Stories

The Power of Friendship

The purpose of any hospice volunteer program is to provide companionship and support to patients. But in Hospice of the Red River Valley Volunteer Bethany Freeland’s experience, the program provides so much more than companionship. As a pre-med major and current hospice volunteer, Bethany’s experiences are shaping her mindset and enhancing skills that she will …


Husband Entrusts Hospice to Care for His Wife in Her Final Year

Beginning with a long courtship and throughout 63 years of marriage, Larry and Marcella MacLeod experienced a life together full of depth, adventure and, above all, love. Both small-town natives, they knew of each other because they were from neighboring towns, but they each moved away to pursue successful careers. It wasn’t until several years …


A Beautiful Bond: Hospice Helps Family Live Each Day to the Fullest

Seize the day. In the Kottsick home, these are not just words hanging on the wall, but a daily reminder. For the past 12 years, Julie Kottsick, a mom of two and wife of nearly 22 years, has lived with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. This incurable, progressive disease attacks …


Northwood Resident Finds Value in Giving Back Through Hospice Volunteering

When you live in a smaller community, you inevitably become an essential fiber in the tapestry of the town. Community members grow up supporting one another and giving back whenever they can to lift up those in need, and who most likely lives down the street. This sentiment is true of Northwood, N.D., and its …


The Small Town with a Big Heart for Hospice

Fullerton, N.D., is a small town. Population: 54. It’s a tightknit community whose residents have known each other for decades—growing up together, working side by side, looking out for one another. It’s a community that Ruby Gramlow knows well. Ruby lives in Fullerton and works as a nurse for Hospice of the Red River Valley. …


With Humor and Hospice, Couple Finds Peace and Comfort at the End of Life

When you meet Bill and Karen, you instantly feel the love they have for one another. Their faces light up with joy when they sneak a glance of each other. A quick wit and robust laughter are at the heart of their relationship. They take turns teasing each other in a healthy back and forth, …


Generations of Care: Hospice Enables Family to Spend Valuable Time Together at the End of Life

Hospice care is unique in that it provides comfort, relieves pain and offers support to people with a terminal illness and those who care for them. With hospice, the miracle isn’t the cure… it is in the caring. And hospice workers, patients and families see miracles play out on a daily basis.


Kindness and Compassion Personified: Why I Support Hospice

I wish you could have known my wife, Marcia. She was brilliant—a perfect wife and mother of four. We met as children when I pushed her in a snowbank. Years later, Marcia waited for me while I spent two years overseas with the military, and we eventually married when I returned. For 54 years, we …


Family Ties: Daughter Forms Close-knit Bond with Father Through Use of Hospice Care

Growing up on a farm in rural North Dakota as one of six children, Lori Goering pitched in to help wherever she could. As one of only two daughters in the family, Lori often found herself tackling household chores like cooking and cleaning while her four brothers tended to the fields, cattle and horses alongside …


Caring for the Caregiver: Hospice Care Helps Wife Fulfill Vows to Husband

“For better or for worse, in sickness and in health …” This familiar verse, a promise made in many wedding vows, Sherry faithfully puts into practice each and every day as she cares for her terminally ill husband. For Sherry, and countless other family caregivers like her, these words are particularly poignant. For 12 years, …


Sowing the Seeds of Understanding: Area Farmer Finds Many Ways to Give Back to Hospice

For the better part of the past 60 years, Merlyn has divided his time between physical labor on the dairy farm, bouts of solitude while traveling up and down the corn rows in a tractor, and visits to his cows at least twice a day, every day, on his farm near Waubun, Minn. Though Merlyn …


Faithfully Devoted: Honoring Wishes Made Simple with Hospice

A quiet soul and one who always thought of everyone else first, Eva had a beautiful smile and a kind, gentle presence. She spent her 90-plus years on this earth dedicated to the service of others, providing compassionate care as a nurse and a helping hand to many, including four of her siblings as they …


