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Home ‘the place to be’ for 80 seniors, 3 cats


Officially there is room for about 80 residents at St. Luke’s Home. But that doesn’t include the three cats who have decided it will be their home, too.

Cats are just as welcome as many others have been since St. Luke’s opened in 1917 – originally as a tuberculosis sanitarium.

Today, it is a retirement home, with staff and volunteers working to ensure it remains an affordable place to live for dozens of low-income Tucsonans.

The cats are the responsibility of 80-year-old Edna Coyle, one of the human residents of St. Luke’s. She has been living there for 14 years, longer than any other current resident.

Coyle retired from City Courts about 15 years ago, and her doctor thought it would be best if she didn’t live alone. So she, as Tucsonans have done for several generations, turned to St. Luke’s.

The home has a distinguished history. It’s in a midtown neighborhood north of the University of Arizona. But some of the earliest photos of St. Luke’s, taken in the 1920s, show a building with nothing but desert stretching west to the distant Tucson Mountains.

St. Luke’s was founded by the Episcopal Church Mission of Arizona. In the 1930s, a chapel was added that was designed by Josias Joesler, who came to Tucson from Switzerland and became our most well-known architect.

The home no longer is church-affiliated, but the chapel remains and is used regularly by residents.

After it was no longer needed for tuberculous patients, St. Luke’s was used as an Indian school. It later fell into disrepair and was closed.

It reopened in 1980 as a home for four elderly women of limited means. Shortly after, it was filled to its 27-lady capacity. Nine years ago, it was expanded to its present capacity, home to up to 80 people – men, woman and sometimes a few couples.

It was before that latest expansion that Edna Coyle arrived at St. Luke’s.

“It was an old building that needed a lot of repair,” she recalled recently. “But it felt so homey. It didn’t feel like an institution.”

She moved in and has never regretted it.

“Now there are both men and women here,” she said. “Once in a while there is a little romance.”

The three neighborhood cats are her daily responsibility. “They come every day at 7 a.m. and 5 p.m.” demanding to be fed, Coyle said. And she, of course, obliges them.

Jack Parish’s path to St. Luke’s was considerably more circuitous. He was born in London and at age 17 joined the Royal Air Force. He came to the United States to train as a pilot, then returned to Europe to fly bombing missions over France and Germany for 5 1/2 years until the end of the war.

He later moved to the United States, married and divorced, sold newspaper advertising and had a son who is a commercial airline pilot. He’s now 87 and has been at St. Luke’s for four years.

His room is filled with models he’s built – several military airplanes as well as the Titanic and other ships. He’s now working on a model of the famed sailing ship HMS Bounty.

Money always is a concern for St. Luke’s, where people are accepted because of their need, not their ability to pay. Residents must have an annual income of less than $23,500. They pay a sliding monthly fee based on income minus medical expenses. In general, resident fees pay about 40 percent of the total cost of running St. Luke’s.

There’s usually a waiting list to get in, says Larry Rush, the home’s executive director.

“It’s the place to be,” said Edna Coyle. “It’s really the place to be.”

Mark Kimble appears at 6:30 p.m. Fridays on the Roundtable segment of “Arizona Illustrated” on KUAT-TV, Channel 6. He may be reached at mkimble@tucsoncitizen.com or 573-4662.




Donations cover a large share of the operating cost of St. Luke’s Home, which is not affiliated with any church.

A women’s auxiliary, the St. Luke’s Board of Visitors, has been raising money to help the home since in opened in 1917.

Their largest fundraising event is the fiesta-inspired Baile de las Flores, first held in 1919 and now Tucson’s oldest continuous charity event.

The 90th version of Baile de las Flores will be held at Skyline Country Club Feb. 28 beginning at 6 p.m. There will be mariachi music, folklorico dancers, dinner, a silent auction and a raffle for a painting by Frederick Hambly.

Tickets are $150 per person and reservations must be made by Friday. To make reservations, call 624-5034 or go to www.bailedelasflores.org.

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