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‘That group of nurses’

Born on a family farm in Brookston, Indiana, Joy Carlson grew up at a time when the employment options for women were limited to nurse or teacher. She chose nurse. Little did she know that her decision would set in motion a remarkable journey that would forever change the landscape of healthcare in Kosciusko County.

In 1950, Joy’s life took a delightful turn when she met Neal Carlson one night at a local dance. Love blossomed, and the couple decided to make Warsaw their home. As Neal climbed the ladder in the banking industry, Joy tended to their growing family, which included their children, Sue, Jon, Jim, and JoAnn, and began work at Murphy Medical Center hospital as the evening nurse supervisor.

She then moved to Dr. Thomas Keough’s office as his office nurse.

The “Super outbreak” of tornados on April 3, 1974, decimated the Kosciusko County town of Atwood, and Joy joined a group of other medical professionals who turned out to care for the dozens of injured people.  Among these was nurse Imogene Canan, and it was from the meetings of this group, dubbed “that group of nurses” by local physicians, that the seed of an idea was planted. They recognized the gaps in medical coverage within the region and shared a vision of providing compassionate care to those in need. From these discussions, Kosciusko Home Care was born.

Kosciusko Home Care emerged with a mission to offer dignity, comfort, and support to patients and their families during their most challenging moments. Their services included home visits for the chronically ill, physical and speech therapy, and even a well-baby clinic. It was a beacon of hope for those in need, and it was embraced by the community.

The team understood that their calling required them to incorporate as a non-profit organization to ensure that quality care would always be accessible, regardless of a patient’s ability to pay.

“There were so many people who needed us, and so many people who were not able to pay,” Joy recalled.

In 1982, hospice services were added to their offerings, marking another milestone in their journey of compassion and care. Fast forward to 2023, after 45 years of dedicated service, Kosciusko Home Care and Hospice joined forces with Stillwater Hospice. The partnership brought together two agencies with similar histories, both deeply committed to the well-being of their communities.

Stillwater Hospice, with its roots dating back to 1888, began as a group of compassionate women delivering food and medicines to the “sick poor” of Fort Wayne. Known then as Visiting Nurse, the agency evolved to provide dedicated hospice care in the early 1980s. Today, Stillwater serves 12 counties with comprehensive palliative and hospice care, along with grief support.

In June, a special event marked this union, and Joy, now 94 years old, attended the ribbon-cutting ceremony to show her support for this partnership. Her dedication to the cause
continues, as she generously contributes to Stillwater.

“It felt like a good place to invest my money, and it would be used wisely,” Joy said. “It makes you feel good when you see things happening, and I think I’m a part of that.”