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Gelinger bids farewell to veterans home

Linda Gelinger, administrator of the Southern Nevada State Veterans Home, started retirement with a festive parade as horns honked, flags waved and passersby offered hearty congratulations.

After 51 years caring for the nation’s elderly, she retired Friday, May 15.

“I felt very honored to be there,” she said about her nearly five years at the veterans home. “I felt like it was a great way to go out of my career, honoring the veterans.”

Gelinger said working at the veterans home was especially meaningful to her because it gave her a way to honor her late brother, Frank Joseph Lukitsch Jr., who was killed in Vietnam during the war.

“He had two children when he was killed. … I had a hard time dealing with his death. We were two years apart,” she said, her voice wavering as she fought back tears.

Additionally, her husband is a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel.

“Just honoring the military and the men and women that served makes me so proud.”

Gelinger said she is looking forward to becoming a “traveling grandma,” spending time in her motor home and visiting her four children and nine grandchildren in Las Vegas, Reno and St. Louis.

“Since this came about (COVID-19) it really makes you want to spend time with them. It’s what is important in life.”

Gelinger started her career in nursing homes after getting married. Her husband’s family owned and operated facilities in St. Louis.

“I started out in the activities department and it just blossomed,” she said, noting that she eventually purchased and operated a home that her husband’s grandparents ran for years.

She moved to Nevada while working for Del Mar Gardens in St. Louis, transferring to its facility in Henderson.

She said she found working in nursing homes rewarding because it allowed her to make a difference in people’s lives.

“Whether it be something small or something big, whether it be a resident or a team member, I always wanted to make a difference,” she said.

Under her leadership, the veterans home received numerous awards, including five-star ratings, the highest possible, by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid as well as from U.S. News and World Report, which evaluated more than 15,000 homes nationwide.

The home also received the HealthInsight Quality Award for excellence for six consecutive years.

Additionally, Gelinger received the Eli Pick leadership award from the American College of Health Care Administrators for top-performing skilled-nursing facilities nationwide for four consecutive years. Only 5 percent of the nation’s skilled-nursing facility administrators earn the award.

“Winning all the awards is good, but I did it for the veterans,” she said, noting they always asked if the facility still had its five-star ranking. “I wanted them to feel proud about where they lived and the staff proud about where they worked.”

She praised the Nevada Department of Veterans Services and her staff for their support and hard work and the “amazing volunteer program.”

“The team members I worked with are the very best I’ve ever worked with. Every one of them is amazing and worked so hard. You can just feel how everyone feels about veterans and their families,” she said. “I am going to miss the veterans and my team members.”

Hali Bernstein Saylor is editor of the Boulder City Review. She can be reached at hsaylor@bouldercityreview.com or at 702-586-9523. Follow @HalisComment on Twitter.

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