MANKATO — As if a comment on what the couple has done during their years of work, the sun came out Wednesday afternoon as Kathy and Jim Dye celebrated their retirement. The couple worked for Monarch Healthcare Management for more than 15 years.
They had quite a positive influence on the residents and volunteers. They implemented new programs and helped boost the volunteer base.
But colleagues say their biggest impact was the joy they brought to others.
About 75 people gathered outside Hillcrest Rehabilitation Center to celebrate the couple’s contributions. It was a joyous occasion, with people sharing stories about their time with Jim and Kathy.
“They’re fantastic,” said family member Gwen Olson. “They go above and beyond to meet the needs of the people they serve.”
Kathy worked as the therapeutic recreation director at Hillcrest Rehabilitation Center, developing activities such as a resident art gallery and a Mother’s Day tea.
Marc Halpert, chief operating officer for Monarch, said no other recreation director does as much as Kathy. He said she would find some way to celebrate every occasion, even obscure holidays such as National Pretzel Day.
She would go to work early and sometimes on the weekends to make sure residents were being supported.
Kathy also worked closely with volunteers who helped at the center. She loved working with them to assist residents, calling them them all “above-average volunteers.”
She played a big role in growing the center’s volunteer base. Kathy once asked if they could hold a banquet for the volunteers and Halpert said he was surprised when more than 300 people attended.
“Those people were there because of Kathy and Jim,” he said.
Jim worked as a chaplain at Monarch Healthcare. Beyond his responsibilities, he also established men’s groups and sometimes drove the bus that serves residents and staff members.
“He’s the most positive person I’ve ever met,” Halpert said. “He dedicated his life to making people smile.”
The couple has a strong faith that influenced their work. They also were always together.
They met while Jim was doing an internship on the Blackfoot Reservation in Montana and have been together for more than 40 years.
Kathy began working for Monarch about 16 years ago, with Jim joining to work as a chaplain shortly after her.
The COVID-19 pandemic made the decision to retire easier, Kathy said. There were challenges working with senior residents during the pandemic because of the heightened risks residents faced.
Jim served as chaplain for six facilities but wasn’t able to travel between the sites during the pandemic. Kathy had to cancel special events she’d previously planned. Instead of the Mother’s Day tea last year, she brought cards and gifts to residents in their rooms.
The couple’s last day of work is Friday. After that, they are planning to take the next few months off, perhaps do some traveling. Jim’s siblings are coming to stay with them during the summer.