Charlie GillYears ago there was a house on N. Colby Street, just north of Prairie Ronde, and a Mrs. Helen Lohroff made it into a nursing home.

Archived Story

‘Cardinal Charlie’: Three Third Ward streets named for Lohroff women

Published 7:35pm Monday, August 2, 2010

I’m not sure, but I believe this may have been in the late 1930s or early ’40s.

It was called Helen’s Haven and I think she had 12 residents.

A friend of mine, Mary Alice Luthringer, told me she used to go there with her dolls to play with Helen’s daughter, Mary.

She told me about the bear in the cage.

She also said they had a monkey, or maybe two, also in a cage, and she could remember them looking at themselves in a mirror in their cage.

Something I remember was a block building either next to the house or connected to it.

This building at one time had returning World War II veterans who lived there.

Also, Alma Lohroff told me that at one time eight or nine Philippine girls lived in this building and worked in the nursing home.

I guess Helen’s Haven was sold to Dr. Sherman Loupee, who sold it to the Deal family in 1951. They had 15 patients and called it I-Deal Nursing Home.

This was later expanded to hold 30 patients.

Then in the 1970s, this was called Shato nursing home, and I guess from there came the large building I knew as Dowagiac Nursing Home.

I don’t know exactly when, but it was closed up by the State of Michigan for a rules infraction.

All of the patients had to be removed to other places.

I’ve found out the property was owned by the Sisters of St. Joseph from Kalamazoo and was affiliated with Borgess Health Systems, and this is when it became Dowagiac Nursing Home in 1980.

In 2002, a Mr. John Hupp owned it and it was managed by Red Oak Health Care, based in Jackson.

It was due to poor management and money from it was used to fund other business ventures and not used for the residents and staff of Dowagiac Nursing Home.

I had several friends who were patients there and I could see how bad the conditions were before the state closed it.

Also, the Lohroffs owned the property on the south side of Prairie Ronde and Colby (I remember this as a large open field full of old grapevines).

The Lohroffs made this into the Helen’s Haven subdivision.

Three streets, Alma, Mary and Helena, were named after Mrs. Lohroff and her two daughters.

Here is something a lot of folks have probably forgotten.

In 1948, a Mrs. Mamie Wycoff on old M-40 North had what was called Wycoff Nursing Home.

And, in 1956, there was a Roselawn Nursing Home at 103 N. Lowe St. at the Arthur Reist home.

So, Dowagiac had other nursing homes in our earlier days.

I was recently treated to a tour of the new Timbers of Cass County at its July 16 grand opening.

I must say, after going to a lot of nursing homes over the years, this has to be the most elaborate and beautiful building I’ve been in.

Dowagiac should be very proud of our new nursing home and I wish The Timbers the very best.

“Cardinal Charlie” Gill writes a nostalgic weekly column about growing up in the Grand Old City. E-mail him at

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