Author Archives: Laura Cordeira

In Memoriam: A Loving Tribute to Our Beloved Board Member

Karle Epple (February 10, 1932 – August 28, 2017) was an amazing individual who helped so many in the community.  He was a tireless and unassuming advocate for the charitable causes he believed in.  For over 21 years, he volunteered his time as a Board Member for Regional Hospice, and in that time he helped build Regional Hospice to where it is today.  He died peacefully on August 28th in the Center for Comfort Care and Healing, the very Center that he was so instrumental in building.

Karl’s rosy cheeks, big smile and love and devotion to his family and dogs was known to all who knew him.  He will truly be missed by all in our community.

His granddaughter, Karli, shares this touching tribute to her adoring Papa:


For those I haven’t met or for those who were hoping for name tags at the door, my name is Karli (Karl plus the i) Erickson. I am the first granddaughter after four boys and it’s always been an honor to be named after Papa. One special memory for me was naming our second daughter, Inge Epple, after him and having Papa present at Immanuel Lutheran to witness her being baptized in the same baptismal font as he was.

I feel privileged to have grown up with my grandparents 15 minutes away, 12 if Papa was in a hurry. Saturday nights in high school were spent making brownies or shattering glass pans with attempted lemon bars in Papa and Ommie’s kitchen, followed by some NCIS or a Hallmark movie. And though perhaps I longed for a few girlfriends to spend some time with, the truth is there are no better companions than Ommie and Papa.

With that in mind, here’s my top 5 reasons why grandparents make the best friends, and Ommie and Papa in particular.

First, they’re supposed to like you. This makes the getting along process much easier.

Second, you can help one another. In third grade Papa helped me make a simple machine. It was an M&M dispenser out of a half-gallon of milk. I still have no idea how “we” did it. My junior year of high school “we” made an abacus. On the other hand, there’s over a decade of Meserve powerpoints “we” created and it is no accident that my volunteer activities in high school took place at Regional Hospice and Danbury Hospital.

The third reason Ommie and Papa have been my best friends is a shared love of food. Whether we are eating it or discussing it, we undoubtedly love it. Our running joke was “You’re going to the grocery store again?” yet for Papa there was always a lemon crumb cake, or “just the top” of a blueberry muffin to be tried, though we long settled on tea times of irish soda bread, of which my cousin Emily and I have nobly taken on the task of trying to find the perfect recipe.

Fourth, grandparents always answer your phone call. Partially, this is because Ommie and Papa took a really long time to get caller-id, but even after, Papa still answered my calls often as I interrupted his standard lunch of soup and a salad with blue cheese that had a bit more blue than it really ought to have had, thanks to his tendency for frugality in the fridge.

We spoke nearly every day for the past decade, mostly about what many would consider the mundane–the last time we showered (usually less was more), our hair styles (his was surprisingly prone to sticking out), his food diary of the day (complete with a frozen waffle and syrup for second breakfast), and the news of all the cousins.

I can still hear him telling me about KK and Mark visiting Ben and Laura at BC or heading to Notre Dame to see Brendan and Julie in both of those marching bands. I remember the first time an Epple boy had a serious girlfriend (big news!) and all the skiing and bicycling trip pictures described to me one by one that included Matt, Erik, and Tim. Or more recently, his joy in watching videos of one of his great-granddaughters, Emery, dancing like her Mom, Katie, and thankfully, not like her Grandpa Gary.

My brothers Max and Christian, with his wife Lily, never ceased to have an endless array of shenanigans at which you could hear Papa shaking his head at over the phone. Though to be fair, he couldn’t quite fathom why I let my girls, Astri and Inge, stomp in mud puddles either. Thank goodness baby Josie (the 4th great granddaughter) seems to be such a model baby and of course my Mom, despite living just up the road mostly managed to evade our news cycle.

This brings us to our fifth and final reason why grandparents make the best friends. It’s because they are family. Each and every day Papa and I shared the ups and the downs of the entire Epple clan and his community. With him on the East coast and me on the West, we drank our tea, ate our irish soda bread, and cherished family near and far.

And if there was any doubt, if you have any affiliation with Heli-Coil, Danbury Savings Bank, Danbury Hospital, the Meserve Fund, Regional Hospice, or Immanuel Lutheran, among others, you too are family.

Thank you all for being here. And please, never hesitate to add a little bit more whip cream to your hot chocolate or spring for a full calorie packet of Swiss Miss over the diet kind in his honor. Thank you.”

Regional Hospice and Palliative Care Awarded Highest Designation in Care for Local Veterans

(Danbury, Conn.) On July 27th, the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization awarded Regional Hospice and Palliative Care (RHPC) the prestigious distinction of a “We Honor Veterans” Partner Level Four.  The highest designation in the “We Honor Veterans” program is awarded to RHPC for its continuing dedication to ensuring local Veterans have access to high quality end-of-life care.  Director of Volunteer Services, Mary Beth Hickey, MS, worked tirelessly as the driving force behind this endeavor.

The We Honor Veterans Program is a nationwide initiative geared at increasing organizational capacity to serve Veteran populations at end-of-life.  Regional Hospice, over the past three years, evaluated and improved protocols to ensure that the needs of Veteran hospice patients were being met.  Additionally, RHPC conducted staff and volunteer education and recruited Veteran volunteers for its Veteran-to-Veteran volunteer program.  In order to achieve this highest level four distinction, Regional Hospice attended and hosted Veteran conferences, did Veteran-specific community outreach, and gathered feedback from family members of Veteran hospice patients in order to improve care delivery.

Additionally, RHPC also strengthened important partnerships with the State of Connecticut Department of Veteran Affairs and the Hudson Valley Veterans Partnership.

