have amazing birthday parties. She could draw really well. She always helped me with my art projects.”
After Lisa got married, she and her husband were working parents, and Pat was “a huge help,” Lisa says. “If my daughter was sick, Mom would swoop in. She would always come and help clean and cook and get groceries. I had a huge support system.”
Pat came to Homeland in February 2021. It came highly recommended, Lisa said, adding she is very pleased with the decision.
“They love her there,” Lisa says. “She’s doing really well.”
Lisa appreciates the intimacy of the Ellenberger Unit. At any time, she can get in touch with staff or Director Daniqwa Buckner – “She’s amazing,” Lisa says – and get a quick response.
“It’s a beautiful facility,’’ Lisa said. “People work really hard there. It’s a good place. I like that I can call or text [the staff] and get a response. We’ve been very fortunate.”