Our Family's Story
Hal Van Nest (affectionately known as "Van") was 94 years old. His wife of 71 years, Alberta, had been his attentive and loving caregiver. When the physical demands became too great, it became apparent that it was time to search for an alternate place to care for Hal's needs. That place was the newly opened Dennis and Donna Oldorf Hospice House of Mercy. It turned out to be perfect solution for Hal, Alberta and their entire family.
"We are forever in debt to the entire community for bringing this Hospice House to our area," expressed Ann Van Nest, Hal's granddaughter. "It not only relieved my grandmother's burden of care, but it allowed us to share some special times together as a family."
The Oldorf Hospice House, the area's first hospice facility, opened in late May 2007 after a
successful, broad-based community capital campaign raised $7 million. For the Van Nest
family, it filled a huge need and allowed the family to create some lasting memories with their
"Meal times were the best time to reminisce," Ann said. "My grandfather was an amazing storyteller and an avid reader. He'd tell us stories about the times he caddied for Father Flanagan at Boys Town or engage us in conversations about current events. One time our family made his favorite pork chops in the beautiful hospice kitchen. Congregating around the large dining room table made it feel just like home."
The homelike setting of the Hospice House was ideal for Hal. During his 4-week stay he was able
to take advantage of the many amenities. Listening to the player piano in the Music Room was a treat. Going outdoors in the interior courtyard to enjoy the tranquil beauty of the gardens and fountain brought him great joy.
In the words of his granddaughter, Kerrie Giegerich, "I traveled from New Zealand to spend a week with my grandfather at the Hospice House. I cannot sing the praises of the Hospice House and their staff highly enough. They were kind, respectful and sincere. They treated him like a king, and made his last days comfortable and peaceful. For that, we are forever grateful."
Kerrie spoke further. "It was a privilege to stay at the Hospice House. A computer with internet access was extremely beneficial to me and allowed me to keep my fiancé in New Zealand updated on my grandfather's condition. There was free coffee any time of day or night, a well stocked refrigerator, and laundry service. The Hospice staff accommodated my needs, my family's needs as well as my grandfather's."
It was the extra special touches that impressed the Van Nest family also. Knowing that Hal was a World War II vet, the Hospice staff planned a special 4th of July celebration to honor his service. His wife, Alberta, dressed him in red, white and blue. "He loved it. What a special memory the staff created for us," Ann recalled.
For the family, their main priority was Hal's comfort and wanting to preserve his dignity in his final days. Filling those days with memories, compassion, and love was a fitting tribute to this kind and gentle man who always saw the good in everyone.
His daughter, Sandra Giegerich, sums it up. "Thank you seems so inadequate a word, but it's all I can say. Thank you to everyone who made the Hospice House a reality, but more importantly, to the people who work there. They are truly angels for everything they do."