By Keith Lawrence Messenger-Inquirer
In 1963, 28-year-old Jack Simpson opened his first personal care home — Davco at 2526 W. 10th St.
His grandmother had cared for elderly people in her home when he was a boy.
That’s the way it was in the late 1930s and 1940s.
But Simpson saw the need for something different.
He had worked at Texas Gas Transmission, was athletic director at Brescia College for a time and, in 1960, became urban renewal director in Owensboro.
Simpson’s motto was “Operating a personal care home is like playing tennis. You cannot win until you learn to serve.”
Fifty-seven years later, Simpson, now 85, has five personal care homes across Kentucky — Davco, Fern Terrace Owensboro, Fern Terrace Mayfield, Fern Terrace Murray and Fern Terrace Bowling Green — and an assisted-living facility — Fern Terra.
His sons, Rob and Darin Simpson, have been part of the family business for decades.
“We have 524 residents today and 200-plus staff,” Rob Simpson said. “Davco Homes is the oldest and largest personal care home chain in the state. We have a little over 20% of all personal care beds.”
Darin Simpson said, “Dad’s served more than 10,000 people since 1963. He would cut their toe nails, go out and buy them presents at Christmas and just sit and talk with them. He definitely serves people.”
Jack Simpson has stayed on the west side of Owensboro all his life.
He was born in a house across Second Street from the Owensboro Convention Center and grew up at 1514 Herr Avenue — a stone’s throw from Fern Terra, 1415 W. First St.
More homes needed”We need more personal care homes,” Rob Simpson said. “But the state doesn’t agree. Personal care homes are closing all over the state. We’re the only industry where the state tells us how much we can make. They tell us what we can charge.”
He said, “When I started in 1986, we were getting $32 a day from the state per resident. Now, it’s $41.44.”
Darin Simpson said, “In 1963, it was $1.27 a day.”
Most residents of the company’s personal care homes are indigent elderly and severely mentally ill, they said.
Darin Simpson said jails get $40.45 a day for inmates and the penitentiaries get $97.99 a day.
Personal care facilities, he said, get $41.44 a day for room and board, three meals, three snacks, daily activities, laundry, housekeeping and transportation.
Rob Simpson said, “We’ve been very fortunate. We haven’t had a COVID outbreak in any of our homes.”
He said, “The majority of personal care homes have 20 to 30 beds. Our Mayfield home has 140 beds. Social distancing is almost impossible. For our residents, this is their home.”
Rob Simpson said, “We have staggered dining hours, but there are common bathrooms and they watch TV together.”
Visitors were prohibited at personal care homes in the spring. But he said, “We’re allowing up to two visitors now.”
Jack Simpson was among the first to integrate personal care homes in Kentucky, Rob Simpson said.
“Davco was originally for African-Americans,” he said, “but back then, most African-Americans kept the elderly in their homes. So, Dad decided to integrate it. His partners didn’t like that, so Dad bought them out. This was 1963.”
Both Darin and Rob Simpson are busy with the company, traveling to the various sites as often as needed.
“We each put 60,000 to 70,000 miles a year on our cars,” Rob Simpson said.
At 85, Jack Simpson still comes to the office daily and is still the man in charge.
Rob Simpson said, “It would be impossible to run our company without the leadership of our general manager, Stacey Helton, and our administrators. The majority of them have been promoted from within the company and have worked for us for over 20 years.”
Keith Lawrence, 270-691-7301