A Closer Look

St. Elizabeth Home

A Historical View

From the Jeffris Family to the Sisters

Story by Teresa Nguyen with contributions from Becky Saliby

February, 2021

“There’s joy and happiness in helping others.”  

~ Sister Mary Denise

Early History of the Home

1840s - David Jeffris, along with his parents and siblings, traveled north from Kentucky to settle in Janesville, Wisconsin. Miss Grace Mouat emigrated with her parents and siblings from the Shetland Islands of Scotland to settle on a farm in Rock Prairie. 

1850 - David and Grace were married in November of that year. David was a successful lumberman and banker in Janesville and Grace was highly active in the church, First Congregational, and in the community. She was well-known as a kind-hearted, compassionate woman. 

1862 - Malcolm G. Jeffris, one of several children of David and Grace, was born in Janesville. Malcom eventually became a lawyer and president of the Janesville Electric Co., and also the director of the Merchants and Savings Bank. 
1885 - Malcom Jeffris married Miss Nancy Roys.

1906 - Malcom built a home on the corner of Atwood and St. Lawrence in Janesville's historic Courthouse District. This beautiful red brick house was designed in the Prairie School architectural style with a low hipped roof, deep overhanging eaves and terra-cotta capitals on the colonettes. The piers at the entry and porch are trimmed with geometric and beautiful, detailed ornament.
Malcom and Nancy’s daughter, Helen, was a guiding force in the community. She was one of the founders of Janesville Little Theater and an original member of the Janesville Woman's Club. She helped raise the funds to build the swimming pool at the Janesville Country Club, and was a member of the Janesville YWCA board. During World War II she worked as a nurse's aide at Mercy Hospital and was active it its Red Cross program. 
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Originally the home of Malcom G. Jeffris at 502 St. Lawrence Ave.
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1915 - After graduating from Bradford Academy, and a finishing school in Washington D.C. She married Mr. Pierpont J.E. Wood in her father's home at 502 St. Lawrence Avenue.

1933 - Helen’s father, Malcom G. Jeffris died. He was buried at Oakhill Cemetery in Janesville. Ownership of the house was passed on to Mrs. Helen Jeffris Wood.

A Generous Gift

1949 - A Janesville woman, Elizabeth Lillis, was a teacher and one of two daughters in the Lillis family. She passed away on June 10, 1949. Under the terms of her will she left the remainder of her estate to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Madison to establish a Catholic Home for the aged.

1955 - Helen Jeffris Wood transferred the title of her home on Lawrence Avenue to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Madison Wisconsin. Because of the generous Lillis family gift, the diocese was able to purchase the home at 502 St Lawrence Ave. The Diocese opened the house to older women who could not live on their own. 
Helen Jeffris Wood
At that time, the home and its residents were taken care of by the Sisters of Charity of Saint Vincent De Paul from Zams, Austria. As the resident population grew, a skilled nursing facility was built around the original home.

1960 - Helen Jeffris Wood died and was buried at Oakhill Cemetery in Janesville, Wisconsin.
An Official Nursing Home

1966 - Sister Mary Denise was transferred to Janesville from Watertown, Wisconsin and became the Director of Nursing at the home. There were 23 patients at that time.

1967 - St. Elizabeth Home, "The Lillis Home," was officially opened on April 15th and the newer addition to the building was constructed.

1974 – The Sisters of Charity of Our Lady Mother of the Church acquired ownership of the nursing home. 

1984 - New office spaces on the east end were added. 

1986 - The home was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The Lillis Family of Janesville
Over the next several years, more rules and regulations were being added from the state level, such as healthcare changes for the patients. 

1999 - The chapel was remodeled and a wall was knocked out so that it faces a different direction. More room was created in the chapel. With the growth in number of residents, the chapel has been expanded twice over the years.
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The St. Elizabeth Chapel
Mass is served Saturday and Sunday, otherwise the residents and staff typically attend St. John Vianney mass. 

2009 - St. Elizabeth Manor, part of the St. Elizabeth Campus, which includes the home in Janesville, opened in Footville to serve the Rock County and the surrounding areas as a not-for-profit, community-based residential facility (CBRF) serving persons of all faiths.
Compassion Matters

2021 - Today, there are between 70 and 80 nursing staff and kitchen workers. The facility provides assisted living, skilled nursing, short-term rehabilitation, spiritual offerings and life enrichment activities. 

The mission is to provide for all residents in a nurturing environment that assists them in living healthy, meaningful lives.
 
The skilled nursing facilities offer quality healthcare in a spirit of compassion, love, and service according to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
St. Elizabeth Manor in Footville, WI
The Sisters

Sister Mary Denise, now retired from nursing, is living at the mother house in Connecticut where she continues to sew baby blankets, baby shoes, sleepers and bibs to raise money for the needy.
There are currently four Sisters of Charity that live in the Convent at St. Elizabeth Manor with Sister Sarah spending her days at the Home in Janesville. Sister Sarah helps at reception and plays card games or works on puzzles with the residents. 
 
There are also over 20 Dominican Sisters that live as residents. They wear street clothes and blend in, but truly fill the building with grace!
Sister Sarah is very active at the St. Elizabeth Home
Sister Monica and Sister Sarah on the Alsheimers Walk
Sisters helping raise awarenss for the H
Rose, Sister Monica, Betty and Helen raising awareness for the American Heart Association
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A volunteer, Sister Monica, Scoopie, Morgan the Activity Coordinator and Mother Katherine.
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Sister Monica registering someone
for the Red Cross blood drive 
Fundraising and Donations
 
There have been a variety of fundraisers over the years, in which the sisters are very involved. Some fundraisers are for other nonprofits and organizations, and some are for St. Elizabeth.
 
A fundraising project for the home in 2019 was an art display in the front halls with framed art by local artists. A percentage of the proceeds from the sales went to St. Elizabeth. The first featured local artist was the talented Connie Glowacki.
 
A few more exhibits followed until early 2020, when the coronavirus pandemic forced the facilities to close their doors to public visiting for the safety of the residents.

Since the pandemic, the home has faced many challenges and hosting fundraising events is difficult.  

Donations to St. Elizabeth Campus can help the residents and staff in many ways, from improving facilities to enhancing the activities provided to the residents.
The generosity of donors has a direct and definite positive impact on the lives of the residents. If you are interested in helping St. Elizabeth Campus with a monetary donation, you can send a check payable to:

St. Elizabeth Campus Foundation

111 Commercial Dr.

Footville, WI   53537

There’s joy and happiness in helping others.”  ~ Sister Mary Denise
Visit St. Elizabeth Campus on their website at:
https://www.stelizabethcampus.com
Visit their Facebook page at:
https://www.facebook.com/stelizabethcampus
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A couple finds beautiful peace and quiet under the St. Elizabeth courtyard pavilion