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Ready to move into retirement

ESTHER ZOSEL at her March 3 retirement party. Zosel has been a registered nurse for 41 years, and the department manager of Lakeland Home Care since 2006.

It's been 41 years since Esther Zosel began her career as a registered nurse, and while she's enjoyed every minute of it, she feels it's time to move on.

"I had never anticipated working this long when I started out 40 years ago," she said Tuesday, noting that she had originally thought she would become a stay-at-home wife and mother someday.

"I really enjoyed what I did, so I just kept on going," Esther added.

She and her husband, Paul Zosel, came to Fergus Falls in 1973, after finishing college in the Twin Cities. Paul began working as a teacher in the Fergus Falls school district, while Esther became a nurse at Lake Region Hospital.

"There were no nurses in my family, but it was just something I always wanted to do, from when I was a very young girl," Esther said. "There was really no one to push me in that direction but me. I pursued it without really knowing much about it -- just a desire and a dream to help people.

"I've never regretted it," she added.

She served for many years in the intensive care unit, then floated between departments for a while -- until 1985, when the hospital created its own home healthcare agency, Lake Region Home Health.

"An opportunity opened up for me in the home care arena," said Esther, who was a staff nurse at LRH when the home care agency was first created.

She jumped at the chance to work with patients in their homes, and help them to stay independent and healthy as long as possible.

Esther said she enjoyed "being able to help keep people independent in their own homes, educate them to live healthy lives, assist them with home modifications if that's what's necessary, and just being a real resource for individuals and families."

But even people who love their jobs plan to retire eventually, and Esther was no exception.

On Thursday, March 3, Esther Zosel officially retired from her position as home care department manager for Lakeland Hospice & Home Care in Fergus Falls.

Zosel had held that position since 2006, when Lake Region Home Health merged with Lakeland Hospice to form Lakeland Hospice & Home Care, Inc.

"As the department head, I was in charge of all the day-to-day activities... the clinical supervisor of the nursing staff," she said.

Under Esther's supervision, Lakeland Home Care was named to the Home Care Elite -- a compilation of the most successful Medicare-certified home health care providers in the U.S. -- for two of the past three years.

The two state and federal surveys of Lakeland Home Care that were conducted under Esther's leadership came up with equally impressive results, as the department was rated deficiency free, with no recommendations for needed improvements in either survey.

But Esther was quick to point out that her staff deserved just as much credit for those accomplishments as she did.

"I think we worked well together as a team," she said. "I worked with a great staff -- I'm very thankful for having worked with each of them.

"They're just a great group of people, and I know they're going to continue to do well, and continue to provide the excellent care that Lakeland Hospice and Home Care does. I'm very proud to have been an employee of that organization."

But while she'll miss the interaction with her staff and colleagues, as well as being involved in the care of individual patients, Esther said, "I'm just ready to move on, I guess."

She plans to spend her days enjoying all of the home activities that have been curtailed by her duties at work.

"I love just being at home, cooking, sewing, playing with my grandkids, enjoying the outdoors," Esther said. "Now I'll have time to just be able to do all of those things."

Though she's only been retired for a few days, Esther said, "I just get up in the morning and go, 'Ahhh... I have the whole day ahead of me to do what I want to do!'

"I'm looking forward to planting my flowers, and reading, and having more time to enjoy nature, what Otter Tail County and this whole area has to offer."

Esther will soon be joined in retirement by her husband Paul, who has continued to teach fifth and sixth graders at ISD 544 since they moved to Fergus Falls 38 years ago.

"My husband will be retiring this spring also, at the end of the school year," Esther said. "We're just kind of ready to see what's ahead of us.

"Instead of cramming everything into the weekends, we'll be able to enjoy some of those things during the week," Esther added. "It's an exciting time."

Having more time to spend with their two grown sons and their families, in St. Cloud and Fargo, is a big part of their plans as well.

"We have four young grandchildren," Esther said, noting that the oldest grandchild just turned 6. "I'm looking forward to being able to be more involved with them and their lives.

"School programs, grandpa and grandma days, those are the kinds of things we're looking forward to."

Esther said she's particularly glad to know that she can leave her work at Lakeland behind with no regrets.

"I've been able to leave my profession with such an appreciation for our home care staff, home care nurses and hospice nurses, because they just do an absolutely wonderful job," she said. "It's satisfying to have been a part of that, but it's also good to know I left it in good hands, and can do something else for the rest of my life.

"Not everyone can leave their career behind with no regrets. I feel so fortunate in that regard... I have none. It's just time."