It all began when Debby Cicero received an army scholarship for nursing school and became a WRAIN student (Walter Reed Army Institute of Nursing). She was sworn into the army as a PFC in August of 1971 and served eight years of Active Duty and 21 years of Reserve Duty. In 1980, after completing her Active Duty, Debby saw an ad in the newspaper and decided to come in for an interview. She had gone to a few other places to apply too but, Debby knew once she walked in the door here that she couldn’t work at any of them – this is where she should be. The feeling she had here was much different from the other places and after the interview at St. Joseph’s she knew that this was definitely where she wanted to work. Fortunately for us and as she had hoped, she got the job!
After 35 years of caring for our Residents, Debby prayerfully made the decision to retire. She explains, “I want to spend more time with my family. I already have 3 grandsons and my youngest son is expecting his first child (a boy, of course) at the end of September. I want to travel with my husband. Read all the books I haven’t had a chance to read and do some remodeling and reorganizing in my own house. But, I also want to continue my volunteer work as an AJJ, so I will still be around at St. Joseph’s.”
Debby has seen a lot of changes over the years. She explained, “When I first started working here there was no air conditioning in the building except in the dining rooms. Occasionally when it was really hot in the summer we would move the Residents’ beds into the dining room. Then there were window units in all the Resident rooms before they were removed and the current central air conditioning system was put in.”
“Also, when I first started there were three and four Residents in each room and they shared a bathroom between two rooms. I think there were about 250 Residents in the building at that time. It was very different. Women and men Residents were not mixed together but on separate units. I’ve worked through many construction projects too. First the rooms were altered to have two Residents per room and then finally the current configuration of one Resident per room happened back in the early 90’s. We have moved from one side of the building to the other, as well as up and down, and even had Residents in the part of the convent where the postulants used to be, while the renovation project was underway.”
The auditorium was packed as the surprised Debby Cicero walked through the door to clapping and cheers. We weren’t going to let Debby leave without a proper good bye. As a nod to her military background, the nurses, led by Sonia Realivasquez, performed a toe tapping rendition of ‘Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy ‘.
“I’ve always liked the feeling of family in our Home,” Debby shared. “When the Residents move in, they come to stay for the rest of their lives. The Sisters, staff and other Residents truly become their family. The Residents, too, come to have the same care and concern for all of the staff and their families, just like we do for them. We take care of them to the very end and we try never to let a Resident die alone if it can be helped. Also, the Sisters and all the staff work as a team no matter what department the staff works. Every single person wants what is best for the Residents. They will always stop and help a Resident (or find someone who can) even if it isn’t their job.”
Most of our Residents were in attendance as Mother Marguerite presented Debby with a Certificate of Appreciation and a large gift basket for 35 years of dedication and loving care to our Residents. We will miss seeing Debby’s smiling face on a daily basis but, we look forward to her regular visits as a volunteer! Happy Retirement, Debby! May God bless you with much happiness, rest and relaxation!