By J.O. Parker
Making life better for others is something that Dion Schrack, the long-time administrator of St. Francis Manor, has taken to heart.
Dion, who celebrated his 40th anniversary as administrator of St. Francis on Jan. 1, has been instrumental in growing St. Francis Manor from a 51-bed nursing facility to a successful 31-acre continuing care retirement community. Countless projects and services have been created under Dion’s leadership including the following:
“Since St. Francis Manor is a free-standing nursing facility with no contract with a management company, Dion has been responsible for the management, marketing, financial accounting, human resources, personnel recruitment, master planning, survey and regulatory compliance and legislative lobbying for 40 years,” said Fran Conn, Chair of the St. Francis Manor Board of Directors.
“Dion has a heart bigger than life and a compassion for people that doesn’t stop,” added Fran. “His vision, past and future, of St. Francis Manor, Seeland Park, and the Hammond Center are great examples of his devoted life-long work as administrator. We can never thank him enough for all he had done and continues to do.”
Dion was raised in Tama and graduated from South Tama High School in 1976. He received his Associates Degree from DMACC in Boone before attending Florida International University in Miami for hospital administration.
After a year, Dion decided hospital administration wasn’t his calling and he came back to Iowa and completed a 9-month internship through DMACC before testing to become a licensed nursing home administrator.
“You might say being an administrator was in Dion’s blood as his grandfather was administrator of Tama Nursing Home and his mother, Rosie Schrack, was a nurse and long-time administrator at Sunny Hill Care Center in Tama where Dion worked while attending college in Boone,” noted his wife, Shelley, who serves as administrative assistant.
St. Francis Manor board member Bernice Mithelman heard about Dion through his mother. At that time, Dion was serving as administrator of River View Manor in Pleasant Valley, and hadn’t considered making a change, but he liked that St. Francis Manor was a non-profit, community-owned facility and interviewed for the position.
“Roger Zimmerman was chair of the St. Francis Manor Board of Directors when I was hired and I remember hearing years later from Roger’s wife, M.J. Zimmerman, that Roger came home that night and said he just hired a kid to run St. Francis,” laughed Dion. “I also remember the board meetings were held over the lunch hour and our dietary staff served the board members a meat and potatoes dinner. After several months, Roger said to me that they didn’t need such a big meal and could just have a tossed salad as they’d done in the past. I smiled and told Roger that the dinner meal was cheaper to serve than lettuce and I was watching the food costs! I think Roger knew he hired the right kid for the job!”
In addition to Zimmerman and Mithelman, other community leaders serving on the board when Dion began as administrator on Jan. 1, 1982 were Dick Seeland, Jim Tedford, Jim Tederman, Mary Flanagan and Allyson Sawtell.
Dion credits having great board members who are progressive and community-minded to his longevity at St. Francis.
Dion’s proudest accomplishment is using his God-given talents to help and care for people.
“I have taken care of a lot of people over my 40 years and I’m grateful for the relationships I have with many residents’ family members,” said Dion. “In fact, I am now caring for the second generations of families. Hopefully I will be able to retire before I get to the third generation!”
When asked, Dion said his greatest satisfaction is when customers, family members, or community residents talk about the great service they received or witnessed from the staff at St. Francis Manor.
“I am very blessed to work with a great staff with caring hearts,” he said.
As for the future on campus, Dion would like to see single family homes built on the last five lots of Seeland Park’s Phase VI. Dion also strives to have financial stability of all the campus entities and to keep attracting the best employees to continue providing the best services in a very difficult regulatory and work environment.
Dion and Shelley Schrack have been married for 32 years and the couple has two daughters — Mariah (Alex) Karumuna and their son, Kyler, who live in Bondurant and Maddie, a sophomore at Northwestern College in Orange City.
“Our girls grew up working in the nursing home,” said Dion proudly. “They both started as dietary aides when they were 14-years-old and then became certified nurse aides soon after they turned 16. The residents are always glad to see Maddie when she works at St. Francis Manor during her college breaks.”