Harnessing Canine Kindness: Hospice Volunteer Forms Bonds Through Pet Therapy

Gracie joined the Tucker family as a fluffy, little lovable fur ball, one in which could be quite curious if not given proper training and a purposeful duty. So Deb Tucker, Gracie’s owner, set out to make her new Keeshond puppy more than a family pet by enrolling her in pet therapy training through Pet …


In the Midst of a Life-Changing Event, Hospice Provides Extra Support to Patient

In late January 2015, on an otherwise normal day, Grace faced a life-changing incident: a heart attack. In an instant, Grace’s world turned upside-down, and she and her family were left with many uncertainties. “After the heart attack, things changed. There were many things Mom couldn’t do alone anymore,” Jodi, Grace’s daughter, said. “Losing that …


Shear Gratitude: Volunteer Delights Hospice Patients with Haircuts

Rebecca Wood, hair stylist and owner of a West Fargo salon and spa, has found the perfect way to blend her talents as a stylist with her love of volunteering. For the past year, Rebecca has visited the homes of Hospice of the Red River Valley patients to provide refreshing haircuts, and sometimes even a …


Area Man Flies Tandem with Hospice of the Red River Valley

Stewart ‘Stew’ Bass’ legacy has taken flight. As a WWII veteran pilot, he was personally involved in sinking the Yamoto, a large Japanese aircraft carrier, which marked a turning point in WWII and earned him a Navy Cross—one of the highest honors the Navy bestows. Through sharing his experiences in aviation, Stew touched many lives …


When Irish Eyes are Smiling: Hospice Volunteer Brightens Patients’ Days

Clarice Satrom has always been an outgoing and fun-loving person. Growing up in a tight-knit Irish family, she learned to appreciate music, dancing and laughter. She carried on her family’s traditions as she and her husband Lester raised two daughters and two sons on their farm near Grandin, N.D. Through 48 years of marriage, Clarice …


Angels in Disguise: Husband Recalls Wife’s Experience with Hospice

We traveled all over together, her and I,” Gerald ‘Toot’ shared about his late wife, Dee. “All you had to say to her is, ‘Dee, how would you like to … ?,’ and she would say ‘yes’ right away. You wouldn’t even have to finish what you were going to ask. She was willing to …


Comfort and Care When We Needed it Most: My Hospice Story

by Diane Samuelson Hospice is comfort. Hospice is support on a very long and sometimes very lonely journey. My Dad was terrified of dying and wanted to be at home. He was born in 1908, and grew up during a time when nursing homes and hospitals were very different than the facilities of today. He …


Embracing the Final Journey: Hospice Helps Husband Care for Wife with Alzheimer’s

“I will take care of you as long as I can,” Bill explained to his wife, Judy, in May 2008 after leaving the doctor’s office. Judy had just been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. “That was the only time she questioned what would happen to her when she didn’t know anyone anymore,” he said. “She never …


Good Deeds & Fellowship: Hospice Volunteer Aims to Make a Difference

The year 2014 proved to be a year full of changes and personal transformation for Matt Mastrud, a Hospice of the Red River Valley volunteer. About seven months ago, Matt set two very deliberate goals: get into better shape by starting a Brazilian Jujitsu class and share his time with others by volunteering. He knew …


An Attitude of Gratitude: Couple Gives Thanks for Extra Support

During any visit with Mike, a Hospice of the Red River Valley patient, and his wife, Eileen, you quickly realize you’re gaining an unintentional education in grace and gratitude. The couple is warm, welcoming and unassuming. Mike faces serious health challenges, but rather than becoming bitter, they are acutely aware of the blessings and kindness …


Reaching the End Zone: Hospice Staff Go Long for Patient

Woven tightly into the fabric of his life, sports and a sense of brotherhood remain close at heart for Dennis, Hospice of the Red River Valley patient. Even with a prognosis of five to six months to live, Dennis and his partner, Cindy, are determined to make the most of the time he has left …


Passion for Learning Bonds Hospice Patient and Chaplain

Hospice care may not readily come to mind as an intersection for science and spirituality, but for one patient and his chaplain, the connection they’ve forged was built from discussions about these very topics. Dr. Watson, a retired internist and a current patient receiving care from Hospice of the Red River Valley, approaches the world …


