For 50 years Kenneth Heffel and his wife Diane have dedicated their lives to the Vienna Nursing and Rehabilitation Center.
On Thursday afternoon they celebrated their half a century of service to the community surrounded by family, friends, colleagues, employees and former employees during a special luncheon held in their honor at Vienna.
The luncheon kicked off with a song entitled “Vienna” which was played especially for Kenneth. Following the song, Kenneth and Diane were presented with the Nutcracker replicas of themselves, Diane’s in a nursing outfit and Kenneth’s in a 1970s leisure suit. Vienna administrator Corey Wright expressed his heartfelt appreciation of the Heffels and gave a brief history of their service to Vienna.
“Their leadership and vision has allowed Vienna to become a five-star facility and provide some of the best quality of care around,” Wright said before getting a little emotional.
“Even though they are not physically here every moment of every day, they are always present and involved in all that goes on to make Vienna successful and because of them, Vienna is one of the most successful and respected facilities, not only in this town but in this state,” Wright said. “And speaking for all of the current and former employees of Vienna, we thank and appreciate all you have done for this company through the past 50 years.”
Also during the luncheon, Lodi Mayor Doug Kuehne presented the Heffels with a proclamation commemorating their 50 years and declaring Nov. 2 2017 as Kenneth and Diane Heffel Day. The Heffels were also presented with a certificate of congressional appreciation from U.S. Congressman Jerry McNerney, D-Stockton.
The Heffels’ journey with Vienna began when Kenneth started working there as a bookkeeper in October of 1967. After a few months of employment he was named administrator.
“I needed a job and a friend of mine that I knew in Sacramento had just bought Vienna, and so he hired me down here in 1967 and I’ve been here ever since. I was a bookkeeper and administrator in training,” Kenneth said.
In 1972 he and Diane purchased the Bechtholds Convalescence Hospital, where he served as administrator for 10 years before becoming partners in Vienna in February of 1975.
“It was just an opportunity to get more involved and be a little more in control of everything,” he said.
In April of 1982 the Heffels sold Bechtholds and became the sole owners of Vienna and Kenneth continued to run Vienna. Through the years Diane worked as an RN whenever she was needed. In 1987, after 20 years of running Vienna, Kenneth hired Corey Wright as administrator to run the day-to-day operations.
Even after hiring Wright, Kenneth continued to be hands-on with the business and is still very active and involved today. Kenneth said the enjoyment of working with his employees and having the opportunity to serve his community is why he has continued to stay involved with Vienna for all these years.
“It’s just a rewarding business,” Kenneth said. “You’re seeing families come through. Children of some of the earlier residents have been patients here now, so we’re seeing second and third generations. It’s just a great way to know people and be involved in the community.”
Kenneth is very appreciative of his employees and said they were what he enjoyed the most about running Vienna.
“The staff, the people you get to know, your employees, that’s where it’s really at. They’re the ones that make it happen. You just give them the tools to operate and get out of their way,” he said.
The feeling was certainly mutual as many Vienna employees described the Heffels as very generous employers and shared nothing but positive experiences working with them over the years.
Sharon Linn, who began working at Vienna in March of 1967 and served as Kenneth’s office manager for 49 years, said that words could not express what a phenomenal employer the Heffels have been to her. Though she is retired she still works at Vienna part time and lends a hand whenever needed.
“He’s a great boss. He and Diane are the best. They treat their employees well and they have a wonderful business,” she said.
Roxan Vincent, director of nurses at Vienna, agreed.
“I have worked with Ken for the last 12 years and I tell you every single day has been amazing, and I cannot be as successful as I am as the director of nurses without his outpouring support day in and day out,” Vincent said.
Kenneth and Diane’s daughter, Kendra Lipka, who works at Vienna as a registered nurse, also felt that her parents were good employers
“I think my dad is amazing,” Lipka said. “I don’t think there is anybody else like him. He loves everybody that works here. It’s just part of who he is. It’s just part of his DNA. He loves employees.”
Over the years Kenneth has given several of his employees grandfather clocks after reaching 25 years of employment with Vienna and has given cars to 10 employees who have reached the 30-year mark.
Kenneth said getting to know the families has also been very enjoyable as well.
“I enjoy getting to know the families and seeing them appreciate what we’re doing here for their loved ones and fulfilling a need that most of them can’t take care of at home,” he said.