Mother’s passion for caring for the elderly still drives a successful business today
Chapin, SC (Paul Kirby) – As loved ones get older, it often becomes the job of the younger generation to become their caregiver. Loved ones age and suddenly, you find they need help with the smallest daily task; cooking, cleaning, taking their medicine as prescribed. It’s hard to let go but you eventually find yourself overwhelmed by the need. The problem this presents is who do you trust with someone you love so much? Where do you turn for the right help at the right time?
In 1962, a woman named Louetta Slice graduated the Baptist Hospital School of Nursing as a registered nurse. She went to work at Rikard’s Nursing Home in Lexington. Looking back, her son Tim said she had a desire to work with the elderly. She never wanted to work in other areas of nursing. Married to Irmo coaching legend Heyward Slice who taught school and coached football, basketball, golf, and girls’ basketball at Irmo High School, she loved what she did, and so did he. The couple loved the Irmo area but decided they’d move to the lake near Chapin with their young family. A devout Lutheran, Louetta left Rikard’s to work at the Lowman home in White Rock. There, she worked with the elderly, her real calling, and she was closer to home and her beloved church too.
Lutheran Pastor Dr. Kenneth Webb was the minister of St. Jacobs Church. He later became director of the Lowman Home.He had great knowledge and took Louetta under his wing, becoming her mentor. The value of what she learned could never be measured in dollars. She credits him with the skills she obtained as she rose in her professional life. At the Lowman Home, Louetta was first a nurse, then director of nursing, and eventually executive director. Even as the boss, Louetta was still a nurse and never asked an employee to do something she wouldn’t. It wasn’t uncommon to see her working on a budget one minute and changing soiled sheets the next. Her saying, “You don’t cover a bad smell, you find the source and clean it up,” summed up her attitude. The only thing that mattered was the dignity of the residents she and her staff cared for.
The parent organization of the Lowman Home was the Lutheran Homes of SC. When Louetta had the Lowman Home running successfully, they began to acquire other facilities across the state. Louetta traveled, taking broken and unprofitable homes, and turning them around. To her, only perfection would do. She taught staffs that across the state. Dignity and a feeling of home was what she demanded for the residents.
In 1991, Louetta left the Lowman Home and began consulting in the nursing home field. This was a burgeoning industry and Louetta was an expert in how to do it right. She fixed facilities. Some were running poorly and others were committing fraud or cheating the government and residents. At some, the money was more important than the care. Louetta Slice would have none of that. She dug many businesses out of deep financial holes, returning them to profitability without sacrificing the care of the residents.
At some point, God intervened. Louetta received a call from a banker she’d known for years. Von Wessinger worked at Lexington State Bank. He told Louetta the bank owned a home that wasn’t finished and had never opened in Batesburg. Banks don’t run homes, they needed to unload it. Von asked Louetta if she wanted to own her own assisted living facility and she jumped at the chance. Her son Tim was at college when she called. “We own our own home,” she told him. The Batesburg facility had ten beds and was incomplete. Its owner, in over her head, just walked away. With a loan from Wessinger, Louetta owned Generations of Batesburg.
Louetta Slice knew she needed help. She built a team that could get things done and she wasn’t afraid of hard work herself. In 1981, she called old friend Charlie Goff. Mr. Charlie was an unlikely expert. He dropped out of school and got his diploma after serving in the Air Force. He later got a college degree, but truth be told, Mr. Charlie got his education from the school of hard knocks. Mr. Charlie says he was cutting soybeans when Louetta called. Without hesitation, he joined her managing facilities, drowning in red ink. Mr. Charlie was a finance guy. He had worked for Blue Cross when they managed state and federal payments to homes. He was an expert in navigating the tangle of regulations facilities followed to stay out of trouble and get paid.He helped Louetta during her Lowman Home days and was there when she needed him at Generations.
In 1992, Louetta recruited her son-in-law Todd Bedenbaugh to help finish construction in Batesburg. They all worked out of a construction trailer until the building was completed. When they were certified, people were sitting in the parking lot with bags waiting to move in. Without hesitation, Louetta called Von Wessinger, Lexington State Bank made her a loan, and she started adding on.
