mary ellen

Mary Ellen Baldwin – Volunteer, nurse, and beloved community member

As a big sister in a family of six, a mother of five and a nurse for 43 years, Mary Ellen Baldwin has not only dedicated much of her life to caregiving, but most of it has been joyfully rendered at Noble Horizons.  In fact, despite retiring from her nursing responsibilities a six years ago, Mary Ellen continues to volunteer at Noble and even provides monthly nursing assistance when dentist Dr. Dekker is caring for residents on campus.

Mary Ellen’s connection to Noble is deep; her father was a volunteer and later moved to Noble, her mother lived at Noble, her husband, Jerry, was the Salisbury representative on the Church Homes Board of Directors for many years, and her daughter, Katie has offered art classes and design services to the Noble community.  Her journey though Noble spanned decades but at the core, it remained the same, “It’s taking care of the people.”

Born and raised in Long Island, NY where she met her husband, Jerry, Mary Ellen earned a nursing degree at St. Vincent’s in New York City before she and Jerry moved to Lakeville. She put her nursing degree to work doing private duty care while pregnant with her first child. When she heard that Noble Horizons needed a nurse from 7-11 pm on Friday nights she took the job, leaving Jerry at home with their growing family.   Working the second shift was ideal since she could care for the kids during the day, and Jerry could take over at night. Thus began her long career at Noble, with 4 hours a week turning into 8 and eventually 2 nights a week.

Mary Ellen worked almost exclusively in Whitridge, where memory care is provided and she LOVED it. “It’s my favorite place because you could always learn from the residents. One resident family member even told me, “We lost our mother to Alzheimer’s a year ago,” and I said, “Yes, but we found her. Whitridge is special because we work with residents on their level. This is who they are now. I want to be there for them. It was a joy to be with them.”

Though many are deep in dementia, Mary Ellen always found a way to connect with them and fondly recalls the special interactions she shared with them.  “They are just so happy to see you and be a part of what you were doing. It’s a joy to be able to be with them on their terms. No matter who you were or where you’ve been, sometimes this is what we come to, and to have someone to be there for them is a joy – sometimes all they need is a touch or a smile.”

Shortly before the millennial, Mary Ellen interviewed every resident in her care so she knew their story. “Every one of them gave me their story and that’s what I loved – listening to who they were. It’s worth every minute.” They sit in a basket still in her home, likely to become a part of Noble’s 50th Anniversary celebration coming up in 2022. Mary still remembers the names of those residents and is often reminded of them as she walks around Noble and see their names on plaques made possible by memorial donations from their families. 

Without hesitation, Mary Ellen emphasizes that the highlights of her career are the residents she came to know and love. “We put smiles on their faces. We kept them safe, gave them joy. There was always someone sitting with them in their final days so they weren’t alone.  That was the joy we could give them.” Mary Ellen also gratefully remembers her co-workers, especially the CNAs, and recognizes how fortunate she was to have worked on such a great team.

A lot has changed in nursing, but the rewards of helping another person never change. “It’s not about you, it’s about the seniors.”  When Mary Ellen references her one day a month assisting Dr. Dekker, she muses, “The paycheck isn’t much, but rich comes in many different ways, it’s not by finances.”  Mary Ellen gives kudos to everyone in the nursing field today, “My focus and love were always on doing the hands-on side but with staffing shortages nationwide, they do so much: hands on care, charting, paperwork, etc.”

In addition to staying busy with numerous grandchildren, Mary Ellen continues to serve on Noble’s Employee Scholarship committee which she finds extremely gratifying. Autumn Cockcroft utilized the grants to earn advanced education degrees and is now Noble’s Director of Nursing.   “Autumn was a past recipient and look where she is now. It’s a joy to be able to help the employees and see what they can do.”

It is also a joy to reflect on a career as inspiring as Mary Ellen Baldwin’s.

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