When Ann Salanky was hired as manager of the Joyce Raye Patterson Senior Citizens Center, her goal was to stay at least one year longer than the first director, who worked at the center for nine years. On Friday, she retired after 32 years.

“I’ve practically been raised here,” Salanky said of the last three decades.

Salanky worked for the City of St. Joseph’s finance department before she joined the staff at the senior center. As the daughter of older parents who was raised in a small town, she’s always felt comfortable around seniors.

“That’s all I really ever knew,” Salanky said of her childhood and adolescence. “That’s what I like, being able to listen and understand. When people were particularly grumpy on certain days, I had in mind it was a day of arthritis, but they were here and we’re going to make the best of it.”

Under Salanky’s management, the center saw a complete renovation in the mid-’90s and the addition of a fitness center and computer lab. Her main goal has been giving people a place to socialize and enjoy different activities.

“So many of the activities are good for the people doing them, whether it’s bridge, the Chinese mahjong, the fitness center or dances,” Salanky said.”Maybe you’ve lost a loved one, and what am I going to do with my time? This is their place and we just try to help them do the things they want to do.”

Some members even found love.

“Several couples have met and married by being here,” Salanky said. “If somebody is lonely and finds somebody else that can connect with, that’s great.”

Although Salanky said she will have a hard time saying goodbye to the people she has grown close to, she looks forward to enjoying time with her husband.

“He’s been counting down the days and then the hours, he’s pretty excited for it,” Salanky said. “I never really had much free time. It’ll be an adjustment.”

Some of her new found free time will be spent riding St. Joseph’s trails on her recumbent trike and visiting family.

“We’ve got a new grandbaby, he’s a lot of fun,” she said. “I just hope to enjoy a few good years with my husband.”

But the Joyce Raye Patterson Senior Citizens Center won’t have to do completely without Salanky — at least not in the winter.

“I do like our fitness center a lot, I have helped build it from the ground up,” she said. “So when the weather gets cold and snowy, I would like to be here for our fitness center and maybe take some other exercise classes.”

Jessica Kopp can be reached

at jessica.kopp@newspressnow.com or you can follow her on Twitter: @NPNOWKopp