Louetta’s reputation was known statewide. She was Past Chairperson of the Board of Examiners for Nursing Home Administrators for SC. She received that appointment from former Governors Riley and Campbell for six consecutive years. She was also a past member of the Executive Board of the SC Health Care Association, Executive Vice President of the SC Association of Residential Care Facilities in SC, and Chairperson of the Education Committee for the SC Association of Residential Care Homes and Assisted Living Facilities in SC. She was inducted into the Chapin Hall of Fame in 2006. Really, she was the 911 for homes that were in trouble. She’d get the call, move her team in, untangle the messes they found, and move on. If she were here today, she’d say it took Mr. Charlie, Todd, and even her husband to make her successful. Yes, even her husband helped. He’d grocery shop, cook, and even clean if needed. Louetta lived at the Batesburg home, managed her facility and others by contract with her crew’s help. Todd seemed to have a go bag packed. They managed Barnwell County Nursing home and built them a new nursing home without a dime from the county. She also ran Lexington Extended Care, formerly Rikard’s, during a renovation, and many more facilities.
By the time Generations of Batesburg was finished, it was licensed for 88 beds. They had added Gen 3, an upscale building with all private rooms, and then duplexes and triplexes for the more independent lifestyle.
Since Batesburg was running smoothly, Louetta bought property in Chapin and began another building spree. She purchased land on East Boundary Street and built Generations of Chapin. She wanted it perfect, a showplace, a place where everyone felt like they were special. Her one caveat, she wouldn’t compete with her first love in the business, the Lowman Home.
In the process of building Generations Chapin, the contractor died. Eventually Louetta and her team had to take over and finish that. In October of 1999, they completed it and it was grand, elegant, and different. The fixtures, furniture, and wall coverings were picked by her. Louetta, a talented pianist, had to have a baby grand piano at every Generations. Mr. Charlie joked, “Louetta would buy a piano and then build a building around it.” Just like her other facility, when licensed in Chapin, there was a bus full of residents waiting to move in. Phase 1’s 46 rooms filled fast so she added Phase 2, another eight rooms in 2003/04.
For more independent clients, they built Southwood in Chapin. You own your small home there, but Generations manages the community. They do all the work; you enjoy yourself. When these homes come on the market, they’re snapped up fast!
Louetta could manage and make money with almost anything. In ’96, she partnered with Tom Porter, opened a pharmacy for Long-Term Care facilities, and began packaging resident’s meds by the dose for easy administration. Later, she bought Porter out.
In 2013, she found a log cabin facility in foreclosure in Irmo. She partnered with David Edwards, a man she was in the homecare business with, and they bought it together as an assisted living facility. It’s gorgeous and different. There’s a big stone fireplace, small bears carved in logs, and an on-site hair salon. Of course, there’s a baby grand piano. One employee said, “Coming to work here is like coming to a mountain resort every day!”
Louetta was even in the fishing worm business. Her nephew Rudy was selling worms and needed space. She built a maintenance shop for Generations of Chapin, put the worm business in the back, and they sold worms. The stock came from the Netherlands and she and Rudy sold worms until Rudy could buy her out. It’s still at Generations in Chapin today.
In 1991, Louetta’s son Tim, a school teacher, began working for the business full-time. He was a licensed Assisted Living Administrator and Louetta needed one. She said, “We’ll just hang Tim’s certificate on the wall until we find someone to hire.” Tim and that certificate have been there ever since. Tim laughs when he recalled his mom saying, “It will run itself,” every time she started something new. Tim says everyone knew better but they always followed her to success.
Until her death, Louetta Slice knew her team made her successful. Louetta was smart and had drive, but people like Mr. Charlie, Todd, Tim, and even Louis Robinson, a cook at Generations of Batesburg for the past 26 years, were key. She knew their importance and took care of her people. Tim says his mom’s last words were, “Take care of Mr. Charlie.” He still lives at Generations and works there most days.
Now the third generation of Slices are involved. Tim’s daughter Mary-Mac came to work there at 22 years old. She’s the assistant administrator and activity director in Chapin. The Slice’s and other key staff’s children grew up at Generations. Todd said, “We didn’t go out to eat after church, we came here and ate with the residents.” The food quality at Generations is so good, it’s really like a restaurant. They even serve Clemson’s Best gourmet ice cream for dessert, a richer, creamier brand that’s more expensive but much better.
Today, Generations is in Chapin, Batesburg, and Irmo. Although Louetta Slice was taken by cancer a few years ago, her legacy lives on in the places she built with others. Generations is unlike anything you’ve seen. There’s no nursing station, no antiseptic smell, just beautiful reminders of home. Generations really is a, “Senior Experience.”
The Slice family invites you to stop by soon and look at one. People drop in at Christmas just to pose with their families with Generation’s tree. The residents are happy because they’re treated with dignity, class, and most of all respect. This is Louetta Slice’s legacy, a legacy that will live on many more years to come.