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‘We’re like family’ at Brickstone

For such a small community, Comfrey has an abundance of history.

And Brickstone Manor, a modest nine-unit assisted living facility in the heart of the town of 382 residents in southern Minnesota, is a big part of that history.

The building that the 12-year-old Brickstone Manor is located in was at one time Comfrey Hospital, Inc., the smallest hospital in the state of Minnesota at the time.

Ima Wing relaxes while knitting in her apartment. Three of Wing’s daughters were born in the hospital that is now Brickstone Manor. Photo by Scott Thoma

“There were eight (licensed) beds in the hospital here,” said former Comfrey Mayor Linda Wallin, who is currently the chair of the board of directors at Comfrey Community Health Care Building which oversees Brickstone Manor. “When Dr. (Matthew) Rimas passed away in 1993, they closed the hospital.”

But many of those now living at Brickstone Manor utilized the hospital when it was still in existence.

“It’s funny that I am now living where three of my daughters were born,” laughed Ima Wing, who has lived at Brickstone Manor for the past three years. “They were born where the kitchen and dining area are now. I always tell them that they were born in a kitchen.”

Over the years, the former hospital building has gone through trials and tribulations.

A month after the hospital closed following the untimely death of the town’s only doctor, heavy rains fell in and around the Comfrey area, flooding the building and much of the town.

“We had over 6 feet of water in the basement of the building,” said Wallin. “Our dentist (Dr. Turner) had his office in the basement, and he had to move to the main floor.”

But the building remained basically intact.

Since 1993, a portion of the building has been used as a medical clinic, in which medical personnel from neighboring towns offer their services. The past four years, it’s been known as Sleepy Eye Medical Clinic.

Brickstone Manor in Comfrey, a small but “homey” assisted living facility, once housed the smallest hospital in the state. Photo by Scott Thoma

And the main part of the building, now known as Brickstone Manor, was briefly used in the fall of 1995 as the Leo A. Hoffman Center, a treatment facility program for adolescent girls.

Comfrey was then rocked by a devastating tornado on March 29, 1998. A portion of the building’s roof was ripped off by the mile-wide tornado, exposing the interior to the elements. Still, the building withstood another destructive force.

Eventually, the building underwent a major renovation project, and the Hoffman Treatment Facility was brought back that year until state cuts forced it to close in the early 2000s.

“So the town needed to decide what to do with the building,” Wallin explained. “And we decided on making it an assisted living facility.”

Remodeling once again took place to make the facility a warm and inviting place for nine residents to live.

“It’s now a place for elderly people to live within their own community,” Wallin noted. “And they can still be living close to family members that are still in the area.”

Brickstone Manor opened in 2006.

“We’ve had the pleasure to care for many special people over the last 12 years,” Wallin said. “It’s not a big assisted living facility, but it fits the town’s need.”

The clinic and a dental office in the same building makes it that much easier for elderly residents to make appointments without having to travel far.

The clinic, dental office and assisted living facility is operated as a 501(c)(3) by Comfrey Community Health Care Building, Inc. There is a five-member board of directors, with Wallin as the chair for the past three years.

And residents of Brickstone Manor like the fact that they can live in a nice facility in the same town they once owned a home.

Linda Wallin, left, the chair of the board of directors at Comfrey Community Health Care Building that Brickstone Manor is part of, visits with Idelle Schottle, who is the longest-tenured resident at Brickstone. Photo by Scott Thoma

“I’ve always liked this town, so I wanted to stay living here,” said Idelle Schottle, a five-year resident of Brickstone Manor. “So I moved into Brickstone, and I’ve been very happy here.

“The thing about this place is we’re like family, the staff and the people that live here. And we share each other’s children when they come to visit one of us, just like they were our own children.”

And because Brickstone Manor is located in the business district of Comfrey, residents can go to places such as the town’s library, grocery store, restaurant, post office, bank, church and other places if they choose.

“The church I go to is right down the street from here,” said Schottle, who travels around on a motorized wheelchair. “That’s so convenient for me. Or I can go downtown and get some groceries if I want. Everything is so close to here. It’s just a perfect place for older people to live.”

Martha Fredin’s mother lived at Brickstone Manor for several years before she passed away in 2011, just a few months shy of her 100th birthday.

Fredin is now a frequent shareholder/donor to keep the facility operating.

“We need to keep it going because it’s an important part of our town,” she said. “It has such a ‘homey’ atmosphere because everyone knows each other.”

There is no age limit to live at Brickstone Manor, which is part of the Comfrey Community Health Care Building, Inc.

Brickstone Manor is staffed by a certified nursing assistant (CNA) at all times. Suzie Meyer, an LPN, is also the housing manager.

Brickstone Manor has Bible study provided by New Hope Lutheran Church each Thursday morning. Residents, as well as the minister, and members of the church participate in the Bible study.

There is also a large laundry room and a room with a walk-in whirlpool tub. Meals, laundry and light housekeeping are included for each resident. Other needs, such as medication management and bathing assistance, are available.

Residents are served three nutritious meals a day in the dining room at Brickstone. There is also a coffee time where visitors often join them.

“They have good food here,” said Wing. “And we can suggest some things that we might want to eat.”

Day care children visit the residents of Brickstone Manor and sing songs to them. The residents love to see the children. Contributed photo

On Tuesdays, children from the day care center will visit the residents and perform songs for them.

“The residents love having the kids come here,” said Wallin.

There is also a main lobby area, with a television and comfortable couches, recliners and rocking chairs. Residents often gather to watch a movie together, play cards, read, put puzzles together, or watch the birds eating from numerous feeders outside a large front picture window.

“The Floratennial Garden Club takes care of the feeders for us,” said Wallin. “And they also plant and take care of the nice flowers in front.”

A patio area in the front of the building allows residents to enjoy the sights and sounds of spring, summer and fall.

And, Fredin admitted, she has one more reason she has been a major donor to Brickstone Manor.

“I may need it myself someday,” she said with a laugh. “So I want to make sure it’s here when it’s time for me to move in.”

Brickstone Manor is located at 105 Court Street South. For more information, call 507-877-4600 or visit them on Facebook.

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