by Ozzie Nogg and David Golbitz
The dictionary definition: “Nurse — to tend the sick, injured or infirm; to comfort and treat, especially in order to prevent pain; to contribute to an individual’s physical and emotional well-being. Nursing — a science and an art; a profession that promotes quality of life.”
The Rose Blumkin Jewish Home definition: Nurse, nursing — Darlene Golbitz, who provided all the above to the elderly in our community for more than 30 years.
All good things, however, come to an end, and on Sunday, July 6, Darlene will walk out of the Blumkin Home and into a well-deserved retirement, not that she wants to make a big deal out of it. “She doesn’t like the spotlight,” her son David said. “She doesn’t like being the center of attention, but I don’t think she realizes how big a part of the Omaha Jewish community she’s been, and how many lives she’s impacted. If it were up to her, she’d like to finish her work and retire without anyone making a fuss — to just slink away — but she’s earned recognition for her contributions, and she deserves it, whether she thinks she does or not.”
And so, on Saturday morning, July 12, Darlene will be called to the Torah at Beth El Synagogue in recognition of her long career marked with sensitivity, warmth and love. “Our family will honor Dar at kiddush following services,” Sherman Golbitz said. “She did her job with such dedication and compassion, and we want to acknowledge the way she cared for the health and dignity of those in her charge. We invite the community to join us in wishing Darlene well as she begins her retirement.”
Darlene’s connection to the Blumkin Home goes back to the day she helped residents move from the Dr. Philip Sher Home to the RBJH current location. “In Pittsburgh, where I grew up,” Darlene said, “taking care of the elderly was a way of life for my family. My grandmother was in a nursing home for 25 years, and we visited her every weekend from the time I was six. I saw my family honor her, even though she often had no idea who they were. I think that’s part of why I chose to stay so long at the Blumkin Home. Call it payback time.”
When Darlene was interviewed in 2007 for a story about the RBJH New Beginning project, she delivered her backstory in one delightful take. “My mother was the deciding factor in my career choice and she was insistent that I become a nurse. Her boss’s daughter had started nursing school, and my mother’s boss was her guiding force, so it seemed like an OK choice, especially since my aunts wanted me to become a teacher like them. But I couldn’t see myself as a teacher, and so, now mind you, I was only 14 at the time, I made the decision to become a nurse.”
Darlene attended nursing school at Montefiore Hospital in Pittsburgh on a full scholarship, became a Registered Nurse, received further training through the University of Pittsburgh, and subsequently graduated from UNO in 1995 with a BGS degree, concentrating on gerontology and public administration. In addition, Darlene holds a Certificate in Gerontology. For the past seven years, Golbitz served as Charge Nurse in the Blumkin Home’s Southwest Neighborhood, where she handled admissions and discharge criteria, plus the development of specialized ways to improve the quality of life for residents as well as for its staff.
It has now been 50 years since Darlene first attended nursing school, and she knows it won’t be easy to step away from the work she’s done for all of her adult life. “I have mixed feelings,” she said. “[Fifty years is] a long time to be a nurse. It’s part of my identity and I know I’m going to miss it. I’m going to miss being with the Residents and their families. I’d like to think I made a positive impact and made their days a little better, made the nursing home more homelike for them.”
Darlene continued: “I’ve always thought it was important to serve as a link for the families, both in and out of town, and it’s been an honor to be part of the Residents’ celebrations and milestones and those of their families. When my mother was diagnosed with terminal cancer, she moved here from Pittsburgh so I could take care of her. For the last two months of her life, I entrusted the Blumkin staff with her care and they were fantastic. My colleagues are very special people.”
Speaking for those colleagues, Josh Gurock, Director of Operations at the Rose Blumkin Jewish Home, said, “Darlene’s combination of knowledge and patience will be hard to replace. I want to thank Darlene for her dedication and years of service to the Blumkin Home, and wish her much success in her future plans.” Shelley Cash, the Rose Blumkin Jewish Home Director of Nursing, added, “Darlene is one of the most caring, giving, generous and selfless people I have ever met. She has patience like no other, and always gave 110% to the Residents and their families. In a way, Dar is like a detective, because she went to all lengths to figure out a problem and find a solution. All of us — the Residents, their family members and staff — will miss her very much. Darlene Golbitz will never be replaced. She is a gem that will shine forever at the Blumkin Home.”
About the staff she leaves behind, a staff she helped train, Darlene is positive that the Blumkin Home residents will be in good hands. “It’s important to have this kind of nursing home, one with a staff as committed and caring as the staff at the Blumkin Home,” she said. “They go above and beyond. They see the whole person and their needs. They’re very dedicated and very caring.”
Darlene Golbitz personifies the concept of l’dor v’dor — from generation to generation. “This work completes me,” she said back in 2007. “It fulfills my emotional and spiritual needs. I love reminiscing and learning everyone’s history and the stories that are meaningful to them and to their families. Sometimes it’s just saying Shabbat Shalom or Good Shabbos on Saturday morning to the Jewish residents and seeing the recognition and remembrance in their eyes.”
When Darlene acknowledged that some current Blumkin Home Residents are children of people she cared for twenty-five years ago, she was uncharacteristically hard pressed for words. “I’m privileged to care for them, just as I cared for their parents,” she said. “With a Resident or family member there are special feelings that come with end-of-life times. It’s difficult to express.”
According to Sherman Golbitz, “Dar loved this job, but it has worn on her. She’s 68 now, and in the last few years she’s been caring for Residents who are her own age, and that’s hard.” With a smile, Darlene added, “It’s time to retire and get a little distance before I come back to the Blumkin Home as a Resident myself.”
Once retired, Darlene plans to keep busy. She has grandchildren to spend time with and classes she wants to take. And she hopes to poke her head in at the Blumkin Home from time to time as a volunteer. “I look forward to not getting up at 5 a.m. anymore,” Darlene said. “But I will definitely not sit at home. I think when I’m done, I’ll just take a deep breath and keep on going.”