STEVENSVILLE — As a young man Michael Wemple decided his life’s mission is to help widows and orphans in distress, based on a Scripture verse.
Not only is taking care of the elderly his full-time job now, the Victor native and his wife, Katie (Strange) Wemple, also are working on the orphan angle by adopting a boy from Nigeria.
“He just turned 3 in January,” Wemple said proudly, showing a photograph of the young boy named Olalir, or Ola for short. “He was found in a garbage bag days after he was born.”
Wemple, 29, is the administrator of The Living Centre, which provides a “continuum of care” to the elderly. It wasn’t a job Wemple ever imagined he’d hold; he graduated with a degree in public administration in 2011 from the University of Montana, and planned on becoming an entrepreneur.
But when he started his own business — an online entertainment auction for home items at inexpensive prices — it didn’t exactly pan out.
“I had a child on the way at the time and wasn’t making ends meet,” Wemple said with a gentle smile. “Then I saw a job opportunity at the Discovery Care Centre in Hamilton, where they were looking for an activities person and someone to do public relations.
“That job was more in my wheelhouse. I love my grandma and I love activities, so what better job is something like that?”
In November 2011, Wemple replaced Hamilton Mayor Dominic Farrenkopf, who moved onto Sapphire Lutheran Homes.
“It was evident from the start that he had a caring heart and would be a good fit for working with seniors,” Farrenkopf said. “Michael was eager, attentive and asked a lot of good questions.
“Michael has a huge heart and gives it all to his family, friends, residents and staff. Michael is certainly an inspirational person and an example of what can be accomplished with hard work, dedication and a willingness to learn and try new things.”
Two years later, the then 24-year-old took the administrative position at The Living Centre, managing about 100 employees and 80 residents.
“It’s an industry that’s not very full of people that are young, especially when you’re looking at an administrative type of role,” Wemple said.
“It’s no credit to me; I waltzed into it.”
He and his staff take care of people with broad needs. Some may require only a temporary stay if they’ve broken a hip or come down with the flu. Others may be approaching the end of their lives.
“We are their family sometimes, walking them through the last stage of life,” Wemple said. “It’s an honor and a privilege.”
He relaxes by playing with his two daughters, ages 5 and 4, and his wife, whom he met when they both were children on the same T-ball team. In his spare time, Wemple also is involved with his community, working to raise money for the Stevensville skatepark and the new Bear Mountain playground.
“I was born between these mountains and know I will die between these mountains. I have no desire to go anywhere else,” Wemple said. “My DNA is in this valley and the Missoula area. To find a job, a career and a calling — that fulfills me so close to home is wonderful.”