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Sandra Book (pictured above) is retiring as administrator of Prairie Manor Nursing Home after 33 years. (Gazette photo by Nancy Duplechain)

Prairie Manor administrator retires

Sandra Book, administrator of Prairie Manor Nursing Home, retires this month, saying goodbye to 33 years of service. She started working there when the doors opened in 1986, and has been administrator since 2002.
“Father Leslie Prescott was the key ring leader to get this started,” said Book. “He knew the need so very much. He was bringing our community people elsewhere to see their loved ones.” She said Prescott had a friend who lived in Texas who offered to build the nursing home. However, the friend passed away before the plans could be realized. Wilkins Elliott’s family had already donated the land. Prescott would not let the dream die. He, along with 20 other people in the community, joined forces to make a non-profit organization to help the nursing home because a reality.
“In 1986 I found myself widowed with two children; one was 18 and one was six. I didn’t really know where my life was going to head, but I put my trust in the Lord, knowing He’d lead me somewhere wherever he wanted me to go. Prior to that, I was volunteering, getting things ready for the nursing home. One day, Father Prescott told me, ‘Sandra, what are you going to do now that your husband passed away?’ I told him I didn’t know but I had to go to work somewhere.” Prescott told her they needed an office manager. Book had gone to college for two years for business administration and worked in a sales department, doing cost analysis. Prescott asked her to work for them. “I thought that’s the door that God’s opening for me,” she said.
When asked what her fondest memories are over the years, Book said, “I guess the fondest for me was our last addition because I was so involved in that. I think that was probably the most gratifying when we were able to open that new wing. There were several additions after the building of the first home. We were an 80-bed facility at first, then we added 20 more beds in 1994. I was here for all of that, but I wasn’t the one dealing with the architect and getting the loan for it and that kind of thing. I was more involved in the last addition in 2012. We also added a non-denominational chapel, somewhere around the same time we added the 20 beds in the early ‘90s. Not all nursing homes have a non-denominational chapel.” She said the Becker family donated their estate in the Tate Cove area to Father Prescott who then sold it and donated the money to the nursing home to build the chapel.
Book also said she enjoys the Boggy Bayou Festival every year which is put on to benefit Prairie Manor. Book served on the festival board for 35 years. “It’s something fun for the community to do and it gets them involved.” Book recalled other fun times with the staff and residents, including the time it snowed and they built a snowman and had snowball fights.
When asked what she looks forward to with her retirement, Book said, “I’m looking forward to enjoying my family and doing some traveling. We have a trip planned to Disney, and I’ve always wanted to go to Hawaii.”
Book congratulated the new nursing home administrator. “I’m very proud the board has chosen Loretta Crawford as the new administrator because she has been an employee here for 13 years, and she knows the mission of the nursing home and she’s from the community. I know she’ll do a great job.”
Just as she believes she was called to work at Prairie Manor, Book believes the Lord let her know when it was time to go. “I was cleaning out my desk, and I came across a nine-day novena with the name Surrender Novena. I looked at my retirement date, and it was nine days away. God was telling me that I need to do this. I was just meant to find it that day.”
Book said she will miss going to the nursing home and visiting with the residents and working with the staff every day, but she plans on going back to visit and is thinking of volunteering, starting the Blue Bird Committee. The Blue Birds were ladies who helped out at parties and visited with the residents. Book said of the residents, “I love to sit and talk with them and learn how they grew up. It’s still rewarding to know you shared their life, and they trusted you enough to share their life with you.”

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