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Celebrating 6 decades of work at Perham hospitals

Dee Rust (center, front) celebrates six decades of work at Perham hospitals with current Perham Health employees during a February retirement party.

When Dee Rust was 16 years old, she earned a coveted position at Perham's St. James Hospital.

She packed up her bags and moved to town, where she joined her sister, Viola Bormann, in the kitchen.

Landing a job at the hospital in 1947 was a good deal for women looking for work. Room and board were paid for, along with meals.

"It was about as good a job as anyone could get, I guess," she said.

During the time Rust joined the kitchen crew, which consisted primarily of nuns, all food cooked by the hospital was fresh. A farm was located right outside the building, complete with vegetables, fruits, chickens and cows - a rare scene for hospitals today.

Two men, hired as maintenance workers, were responsible for farming.

"They milked the cows, and we had fresh cream," Rust said.

Much of Rust's time was spent canning plums, pears and peaches left over from the harvest.

"We canned them all in 2-quart jars," she said.

Her sister spent the majority of her time baking.

"We baked everything from scratch," Bormann said.

Since that time, Rust has seen the hospital move away from home farm practices. After a short stint in the kitchen, she moved into the ward clerk role.

During the course of her time with the Perham Hospital, Rust witnessed it switch names - a few times - and switch over from a nun-run facility.

When she retired this year, she had more tales than most regarding the history of the hospital.

While she did take a few breaks to birth and raise her children, Rust, for the most part, worked steadily through, under her ward clerk title - a position she was the first to hold.

She's seen the hospital scene get a little more fast-paced over the years, and has watched as computers have slowly made their way into daily routines - one aspect of change she isn't too fond of.

"The computers don't always work," she said.

Even through all the changes, Rust said one thing remained the same: the importance of relationships.

During the course of her career, she was able to develop friendships with those she worked with, which happens to be the part of her job she looks most fondly on.

"The people you worked with - you got close to them," she said.

She's also considered the hospital to be a great employer through the decades. Her family members seem to think so, as well, as three generations in Rust's family have worked in the hospital facility.

Just as Rust was set to work in the new Perham Health hospital, starting yet another phase of her career, she suffered a stroke. While this put a halt to her time working as a ward clerk, it didn't stop her from returning to the new hospital in February to celebrate her career.