Mary Blichmann finds strength in everyone |

Mary Blichmann finds strength in everyone

Mary Blichmann has worked with severely handicapped children, served as activities director in a nursing home, and now drives a bus for an alternative high school.

“I’ve always been kind of drawn to ” they’re not underdogs ” just different populations,” she said.

“It’s just my personality, I guess. I see strength in people who have challenges, is the deal, I think. Just great, great strength.”

None of her jobs made as strong an impression on the 46-year-old as the 11 years she spent working at Glen Valley Nursing Home ” now Grace Healthcare of Glenwood Springs ” starting in 1990. It meant enough to Blichmann that she decided to write a book about what she learned from the job.

“Mostly (it’s about) working with the elderly and what they can teach and offer us in the last years of their lives,” Blichmann said.

“I’ve always been an advocate for the elderly and I think in this society we don’t see the value of the elderly. I just want to offer a different spin, a different lesson on that.”

She said the main lesson she learned is “that every day’s a gift, and what are you going to do with it?”

“Life is not necessarily lived in big gulps of adventure. It’s lived in the day-to-day, small moments. See the gift in that. That’s it, right there,” Blichmann said.

She tries to practice the same philosophy while driving a bus each day for Yampah Mountain High School in Glenwood Springs. She said she works to show an interest in each student as an individual, in what they say and think, and she makes a point of cheerfully greeting them. Some come from difficult circumstances, and her hello might be the first greeting they’ve gotten all day, she said.

“You don’t know what little thing you might say that might make a difference in those kids’ lives each day,” Blichmann said.

Blichmann used to work with disabled children at a camp in her native Iowa, taking them canoeing, rock climbing and caving. She first came to Colorado to start up a youth program at St. Stephen’s Catholic Church in Glenwood Springs.

When she left the nursing home job, she was ready for a break. She began driving a bus for the Roaring Fork Re-1 School District, and became a bus driver for Yampah four years ago.

She likes bus driving because it’s not very stressful, and she can return to her home in the middle of the day to focus her energies on pursuing her sand etching business. She uses a sand-blaster to carve her own designs on everything from wineglasses to gravestones. The owner of two Dalmations, she enjoys working with people who want their late pets memorialized by etching drawings of the animals on granite.

Blichmann also paints ornaments and ceramic tiles, and makes barnwood frames.

In addition, she enjoys swimming, biking and triathlons, working in her yard, collecting baseball cards and playing guitar. She used to lead sing-alongs with people with Alzheimer’s disease at the nursing home ” among other ways of entertaining residents there.

“I also did ‘Wheel of Fortune’ where I’d dress up as Vanna White’s rejected cousin from the hills. I’d black out my teeth and wear wild costumes,” she said.

Such fond memories make it easy to understand why Blichmann would want to write a book about the nursing home residents she got to know.

“I think an experience like I had working at Glen Valley only comes up once in a lifetime. That was really special,” she said.

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