2012-07-20 / People

Neighbors

South Portland woman celebrates decades-long career at nursing home
By Jack Flagler
Staff Writer


Marion Chase Marion Chase A lot in South Portland has changed since Director of Nurses Marion Chase started working at the South Portland Nursing Home as a teenager in 1961.

Many of the municipal buildings – the schools, fire station, police station and others – are all in different places, she said. The city as a whole is much more diverse. The schools she studied at while she continued to work part time all have different names.

But through all the change, Chase has worked at the same place and lived in the same house. Last month, her coworkers celebrated her 50th year of service to the nursing home. But Chase said because she started there before an ownership change in 1969, the dates are slightly off.

In August, she’ll actually celebrate her 51st year at the nursing home.

Chase said she never considered a change of location or career. Her job provided her everything she needed and it was rewarding for her because of “the bonds that you form both with the residents and with the staff.”

“I’ve always been here and been happy. I liked the job I had. I was able to advance in my job, so I was content to stay here,” Chase said. “It worked with growing up and being married and having my children. I worked part time when I went back to school, so it was able to meet my needs all along.”

The nursing home has been under the same private ownership since 1969, when Don Johnson bought it. Many of Chase’s fellow staff members have stayed more than 30 years because, she said, they value the immediate impact they can have and the control they have over the day-to-day activities of the nursing home.

“Most of our people don’t quit. They retire,” Chase said.

Chase moved into her house at 58 Anthoine St. when she was 2 years old. She married her first husband, Terry Chase, who has since died, when she was still a teenager. When she was 19, her husband was involved in a motorcycle accident. Chase said she “had to be the breadwinner,” so she took a job as a nurse’s aide at the nursing home down the street at 42 Anthoine St. At that time, she didn’t need any certification and there were no federal regulations for the job. The nursing home had 29 patients then, Chase said. Today it has 73.

She earned her certification as a licensed practical nurse in 1975 from the Maine Vocational Technical Institute, which is now Southern Maine Community College. Ten years later, she earned her certification as a registered nurse from Westbrook College, now part of the University of New England.

She has been married to her second husband, Ben Dionne, for the last 43 years. Dionne was from the town of Frenchville on the Canadian border and was in the Portland area for a work-related construction project when Chase met him on a blind date.

The house Chase and Dionne live in “has been a family house forever,” Chase said.

It has housed five generations of Chase’s family, from her grandmother to her own children, Roy and Susan Chase, and finally her grandchildren, Dustin Burnham, 26, and Korey Lee Burnham, 21, who live in the house. Chase raised her grandchildren since they were young, and said neighborhood children through the last 40 years visited the Chase house in the hot summer months to swim in the pool.

“We’re kind of a longevity family,” Chase said. “It’s a family trait that we don’t move around.”

After 50 years, it doesn’t sound like Marion Chase has any plans to change that.

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