If you’ve already met Kathy Engel, Mt. Evans Home Health and Hospice’s executive director, you’re already familiar with her personal warmth, quiet humor, instinctive kindness and gentle candor. If you’re one of the few of her Evergreen neighbors who haven’t had the pleasure, then pull up a chair.
Born and raised in Kettering, Ohio, Engel had a sister and three brothers to keep her on her toes, and was among the more active “Falcons” nesting at Fairmont High School. “I was a swimmer and a runner, and I did field hockey,” she says. “I was kind of a jock.” Matriculating with the Class of ’81, Engel took her selfless ambitions an hour east to Columbus and studied nursing at “the OSU” (Ohio State University). “Don’t forget the ‘the’,” she cautions. While equally proud of both her alma maters, she admits to having been a more dutiful Falcon than she’s since been a “Buckeye.”
“I don’t follow the teams or anything,” Engel laughs. “I get so much grief for that.” Then she grins a sly little grin and says, “Do you know what they say about Buckeyes? The Buckeye is a worthless nut. But you don’t have to write that down.”
Graduating with expertise in the areas of home health care and I.V. therapy, Engel rolled up her sleeves and spent several years working in a hospital setting, and in the early 1990s moved west to Roxborough Park. “I fell in love with Colorado immediately,” she recalls. When professional opportunity knocked a few years later, she shifted her address to North Carolina and her focus to medical management, but the Centennial State soon called her back. Engel’s son, Dylan, hand-picked his new hometown in the West. “He was a hockey player, and he wanted to live ‘in that place where the lake freezes over.’”
Mother and son settled in “that place” called Evergreen in 2001, and Kathy settled into her new post as Mount Evans Home Health & Hospice’s director of patient services. She also settled into what most would call a characteristic Evergreen lifestyle. “Right now my big thing is yoga, but I also run, bicycle, ski, and I love to hike,” says Engel.
In 2010, Engel was selected from a field of 50 highly qualified applicants to take the reins as Mount Evans’ executive director. It’s more a calling than a career, and it’s a post that she makes her own each and every day. “I love the people I work with,” she says. “I really do think of them as family. And I’m proud of the work we do. I see the positive results of it almost every time I go to the supermarket. It’s an honor to be able to affect the community this way.”
And if more fragile spirits might judge Engel’s compassionate craft disheartening, she will be pleased to gently correct them. “My mentor is Mary Worster, who has worked at Mt. Evans longer than almost anyone,” Kathy explains. “I came into hospice afraid that it would be depressing, but Mary said something that’s always stuck with me. She said ‘What we do can be very, very sad, but in all the years I’ve done this I’ve never found it depressing.’
“And you know what? Mary’s right. This job can be difficult, but it’s beautiful and uplifting, too.”