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From Victoria to Salina Presbyterian Manor

Turn-of-the-19th-century politician William Jennings Bryan dubbed Victoria’s Basilica of St. Fidelis “the Cathedral of the Plains.”

Victoria, Kan., is a small community right off Interstate 70, but it has many connections to Salina Presbyterian Manor.

Many people know of Victoria because of its beautiful Catholic church, the Basilica of St. Fidelis.  The sanctuary holds 1,100 people, just a bit fewer than the population of Victoria.

“That’s if everyone is home for Christmas,” according to Cathy Boos, director of sales and marketing, who was born and raised in Victoria.

Kelly Wellbrock, director of human resources, also calls Victoria home, having been “halfway raised” there when her family moved from Russell when she was 13. Her mother is from Victoria and her father from Hays, so Kelly says she’s related to “about half of western Kansas.”

Kelly can spot a fellow Victorian by their trademark “ridiculous German accent” that is unique to the area, a holdover from the German immigrants who settled there in the late 1800s. Both Kelly and her husband were high school sweethearts who can both trace their ancestry to early settlers of the area.

The late Gib Urban, pictured with his wife Carolyn, called Presbyterian Manor home for many years. During his last Christmas season, he sang “Silent Night” in German while caroling.

Victoria natives can also be identified by some of the last names common in the area.

“Generally, within two minutes we realized we’re related in some way, shape or form,” Kelly said.

That dynamic has played out numerous times at Presbyterian Manor.

Bob Mermis, a longtime resident, is a hometown boy, too. In 1944, he graduated from Victoria High School, where he was classmates with Cathy’s uncles.

“I enjoy sitting down with Bob and hearing about stories of growing up in Victoria,” Cathy said.

The late Gib Urban (Victoria High School ’50) called Presbyterian Manor home for many years. He stayed in Cathy’s grandparents’ basement in the winter months when the roads would be too bad to travel due to snow. Gib and Cathy enjoyed speaking German with each other. His last Christmas, he sang “Silent Night” in German while caroling around the community.

Brianna Augustine, case manager for health care, loved having her grandmother, the late Carolyn Pfannenstiel, living at Presbyterian Manor. Carolyn graduated from VHS in 1963.

Another staff member, Maintenance Tech Virgil Windholz, grew up in Victoria until 1968 when he was in sixth grade. He still has family in Victoria. Carolyn Pfannenstiel was his aunt and godmother.  

Judy Windholz is a new addition to our community. Her husband, Ernie, is from Victoria. He went to school with Cathy’s mother, Det Younger. Ernie and Judy met at Cathy’s dad’s gas station in 1960. Ernie still owns land south of Victoria, and he enjoys sharing steak tartare (raw ground beef) to staff members from Victoria.  

“It’s truly amazing that we have all these connections at Presbyterian Manor,” Cathy said. “Anytime I hear a familiar last name, sure enough, the Victoria link is there. I feel like I’m back in my hometown again.”

Residents and staff members with ties to Victoria include, from left: Bob Mermis, Ernie Windholz, Cathy Boos, Kelly Wellbrock and Virgil Windholz.

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