Salute to Service: Hospice Cares for Veteran

For Bob, Hospice of the Red River Valley patient, the Pledge of Allegiance is etched in the fabric of his life and memories past, as he gazes contentedly out the window at his picturesque farmstead. He sat upright in a hospital bed in his bedroom, watching the comings and goings of life on the farm …


Why We Support Hospice: Kirk’s Story

When Kirk, my husband of almost 43 years, was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer in January 2012, we were stunned. Kirk hadn’t been in the hospital since he was a teenager and when we met the surgeon that evening in the emergency room, he told us he was afraid, since Kirk had been so healthy …


Unexpected Connection: A First-time Volunteer’s Rewarding Experience with Hospice

When Julie Swiontek first considered volunteering for Hospice of the Red River Valley, she thought office work suited her best, and she never dreamed she would visit patients. “I thought, ‘I don’t know how to start conversations. What do I do if something happens?’” she explained. Julie spoke with Hospice Volunteer Coordinator Kristi, who reassured …


Volunteering with Hospice: A Language of the Heart

For Arlene Schneider, a volunteer with Hospice of the Red River Valley, her experience started out like many others who give of their time, “I was retired, and I like to be busy,” she said. “I was looking for something to do, and they [Hospice] needed the help.” Arlene quickly realized her time with Hospice …


True Grit: Patient Celebrates a Year on Hospice Care

For 365 days, Duane, Hospice of the Red River Valley patient, has received hospice care in his home, with his beloved wife, JoAnn, by his side. Each day is an adventure that Duane has met with true grit, gratitude and a little humor. A year ago, Duane left the hospital for the last time with …


Why We Support Hospice: Norene Bunker’s Story

Over the years, we have heard about hospice care, talked about it, and even supported it. But the concept of care really came to life when we witnessed, firsthand, the work of Hospice of the Red River Valley for our dear, family friend Norene Bunker. Only after seeing the care in action could we truly …


Why We Support Hospice: Becky Rantanen’s Story

My father had one request of his children before he passed away in 1996: “Take care of your mother.” Dad spent his final days in a hospital, uncomfortable and homesick. We did not know about Hospice at the time. We vowed it would be different for Mom. My mother, Gladys English, was a remarkable woman. …


Gifted Gratitude: A Family Member’s Choice to Support Hospice

 “I knew if I needed them, all I had to do was pick up the phone and they’d be there. I could not have done this [cared for loved ones], twice, without Hospice.” Imagine, for a moment, facing the news that two of your closest loved ones are terminally ill—just a few short years apart. …


A Labor of Love Becomes a Form of Healing

“A hug is a blanket of kindness.” – unknown author Greeted by a hug and a warm smile, any guest to Joan’s home is considered an instant friend. It’s no surprise Joan is a “hugger.” For the past several months, her fingers have carefully weaved vibrant, colorful strings of yarn this way and that, creating …


A Brit with a Big Heart: One Volunteer’s Experience with Hospice

More than 4,000 miles away and 50 years ago, while growing up in Leicester, England, Hazel Meidlinger couldn’t have imagined the significant role Hospice would play in her life. She was familiar with the concept of hospice care because of its English roots, a movement started by Dame Cicely Saunders in 1948. “I heartily believed …


Heart to Heart: Hospice Staff a Precious Aid to a Patient

Mark Twain once said, “Praise is well, compliment is well, but affection—that is the last and final and most precious reward that any man can win, whether by character or achievement.” Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) Jenny, at Hospice of the Red River Valley, has earned that ultimate prize—affection—from our patient, Caroline. At age 89, Caroline …


It Takes All Kinds: An Unexpected Hospice Volunteer

Vibrant, colorful tattoos cover Steve Smedshammer’s arms. Oversized, exaggerated earrings stretch his earlobes. A scratchy beard covers his face. By appearance alone, some might label Steve a hipster, or alternative. Few might be surprised to learn he plays guitar in a metal band. But, Steve is so much more than what meets the eye. You …


