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Veterans Home celebrates 130 years


Main entrance Michael J. Fitzmaurice South Dakota State Veterans Home.

The Michael J. Fitzmaurice South Dakota State Veterans Home in Hot Springs will host its 130th anniversary celebration on Friday, September 20.

The celebration kicks off with a community parade at 9:30 a.m. MT. The parade, coordinated by American Legion Post 71, will start at Centennial Park in downtown Hot Springs and travel up North River Street and on to Minnekahta Avenue, with the procession arriving at MJFSVH around 10:30 a.m. Organizations and others are encouraged to enter; get parade entry forms at the Hot Springs Chamber of Commerce office in the Mueller Civic Center.

The anniversary celebration will continue with presentations at 11 a.m. at the front entry at the Home (2500 Minnekahta Avenue). Immediately following, VFW Post 3442 will provide a free-will lunch, with entertainment. Tours of the campus start at 1 p.m.

According to Audry Ricketts, South Dakota Department of Veterans Affairs, the State Veterans Home has the capacity of housing 100 residents. Currently 78 are in nursing care and 22 are in independent living. Over the years, 4,673 people have lived at the facility. These include not only veterans, but some of their spouses as well. “They served, too,” said Rickets. She said the facility is allowed 118 full-time employees, “but that doesn’t mean we are always filled.” This number includes nurses to ground keepers.

“We are pretty proud. We are a home committed to make their lives the best they possibly can be,” said Ricketts. “The celebration is a lot of history, so you can see what was and what is. The new home showcases more of a true home environment — originally more of an institutional feel — showing a neat aspect of what it was and how care has improved over the years.”

“Our entire campus, along with our community partners, are excited to host this celebration,” said Superintendent Brad Richardson. “This 130th anniversary is truly a celebration of every South Dakota family who has supported our U.S. military over the past decades. It underscores South Dakota’s rich legacy and commitment, over the past 130 years, to take care of our heroes and our allegiance to carry that mission into the next century.”

The current Home opened in 2016. It is a 133,000-square-foot, two-story facility with living spaces broken into eight neighborhoods that provide a home-like environment to the residents.

Originally intended as a home for disabled veterans of the Civil War, the home was selected by the Dakota Territory legislature to be in Hot Springs. Lobbying was done by members of the Grand Army of the Republic, a fraternal organization of Civil War-era veterans, whose leaders found the naturally warm mineral springs and mild weather of the Hot Springs area to be conducive to health.

The Home’s original construction began with the placing of the cornerstone on November 5, 1889, and the home opened a year later with its first resident registering on November 25, 1890. The Home’s historic original building, known informally as “Building Two,” was made from locally quarried sandstone and is still utilized on campus.

“The facility has been successful over the years because of service and fraternal organizations, and lots of volunteer time,” said Ricketts. “It’s amazing the time, funds, and efforts that people donate to help these residents have a comfortable life.”