The earliest stirrings of a nursing home in Cokato arose in late 1962, when a committee comprised of Charles Mitchell, Waldo Moberg, Carl Peterson, and Richard Peterson, formed to study the needs of such a facility. At that time, the percentage of Wright County's residents over age 65 was 11.4& (compared to about 13% now). From inception, plans were to involce area congregations in the organization and operation of the facility.

By August 1962, five churches had signed on as sponsors: Stockholm Lutheran, North Crow River (Knapp) Lutheran, Elim Mission, First Baptist, and Cokato Evangelical Lutheran. Each of those churches had a representative on the administrative board. A contract was signed ot purchase a piece of land between 7th and 8th Streets in south Cokato. The fundraising efforts, which needed to bring in at least $100,000 continued for the next several months.

In July 1963, the directors of the Cokato Retirement Home, Inc., released a letter to the public in shich they discussed the dilemma of lackluster fundraising. The letter noted how their mortgage agreements required them to raise $125,000. To date, the amount raised was $60,000. The federal Small Business Administration was in line to provide 80% of financing for the project, provided that a suitable owner/operator could be lined up to inves funding for furnityre, fixtures, etc. The appeal worked. By the next month, an additional $30,000 had been committed to the project.

Several months passed by, with planning and fundraising continuing. In late April 1964, almost exactly two years after the initial meetings took place, work began on construction of what was to be called the Cokato Constant Care Nursing Home. One big change was the location. The facility would be located on a tract of land east of the golf course. The main floor area qwould be 13,500 square feet, witha basement of 1200 sq. ft. Capacity would be 66 beds.

Another change from original plans was the ownership. The Cokato Development Corporation was to the be the owner, overseeing the facility's construction. They would then sell the home to Donald Paustain of Owatonna on a contract-for-deed. Paustain was the individual recommended by the Small Business Administration as the afore-mentioned suitable owner/operator.

Work on the home continued throughout the summer and into the early autumn. By this time, Robert Krueger had replaced Paustian as owner/operator. An open house was set for November 29, 1964, to allow the public to see the new facility. Over 1000 people attended that reception.

The home officially opened on December 3, with two people admitted as residents. By April 1965, eleven men and thirteen women were residents.

Today, the Cokato Manor Community, as it is know, operates not just a nursing home, but a congregate living facility (Edgewood Gables), assisted living facility (Brookridge Apartments), and a home health care service. They are the second-largest employer in Cokato.

The historical society extends its congratulations to the Cokato Manor Community during its fortieth anniversary year.

This article originally appeared in the January 2004 edition of In The Midst Of (V. 24, No. 1).