Cartmell Home for Aged board of directors, residents, staff, family and community members gathered Saturday for a retirement reception to recognize longtime Cartmell Home administrator Peggy Howland for her 40 years of service to the home and its residents.

Described as “tirelessly energetic” and “courageous” for her innovative ideas and leadership, former Cartmell Home CEO Blake Starkey thanked Howland for her years of service, jokingly calling her “Minnie Pearl and Will Rogers put together.”

Howland began working at Cartmell Home in 1967 as a licensed vocational nurse, working her way up to become director of nursing in 1975. In 1980, Royce Thompson, the only other administrator Cartmell Home has ever had, retired, and Howland was chosen as his replacement. After finishing administration school, she became Cartmell Home’s second administrator in 1981.

“I was here 25 years, and Peggy had been here 13 years already when I got here, and she remained here 1 1/2 years after I left,” Starkey said during the retirement reception. “ my perspective, she is equal to the best leaders in long-term care....”

Palestine Mayor Carolyn Salter presented Howland with a proclamation that named Dec. 2 as Peggy Howland Day, as well as honoring her for “being recognized on the state and national levels for her innovative ideas that resulted in programs implemented to improve the standards of care for those individuals residing in long-term care facilities....”

Bobby Freeman, president of Cartmell Home’s board of directors, said it was fitting that the retirement reception was held in Cartmell Home’s Gathering Place.

“It’s appropriate that we gather in this place, because this is the heart of Cartmell Home — filled with wonderful moments and sad moments, because the Gathering Place will now be known as the Peggy Howland Gathering Place,” Freeman said, on behalf of Cartmell Home’s board of directors and the Cartmell Home Foundation.

Cartmell Home Foundation president Ahnise Summers said she was proud to know Howland as a person who took her job to heart.

“She treated her job not as a building or process, but as caring people caring for people,” she said.

Summers presented Howland with a retirement gift from the Cartmell Home Foundation, which included books about the Amish people, which Howland has an interest in, and a check for Howland and her husband to use on a trip to visit the Amish.

Accepting the awards, Howland said she was honored to be given the opportunity to work at Cartmell Home for 40 years.

“I learned that if you treat your staff right, they will have the heart to take care of our people,” Howland said. “We have 175 people working here, and they are the ones you should be congratulating. We put the staff together, give them ideas on what to do and how to carry it out. They are the ones that make it what it is today.”

Also speaking during the program were her granddaughter Samantha Morton, who read a poem about Howland that brought tears to many in the audience.

“She is the backbone of Cartmell Home and of our family,” the poem read.

Cartmell Home’s CEO Tim Kozik concluded the presentation with the reading of a special poem written similar to “Twas the Night Before Christmas” which started with “Twas the night before Peggy Howland retired....”

During Howland’s reign as administrator at Cartmell Home, things have changed tremendously.

In 1981, Cartmell Home had a capacity of 60 residents and approximately 40 employees. The home now has a total census of 161, which includes a 35-bed certified Alzheimer’s center, with a total of 175 employees.

Over the years, Howland has received numerous awards and accolades. In 2005, she was honored on the state senate floor for creating the nutritional aide program that passed state and federal laws in 2004 and can now be used state and nationwide.

“This program helped solve dilemmas at meal times,” Howland said. “In 2004, we began calling our units ‘neighborhoods.’ We also started restaurant-style dining where we have a steam table so that residents can pick up what they want to eat. We also took out the old-fashioned nursing stations and made them more like a home office.”

Several nursing homes in Houston and Dallas have implemented several of Howland’s ideas, ranging from the Sarah Center’s certified Alzheimer’s center to the restaurant-style dining.

Howland received the Texas Association of Homes and Services to the Aging’s highest Award of Honor in May for 39 years of service to long-term care. She also received the Distinguished Contribution and Service Award from TAHSA 1984-85 and 1999-2000. In addition, many of her articles have been published in nursing journals, including “Coloring Outside the Lines: How to Manage People with Alzheimer’s Disease” that was published in the Journal of Aging.

Cartmell Home CEO Tim Kozik met Howland the day she and Blake Starkey interviewed him for the position of chief financial officer more than six years ago.

“I was overwhelmingly impressed with the level of dedication and compassion she had for the Cartmell Home,” Kozik said. “Peggy has devoted her entire career to caring for the senior members of the community. She has certainly done an excellent job of fulfilling the dream of Sarah Cartmell (Cartmell Home’s beneficiary). We are very proud of Peggy for her accomplishments and unprecedented years of service.”

Filling Howland’s shoes as the new administrator, will be Debbie Harrison.

“Hard shoes to fill is an understatement,” Harrison said. “I have been a registered nurse for over 30 years, involved in long-term care for 17 of those. Coming to the Cartmell Home in 1997 was a significant turning point in my career. Immediately I knew this was where I wanted to work until my own retirement.

“Having Peggy as a mentor has been a blessing and with God’s guidance we will strive to continue providing ‘Cartmell Quality Care,’ fulfilling the legacy of Sarah Cartmell with the compassionate standards set by Peggy Howland,” she continued.

Not wanting to go out without one last “bang,” as of Thursday, Cartmell Home had surpassed its goal of $50,000, hitting $51,000 for its Operation Electric Bed campaign. The campaign was Howland’s brain child to give every Cartmell Home resident an electric bed to make their lives better.

“We started the campaign in September. There wasn’t a single working day after our first donation that we didn’t receive money,” Howland said. It was her goal reach $50,000 by the time she retired.

Howland said though she is retiring, she has hopes to do consulting and may even work as a fill-in administrator for nursing homes.

“There are lots of opportunities out there,” she said.

She also plans to spend more time on her hobbies, including working in her flower bed and garden, traveling, and devoting more time to her family.

She and her husband of 47 years, Morris, have a grown son and daughter, as well as four grandchildren and one great-grandchild. They attend Westwood Baptist Church, where she teaches a Sunday school class.


Cheril Vernon may be contacted via e-mail at

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