Homeland Center’s Kings and Queens of Hearts warm a February day


In their 67 years of marriage, Flora and Jeff Jespersen have discovered a thing or two about lasting relationships.

Flora and Jeff Jespersen were elected as this year’s Homeland Center King and Queen of Hearts in a tradition dating back several years.

“It takes a little bit of tolerance for each other,” said Jeff Jespersen.

The Jespersens also enjoy the unexpected, and for Valentine’s Day, they got a real surprise – their election as a Homeland King and Queen of Hearts.

In a tradition dating back several years, Homeland residents circulate paper hearts and collect signatures from their neighbors, seeking votes to win the King or Queen of Hearts crowns for their units.

The Jespersens were crowned for the Personal Care Unit. Other winners were King Dale Williams and Queen Laura Buchanon, first-floor skilled nursing; King Michael Fludovich and Queen Wanda Berger, Ellenberger Unit; and King Leslie Kauffman and Queen Polly, second-floor skilled nursing.

Residents enjoy collecting signatures and interacting, said Director of Skilled and Personal Care Activities Ashley Bryan.

“The winners always have a big smile,” she said. “It’s a fun way to celebrate Valentine’s Day, which is all about spreading a little love.”

Though Flora Jespersen looked pretty in her tiara and red cape, she was modest and egalitarian about her elevation to royalty.

“There should be no reason that we’re any more queen than anybody else,” she said.

The coronations capped a Valentine’s Day social, where about 60 Homeland Center residents – many of them dressed in red — ate heart-shaped cookies and drank fruit punch. They also enjoyed classic love songs sung and performed on keyboard by Tom Edmunds, smoothly singing everything from “Unforgettable” to “Try a Little Tenderness.”

Betty Ludwig is a second-generation resident who chose Homeland as the best place for her mother and then came to stay herself because “they were very good to her.” Wearing a pink shirt decorated with a white felt heart provided by Homeland staff, she said she attends any event featuring music. She grew up playing piano and flute, and her mother played the piano at home every night.

“If there’s going to be music, I’m going to be there,” she said. “It’s wonderful. Really enjoyable. Very few people will turn down good music.”

Ludwig was chatting with resident Vivian Black, who stays active by attending social events and helping tend Homeland’s library.

“I come to most of their musical things because I don’t like to be alone, and if you stay in your room, you’re alone,” she said.

Resident Marie Smith relived memories of being a Queen of Hearts two years ago.

“I have my crown, and I have a bracelet they gave me,” she said. “It’s all rhinestones. It looks like diamonds on your arm.”

Julia Douden attended the program and saw her dad, Leslie Kauffman, anointed a King of Hearts.

“I like the good music,” said Kauffman. It made him think of Valentine’s Days from “way past.”

Douden said her dad enjoys Homeland’s programs, and she loves them, too.

“It’s a break in the normal day,” she said. “It’s exciting. I saw a smile.”