AUBURN — The Betz name has a well-earned reputation in the Auburn community with the nursing home at 116 Betz Road.
While Tuesday, Sept. 15, will be the last day for Luanne (Betz) Gerig as senior administrator, the family vibe will remain, with many longtime employees still caring for the residents.
Gerig has been involved with health care for more than 50 years.
“Basically, it’s time,” she said. “I now have three grandbabies, and one of them lives in Florida. With COVID, they don’t travel. I felt it was time for me to travel to see them and spend time with them.
“While I’m healthy, I want to be able to spend time with family outside of the business world,” Gerig said. “We always spent our family time inside the business. Now, I’m ready to spend some family time outside the business.”
Betz Nursing Home was started by Gerig’s mother, Doris Betz-Marshall. Later, Gerig, brother Ronald, and sisters Sue Ann Gamble and LeAnn Barnes all were involved in the business.
On Sept. 1, 2010, a new chapter began when American Senior Communities became manager of Betz Nursing Home.
Doris worked at a nursing home in the rural Troy Township community of Artic in northeast DeKalb County. “She decided she wanted to start her own, so she came over, went to the bank, got a loan, and she started taking care of people,” Gerig explained.
Betz Nursing Home started in a two-story farmhouse on seven acres at the north edge of Auburn, where the current nursing home is located. The farmhouse sat on a hill close to C.R. 427, and a barn was in today’s main parking lot.
The first floor of the farmhouse initially was used as the nursing home, while the family lived on the second floor.
When the second floor was needed for more residents, Gerig said the family moved to the basement of the house. Later, a 12-by-60-foot trailer became home for the family.
“Back then, there weren’t all the rules and regulations that we have now,” Gerig said. “I think we had 26 residents” in the house.
A larger nursing home was needed, and it opened in October 1975.
Gerig’s father died in April that year. Gerig, who was a freshman at Tri-State College, and her brother, Ronald, who worked at General Electric, came to work for the family business.
“My brother and I both went to school to get our nursing home administrator licenses. I went to school during the day for accounting,” she said. “When we got our licenses, you only had to take three classes, which is amazing, because now it’s a five-year degree and a six-month internship.
“It was never my intent to be the administrator. I was going to be the bookkeeper,” Gerig said. She served as administrator for 12 years.
When constructed, the new nursing home had 60 beds. A 1979 addition to the west side brought another 42 beds. Another wing was added to the east in 1985, with 41 more beds. With the creation of private rooms, the building now has capacity for 114 residents.
“The constant regulatory changes have really made the industry very challenging. It’s not just taking care of people any more,” Gerig said.
Gerig said Betz’s reputation was so strong, it didn’t just hire one person from a family.
“When we hired people, we often hired 3-4 members of their family,” she said. “You don’t see that as much any more.
“In a small community, everybody knew everybody,” she said. “Word of mouth was always our biggest marketing asset, because when you give good care, that travels all over the community, and that’s what people remember about Betz.
“That feel is still in the building because we have so many long-term employees still here, working through whatever needs to be done on a daily basis.”
On July 15, Emily Nelson became administrator of the facility, with Gerig stepping into the role of senior administrator.
“My plan is to spend more time at the lake, more time with my children and grandchildren,” Gerig said. “I don’t have any major plan, other than for the first year, spend as much time with my family as I can and figure out what the next steps are.
“My plan in the next year is to just go back and forth to Florida, spend time with my kids and do whatever comes up. My mother was the oldest of 10, and I only have two aunts left, so I’m just planning to spend family time.
“I’m still going to be support for Emily, and I’ll always be support for this building,” she said. “It’s my heart.
“I feel like I’m leaving it in very good hands,” Gerig added. “Emily’s been here since December. I’ve watched her grow and learn … and I think she’ll lead this building where it needs to go.
“The community has always been a great support here, and I want that to continue. I think that will because Emily is well-rooted in our community.”