Two Peas in a Pod: One Volunteer’s Connection to a Patient

Sometimes you meet someone and a natural connection just happens, like an unstoppable force of magnetism. That’s precisely what happened for volunteer Breanna Hanan and hospice patient, Alice.* What started out as a routine college credit requirement, quickly turned into meaningful life lessons and an unexpected friendship. Breanna, an upbeat, cheerful young lady pursuing a …


Striking the Right Chord with a Dream Come True

On a rural farm in Ulen, Minn., a long-sought-after dream came true for Sonny, Hospice of the Red River Valley patient, when he received a phone call from Nashville, Tenn. On the other end of the telephone Sonny heard the voice of his favorite country music singer, Bill Anderson (also known as “Whispering Bill”). “My …


Three Decades of Volunteering

After 30 years of service, Leona Laugeness has worn many hats at Hospice of the Red River Valley.


Enjoying the Comforts of Home with Hospice

When Marjorie Wright of Gwinner, N.D., received a serious diagnosis, she immediately knew she wanted the best care available. Without hesitation, she requested hospice care and was delighted to stay, and be well cared for, right in her home.


Providing Care No Matter Where You Call Home

For most people, calling Hospice to care for a loved one is a decision fraught with emotion. For Loretta Olson, it was a decision she faced twice in one year. Loretta describes her father, Herman, as a determined and independent man. When he received a cancer diagnosis, it was understandably devastating. As his health deteriorated, …


Leaving a Legacy

Charlotte continues to make deliberate plans in her retirement with the same forward-looking attitude that built her career.


Committing to a Cause

When David and Emily married, they launched an annual tradition of giving back in memory of their grandfathers, both of whom had been served by Hospice.


Sharing the Last Journey

Irvin and Cora shared 69 wonderful years of marriage, never leaving one another’s sides. With the help of Hospice, the Sundseths lived the final months of their lives how they wished—together.


The Circle of Life

Sheri Felt’s brain cancer returned 20 years after her first battle with cancer. She approached her terminal diagnosis with strength, humor and appreciation for every minute she had with her children.


Fear of the Unknown

After fighting lung cancer with aggressive and trial treatments, there came a point when Phil Hanson stopped and asked the critical question, “Shouldn’t I be on hospice care?”


King for the Day, Everyday

For 17 years, Don Brantner was king of the open road. He loved what he did, and took pleasure in lending a hand to new friends he met along the way. Years later, Don is now the one in need of help.


A “Time Out” from Cancer

“Yeah, right.” That was Gaylene Smith’s initial reaction after hearing that the Jack and Jill Late Stage Cancer Foundation had selected her family as recipients of an all-expense paid vacation to the destination of their choice.


Difficult Decisions. The Right Choices.

The most difficult decisions a family faces surround the health care of a loved one who is seriously ill, as was the case for Marlene and Boyd Christenson.


Charitable Gift Annuity is a “Win-Win” for Donor

Already a dedicated volunteer, Hal decided to take his support of Hospice one step further. A charitable gift annuity was the perfect option.


Remembering Debbie

After Rocky lost his wife of 33 years, Debbie, to ovarian cancer in early 2009, he became determined to channel his grief into helping others – and to preserving Debbie’s name and legacy in their community.


Returning the Blessing

“Please take me home with you tonight.” These were Doris Radcliffe’s words to her husband, Bob, as he visited her in the hospital one evening.


Finding Herself Again

Ina’s personal story of grief and loss compels her to give a donation each year to ensure people have care and resources at the end of life.


Pearl Uhlir

Pearl Uhlir honors her husband, LeRoy, by continuing his memorial donations through her work with the Zion Quilters.


Nanda Gross

Nanda Gross experienced hospice care first hand when her father was on service and appreciates the opportunity to give back as an office volunteer.


Judy Dragseth

Patient care volunteer Judy Dragseth shares life lessons she’s learned throughout 30 years of volunteering.


Gail “Sunny” Prudhomme

Learn about Sunny’s patient care volunteer experience and how she helped a patient find closure.