Bob Fultz gestures toward the residents and staff of Homeland’s Ellenberger unit, including his wife and childhood sweetheart, Shirley.
“This is my family,” he says.
Family is important to Bob, who is the oldest of five siblings and has eight children of his own. After an active life of camping, fishing, hunting, Scouting, and service to other people, now he is enjoying his days at Homeland, with Shirley and all the new friends he has made.
Homeland’s Ellenberger unit is staffed by employees specially trained to help those with advancing memory impairment. The staff works with residents and their families to develop a comprehensive, customized plan of care taking each resident's interests and abilities into consideration.
Bob and Shirley came to Homeland in October 2017. He loves the art and exercise classes and the songs they sing every day. In the display box outside his room, where residents’ families post photos and mementos of their parents’ younger selves, there’s a letter opener that Bob whittled – a skill he learned from his father.
Kathy Yiengst, Bob’s oldest daughter, says the staff makes Homeland unique.
“I love it here. They’re all so friendly,’’ Kathy says. “All you have to do is say you need something, and they work with you.”
“This is a great place,” he says. “It’s like home.”
Bob was born in Snyder County, Pennsylvania, a rural area north of Harrisburg. His father was a supervisor with the WPA. His mother kept busy keeping the children out of trouble, which wasn’t always easy. Bob tells the story of the day he and his younger brother, Bill, were practicing their rope-tying skills.
Bill issued a challenge. He bet that Bob couldn’t escape if he tied him up. Bob accepted the challenge and let Bill tie his hands and feet. Then Bill scampered up a tree with the rope and was preparing to – yes – hoist up his brother.
As Bob wrote in his memoirs, “My mother heard the commotion outside and came out to find Bill trying to hang me. She warmed his little behind and saved the day.”
When Bob was in eighth grade, the family moved to Lancaster County, where Bob and his siblings attended school at a one-room schoolhouse. In wintertime, Bob’s assignment was climbing through the window every morning before anyone arrived to turn on the heat.
“I wish they had assigned me a key to the front door,” he jokes today.
At that schoolhouse, Bob met Shirley Barbour.
“We became sweethearts right away,” he says.
One day, while riding his bicycle to a Scout meeting, he took a detour to Shirley’s house. That continued for a few weeks, until Bob’s father got a letter from the Scoutmaster, asking why Bob was no longer coming. Shown the letter, Bob confessed the truth. His daughter, Kathy, finishes the story.
“I don’t think my dad missed Scouts anymore after that,” she says.
Bob enlisted in the U.S. Navy Reserve at 17 years old. He and Shirley got engaged – on Valentine’s Day -- at Valentine’s Diner, where she worked. He graduated from high school in 1952, and they got married in 1953.
Bob wanted a big family. He and Shirley had three girls and five boys. Just like their dad, the family enjoyed the outdoors, camping and taking trips to the shore. They lived in different places, ending in Grantville for 25 years.
Bob worked as an electrician, on commercial construction sites and in his own business. He still loved Scouting, so he became a Scoutmaster. He and Shirley taught their kids about the importance of giving back. As members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, they were deeply involved in service to others.
The family had a big garden, growing all sorts of vegetables and fruit – apples, peaches, strawberries. The kids learned to can and preserve their bounty, and to this day, Kathy makes applesauce from apples she buys at an orchard near her home in Dillsburg.
“I never eat regular applesauce,” she says. “Homemade is too good. I make it and bring it here for the staff at Ellenberger, and they love it.”