Life is all about balance. And, Dakota Dunes resident Tom Richter is tipping the scales.
A healthy balance among career, family, faith and personal fulfillment can be difficult to achieve, but Richter has found a formula. With a change in employment, and a move closer to his children, this Dakota Dunes grandfather is enjoying every minute of his time back in South Dakota.
“I think throughout one’s life, you probably fall out of balance a little bit,” Richter explained. “And, all you have to do is tweak your priorities a little bit. Sometimes you’re so far out of balance that it takes a more major move.”
So, Richter and his wife Gail made the move to Dakota Dunes.
After 10 years in Madison, Minnesota, the couple relocated to South Dakota. The couple, both originally from Huron, feel they have made the right choice.
“We really enjoy the Midwest, where we live, and the people,” Gail commented.
“Family brought us to Dakota Dunes, but from a career perspective, we wanted to get back to South Dakota,” Tom explained.
Working at Bethesda
Tom Richter is the Administrator of Bethesda of Beresford, a 55 bed skilled nursing home that is medicare certified. Ensuring that quality care is given, watching the financials, working with the board of directors and policy making fills his days.
The Beresford facility offers a nursing home, assisted living, independent apartments as well as inpatient and outpatient therapy services. From physical therapy to occupational therapy and speech therapy, the South Dakota business offers short term stays for therapy patients.
The independent facility has a non-profit status through the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, according to Richter.
“I think for the generation that we primarily serve, faith is a very important part of their lives,” Richter explained. “And, I even see it in our employees. You can just tell that faith is very evident in their personal lives as well.”
“We have a chapel. We have a lot of bible studies and religious oriented activities available. Numerous pastors have come through with programs. Really we function as a non-denominational,” Richter explained.
Richter will be celebrating a year with Bethesda of Beresford just after Thanksgiving.
The decision to relocate and take on the position in Beresford was well researched. Richter made visits to the facility, posing as a visitor, before accepting the position.
“I was very impressed with the appearance, the atmosphere, the residents, the employees. There just seemed to be a lightness in the air. Employees were laughing and joking. You could clearly see they enjoyed what they were doing. And residents, you could clearly see were content and happy,” Richter observed.
From meal selection off a menu, to open dining and planned group activities, the environment that he witnessed was cheerful and pleasant.
“I was impressed with such a small facility focusing on individualized care,” Richter commented on the residents choices. “You have a lot of people doing individual things, doing what they want.”
A Career in Healthcare
After graduating from Huron College with a degree in Business Administration and a minor in Education, Richter spent two years teaching business education at Wessington Springs High School.
When he was just about to begin his third year of teaching, Wessington Springs decided to open a series of rural health clinics. Richter’s experience in business and interest in the healthcare field, led him to a position that would pave the way for a career in healthcare.
“At that time they needed an executive director. And, they asked if I would do that. So, the school system let me out of my teaching contract, and that’s how I ended up in healthcare,” Richter explained of the startup of rural health clinics in Wessington Springs, Plankinton and Woonsocket. At the time, the clinics were known as Tri-County Healthcare.
After a few years, Richter’s healthcare career took him to facilities in Huron, Scotland and Wessington Springs.
After 10 years in Wessington Springs, it was time to move up in the healthcare industry.
“It was a tough decision to leave. But, we just felt the need for a little more challenge, and variety,” Richter explained.
He accepted a position in Madison, Minnesota as President and CEO of a healthcare organization with a 97 bed nursing home, hospital, clinic, assisted living, independent living, home health care, audiology and two satellite clinics.
Joking that 10 must be his magic number, Richer and his wife Gail decided that after 10 years in Minnesota, it was time to get back to South Dakota.
“We re-evaluated what was going on in our life. And, what I found important, you hear about balance. And, to me, I just felt I needed better balance. I think that you have to fill your life with your involvement in faith and family and career and community and self,” Richter explained. “And when I looked at this, I felt career was far more than what I wanted. And we decided to have grandchildren. And my wife wanted to be near grandchildren. And, I don’t blame her.”
Moving to Dakota Dunes
The decision was made, and the Richters were going to move back to South Dakota.
Gail led the way, and chose Dakota Dunes to be close to family.
“We already had a feel for what it was like. We knew that we would enjoy it,” Gail explained of the community where her daughter lives. Two of the three Richter children live in Siouxland with their families. The third lives a short jaunt away in Mitchell.
After Gail settled into their new home, Tom began looking for work locally, while continuing to work in Minnesota.
“That’s what I call a commute. 210 miles. I would come down here on the weekends and then I’d get up sometimes at 3:00am on a Monday morning, so I could be to work at 7:00am. After 7 months of that true commuting, then this opportunity presented itself in Beresford at Bethesda. It all fell together,” Richter explained.
When asking Richter about this daily commute from Dakota Dunes to Beresford, expect a laugh.
“If you can work in a place where you truly enjoy what you’re doing, and then you can live in a place where you truly enjoy where you’re living and with family, I don’t see that the drive has much influence on those two things,” Richter explained. “If you enjoy both ends of your commute after you get there, that’s what’s important.”
And he plans to do the commute for at least another 10 years.
“In 10 more years, maybe I could almost retire,” Richter explained. “I hope that in 10 years, I still don’t want to. If you enjoy what you’re doing, why quit.”
Enjoying the Dunes
The Richters have enjoyed their first year at Dakota Dunes.
With only a 5 block commute to see some of their grandchildren, and involvement in a local church, the couple feels more balanced.
“We belong to Blessed Theresa of Calcutta Catholic Church and just what a wonderful parish. It’s so easy to get involved in church there,” Tom explained.
Tom says he’d like to get more involved in the community, volunteering and spend more time on personal enrichment to achieve a greater balance in his life.
“Usually what comes last is time for yourself. I am trying to find a little bit more time to exercise and do those kinds of things, but a lot of times, family and self are intermingled. There’s nothing better than spending time with the grandkids,” Tom explained.
The Richters also enjoy camping. But, don’t expect to see an RV in their driveway anytime soon.
“We still do it the old fashioned way. We still camp with a tent,” Richter explained. But, Gail quickly reminded me of two rules for camping. She doesn’t have to cook and there are nice bathroom facilities close by.
While camping, the couple enjoys sitting by a fire and taking the motorcycle for a day trip to explore the local area.
“We just got back from a week in the Black Hills. We spent a couple days camping, and one day we went out to Devil’s Tower, and we really liked the area,” Tom explained.
When they aren’t exploring the countryside, Gail spends her days as the Assistant Manger at Chico’s, a women’s clothing store in the Lakeport Commons shopping center in Sioux City. Gail has always loved retail business, and laughs that it’s nice to see what’s new in fashion and get a discount on it as well.
“There’s nothing like South Dakota in terms of living, and certainly in my field,” Tom explained. “We always knew we’d come back to South Dakota. It truly is just a great state.”
***This article was originally published in the North Sioux City / Dakota Dunes Times by Sedgwick Publishing.***