Theresa Neises first fell in love with the bright lights of Washington, D.C. – and now she’s falling in love with the bright lights of Main Street in the new skilled nursing center at Via Christi Village on Ridge in Wichita.
The $13 million, 72,000-square-foot expansion adds 80 private skilled-nursing rooms to the existing 60 assisted-living units already at the site where Theresa resides. The new facility features small-town touches such as a Main Street for Theresa to visit, complete with shops and a beauty parlor. A beautiful chapel offers a space for reflection.
Theresa, 85, says she is happy she moved into the skilled nursing center because it is connected to her old home at the Village, 3636 N. Ridge Road.
“I’m glad I didn’t have to go too far. I’m tired of moving around and like the people here,” Theresa says.
The expansion, which opened in September, was designed with the continuum of care in mind for people like Theresa, so they can move from one facility directly to another with a greater level of care — all on the same campus. Relaxing in the comforts of her new home, she reminisces about her exciting career in politics.
Theresa has had a life full of adventure. Born in Colwich, she’s been fascinated by politics since she was in grade school.
“My father thought politicians were wasting money and he told us about it. I guess that stuck with me and I got interested,” says Theresa.
After college, Theresa taught school for 11 years. She loved teaching and always thought that would be her life’s work, but she was still drawn to politics. So one day, she decided to do something daring and change her life.
“I thought politics and the political system were so exciting,” Theresa says, “so I went to Washington.”
She sent out many resumes and called on numerous politicians. The risk paid off when she got her first job with U.S. Sen. Frank Carlson from Kansas. She worked for several politicians during the early years, then eventually called U.S. Sen. Bob Dole and asked if she could work for him. He said “yes,” and she started as his receptionist.
Theresa worked for Dole for a short time, but then became ill. She was diagnosed with a tumor on her spine and had surgery. After the surgery, she had to learn to walk and do basic tasks all over again. Sen. Dole asked if she would like to work as his personal correspondent while she recovered. It was a job she held for two decades.
“That was very interesting. I wrote most of his letters for him. I would write them and he would review them before they were sent out. I had to learn to write like Sen. Dole — short and to the point,” Theresa says.
Over the next 20 years, Theresa met many of the most powerful people in the world and enjoyed every minute.
“I fell in love with Washington and the excitement of the city,” she says.
Back to Kansas
Eventually, Theresa had enough of the political scene. Dole asked her to stay, but her mind was made up. She retired and moved back to Kansas a little more than 30 years ago.
“I just love it here,” she says of the Village. “The people are so nice. This is home to me now.”