ESCANABA - Anyone who is a regular visitor to the Christian Park Center in Escanaba will, in all likelihood, run into a worker moving through the hallways with a perpetual smile on his face and a demeanor that indicates someone who really enjoys his work with the residents of the facility.
Such is Roy Sebeck, who works with the rehabilitation and restorative therapy department at Christian Park.
Born and raised in Escanaba, Sebeck began working as soon as he graduated from Escanaba High School in 1969.
Roy Sebeck, who helps with physical and restorative rehabilitation at Christian Park Village, assists resident, Richard Dieter, as he walks down one of the hallways in the facility. Dieter happens to be Sebeck’s cousin. (Daily Press photo by Dorothy McKnight)
"At first, I worked in sales and my grandfather was here at the time," Sebeck said. "The director of nurses knew of him and asked me if I was interested in working here. We were called orderlies back then. I took the job as a temporary one, but I liked it and decided to stay. A year and a half later, there was an opening in the therapy department and I began on-the-job training on Nov. 1, 1973. Over the years I've worked with several therapists."
After working with the physical therapy staff, Sebeck began assisting with the center's restorative rehabilitation and therapy programs under the guidelines. Using techniques ordered by the physical or restorative nursing staff, Sebeck helps the residents with strengthening exercises, wheelchair assessments and skilled therapy.
"That's so the resident doesn't lose ground while the staff continues to work with them while they're here," he explained.
Sebeck also assists with the center's maintenance program.
Sebeck pointed out that there was once a time when admission to a nursing home meant the end of the road for an individual.
"But that's not true anymore," he said. "This place has 99 beds, but it's not a nursing home as much as a rehabilitation center. All we have to do is to educate these people to see the light at the end of the tunnel and that they actually can go back home again."
Considering his naturally friendly personality, it's difficult to believe that Sebeck occasionally has difficulty getting a resident to cooperate with the required exercise or therapy.
"If I have a problem with a resident, I tell them they are not helping me by this program but that it's for them," he said. "If they say it's not going to do any good, I ask them what they have to lose by doing it? I say something like, 'It will only be for the better. If you crawl in and cover your head, what are you then?' That usually works."
Difficulties can also arise when he deals with residents who are not totally aware of their surroundings.
"I once had a woman who refused to work with me, and at first I took it personally, because I get along with everybody. I was working on her feet and she accused me of trying to sell her a pair of shoes."
Under recommendations from the therapist, Sebeck said he works with some of the residents three to five times each week. Others he sees five to seven times a week. In addition to basic exercises, Sebeck assists them with strengthening and walking balance exercises.
If Sebeck sees any weakness in himself, it's his desire to have each of the residents he works with to be restored as much as he or she is able.
"After my grandfather came here and I would come to see him, my desire was that he would come back to the grandfather I always knew," Sebeck said. "Of course it's not always possible. But I can try and encourage them to go as far as they can possibly go. When I'm able to see them change - move from a bed into a chair and then possibly on their feet, I look forward to seeing them as they progress. I really like working with the residents. It's a big thing knowing I'm doing something for them."
Even when he's not scheduled to work, Sebeck has volunteered his own time to help the residents of the center. He has brought in fresh produce from his garden and occasionally comes in on his day off to cook fry bread for the residents to enjoy. He has even taken some of the residents out of the Center on a mission. He recalled taking a woman to a local cemetery, where her family is buried, to see her own prepared gravestone. Another time he took a wheelchair resident in his car, ordered from fast food, but ate in the car due to transfer difficulties.
There is life outside the walls of Christian Park for Sebeck and his family, however. He and his wife, Lonnie, have been married since 1973 and are the parents of two grown sons, Troy and Trevor. They also have two granddaughters.
The Sebecks are frequent exhibitors at the U.P. State Fair, where they have shown baking, antiques, canning and flowers and vegetables from their garden.
"My garden is pretty good size," Sebeck said. "It's not a very big in space but what I do have, there's a lot in it. Lonnie doesn't do the garden, but will do the canning."
Sebeck jokingly relates about a time when he and Mike Dubord competed against each other with their vegetables at the Farmer's Market. Dubord challenged Sebeck, saying they would take a vote from the shoppers as to which one had the better tasting vegetables.
"He said he won but I never saw any evidence," said Sebeck with a smile.
Although Sebeck is not an antique collector, those items he does have were left to him following the death of his grandparents.
"I stayed with my grandfather after my grandmother died until he finally came here (Christian Park)," he said.
Sebeck also has the potential to be the envy of many married women who balance a home and career. Because his working day ends before Lonnie's, he generally will have supper either ready when Lonnie arrives home or at least underway.
"I'm not someone who has to wait for my wife to get home and cook supper," he stated. "I go ahead and start myself."