Thirty-five years ago, Roberta Merkle was looking to hire a case manager for the Warwick Central Geriatric Day Care Center based at the Warwick Central Baptist Church in Apponaug.
The center, which went on to become Cornerstone Adult Services and then part of the Saint Elizabeth Community, was among the first geriatric centers in the country. Merkle placed an ad and hoped to find the right person.
“One candidate stood out; her name was Kim Morris,” Merkle said, addressing an audience gathered in the Cornerstone garden on Warwick Neck. Morris had recently received her master’s degree and was working at the sociology department at Rhode Island College.
On Monday, Merkle was the first of several speakers, including co-workers and Mayor Frank Picozzi, to honor Morris at a surprise retirement party. Wednesday was Morris’s last day – 35 years to the very date – at the center, so perhaps the party caught her by surprise. If not, she put on a convincing show of momentary speechlessness and tears.
“When I think about Kim,” Merkle said, “words just flow to my mind.” Caring and compassionate were followed by courteous, cheerful and consoling. Merkle didn’t stop there.
“She is detailed oriented and never leaves work undone.” She said Marris makes certain that medicals are in so participants can start the program and “makes sure that families get the necessary support they are entitled to and makes sure the state requirements are met.”
Matt Trimble, who succeeds Steve Horowitz as president and CEO of Saint Elizabeth Community and is a 25-year veteran of the organization, said Morris played a “huge part of making Cornerstone what it is today.”
After hearing so many accolades, Picozzi, who presented Morris with a citation, said to her, “if you get bored, we could use a person like you in the administration anytime.”
Morris has no specific plans in her retirement. She looks forward to spending more time with her four grandsons.
In a brief interview, as guests found shade from the hot sun, sipped lemonade and ate sandwiches and salad … and later pieces of a cake celebrating Morris’s 35 years, Morris didn’t name an event that stood out from those 35 years. She said there were so many wonderful people.
What about the changes she has witnessed with advances in technology and medicine?
She said systems have evolved and there have been changes, and that’s good.
“But it’s how you help others; that’s the important thing,” she said.
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