June (Wilmsen) Severance ’45

June has published, at age 90, From the Inside: A Look at Nursing Homes and Their Patients in Today’s Elder Care System. The book provides her insider look at the day-to-day happenings of  nursing homes both as a resident and a friend to residents.  Central to those observations is her unique mix of humor, introspection, and occasional depression as she faced the work of getting well and coping with pain.

During the last decade June spent nine months in three different nursing homes in Montana and the Midwest. “People need to know what it’s like to be in a nursing home,” she said.

Though it occurred decades ago, her father’s nursing home stay in New York  remains seared into her memory, and was the impetus for the book.   “I was so furious,” she remembers.  “It was so negative.  To be in a nursing home is to truly be someone different.”  But, over the years, she says, she learned that “Nursing homes are NOT the worst thing in the world.  I came to scorn and stayed to praise,” she concludes.

June enrolled in Kalamazoo College at the age of 16.  She majored in English and theatre. The latter may not be surprising, given the fact that she had been a child performer at the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair. During her student days at K, a weekly campus segment she did on the local radio station eventually became a full-time job with CBS-WKZO in Kalamazoo. She worked on a feature called “News of Women Today,” which carried stories on women’s responses to World War II throughout the world and the effect the war had on women’s status and work.

June and her husband, Wayne, have lived near Whitehall, Montana for 20 years.  They spent most of their marriage in East Aurora, N.Y., where Wayne worked for Fisher-Price.  June earned her M.A.  at Syracuse University and taught there. She also directed plays at both the Buffalo and the East Aurora theaters. And she performed her own material in a series of one-woman shows. She and Wayne eventually moved west to be closer to their two sons and five grandchildren. She helped establish a theatre group in Whitehall. For four years, “Jefferson Valley Presents” staged an outdoor dinner theatre production on the Lewis and Clark expedition. June wrote the script, performed, and helped with the costuming.

One thought on “June (Wilmsen) Severance ’45

  1. Noelle Divozzo

    June, I am a CNA and have often thought a nursing home patient’s story needs to be told from the inside but by then, of course, it’s usually too late. I have some idea what it must be like having worked in a nursing home and having had friends and relatives in them but it’s not the same as an insider’s view. I’ve ordered a copy of your book and look forward to reading it. Thank you for making the effort to fill a void in the literature on the subject. Leave it to a Kzoo grad!

    Noelle (Black) Divozzo ’81

    Reply

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