All hospice patients on Regional Hospice’s program receive thank you pins in appreciation for their service to our country and are connected with resources.  Additionally, the Regional Hospice team can arrange visits from Veteran volunteers and Veteran Administration representatives to honor Veteran patients through an official military ceremony.  These individuals have the unique ability to connect through a common code of conduct, language, and sense of honor.

“It is our privilege to care for the men and women who have served our country. Becoming a Level Four Partner in the We Honor Veterans program exemplifies our agency’s commitment to showing our gratitude and supporting the dignity of all veterans during end-of-life care” said Cynthia Emiry Roy, RHPC President & CEO.

Regional Hospice has served Fairfield, New Haven, Hartford & Litchfield counties with nonprofit home hospice care for over 30 years. In 2015, RHPC opened the state-of-the-art Center for Comfort Care & Healing. This family-centered hospice residence is CT’s first and only private-suite facility. Its mission is to provide exceptional end-of-life care, comfort and compassion to infants, children, adults and their families with a dedicated staff of professionals.  For more information, visit www.RegionalHospiceCT.org. Like us on Facebook: www.facebook.com/RegionalHospiceCT.

“Good Grief” Summer Camp Brings Joy to Grieving Children

Regional Hospice and Palliative Care (RHPC) hosted it’s annual “Good Grief” summer camp for children aged 6-12 who have experienced the death of a close family member.

The four-day summer camp took place from July 17th – 20th at RHPC’s Center for Comfort Care and Healing in Danbury, CT.  The 12 campers, with the support of trained facilitators, explored their feelings, practiced new confidence-building activities and connected with one another in meaningful ways.

Special activities for the children were arranged throughout the week.  This included a visit from Nadine’s Animal Friends, where the children met a skink, tortoise, lizard and even got to wear a python around their necks!  They also participated in yoga, gardened, played with a therapy dog, did arts and crafts, and took a field trip to the Pegasus Therapeutic Riding horse farm in Brewster, NY, where they learned how to care for and ride horses.

One young child, whose sister died as a teen, said “I am happy at Healing Hearts because I can tell you all about my sister and why I miss her. And she liked pink – so I put pink on my visor to help me think of her!” Another grieving youngster shared his memory of his grandfather “working with his tools” around the house, and expressed that now he wants to learn to build things and be like his grandfather.

The power of the camp was best expressed by an 11-year-old who was planting marigolds in a flower pot that he decorated with his feelings and memories.  He acknowledged that even though “he is sometimes sad and misses his grandmother,” the marigolds that he planted “will always remind him of how much she loved to garden and how much fun he had at the Healing Hearts Camp.”

A special thank you to all the generous donors and volunteers who contributed to make this camp a memorable experience for all.  To support the “Good Grief” camp or other RHPC programs, visit MakingTheBestOfEveryday.org.

Pam Picard – A Compassionate Healer that Emanates Warmth

When Pam Picard’s son Kyle was 9-years-old, he was diagnosed with a brain tumor and later Lyme disease.  Drawing on her background in holistic healing, she embarked on a journey to get him the best medical treatment available and tapped into every therapeutic modality possible to bring her son the comfort and relief he deserved.  Kyle remarkably recovered from his cancer and that experience moved Pam to help others.

One way she started to help others was by studying reiki – or energy work – something that many of her friends practiced.  Reiki is a very gentle touch (or no touch) healing modality.  It is extremely calming and relaxing, and can bring a sense of peace throughout the body.  Pam views herself as a “hollow bone” or “vessel” in which she can transmit healing energy through her hands to the recipients to provide them the calm and relief they may need.

Complementary Therapy Volunteers Pam Picard & Kim Schmus

After studying to be a reiki master, Pam had a dream about providing support to patients during surgery. That ultimately led her to Raven Keyes, a member of Dr. Oz’s surgical team, who performs reiki on patients in the operating room.  Feeling like this was a good omen, Pam reached out to Yale-New Haven Hospital and learned that they too had a role for reiki practitioner volunteers in clinical settings.  Once she was accepted to Yale’s volunteer team, she reconnected with Raven and inspired her to coordinate training for Medical Reiki™ practitioners.  Pam completed this specialized training a month later and started putting her skills to use as a Certified Medical Reiki™ Practitioner at Yale New-Haven Hospital, while also working at Salt of the Earth in Woodbury.

In November 2015, Pam was approached by Regional Hospice and Palliative Care’s (RHPC) President and CEO Cynthia Roy, who knew about Pam’s volunteer work at Yale-New Haven.  Cynthia encouraged Pam to bring her reiki expertise to Regional Hospice and Palliative Care.

The night that Pam completed her paperwork to become a RHPC Reiki volunteer, she was told by a family physician that her father would need hospice care.  For Pam, this was a clear sign of fate, allowing her to become a family member at RHPC before beginning her work at the Center.  Her father was admitted to Regional Hospice’s Center for Comfort Care and Healing a few days later.

After spending five days at the Center for Comfort Care and Healing, Pam’s father passed gently.  While driving with her mom on their way to the Center that night to say goodbye and wishing he was not in any pain, they saw a beautiful falling star in front of their car.  Pam took this as a sign from her dad that he did not suffer and was at peace. Her father had passed gently and comfortably, just as they had hoped.

After taking time to grieve, Pam began her volunteer work with RHPC providing reiki to patients, their loved ones and staff.  She believes that her experience as a family member of a RHPC patient before volunteering enables her to feel, see and better know how to best meet the needs of Regional Hospice’s patients and families through her special skill set.  Having been in their shoes made her volunteer commitment that much more powerful.  She regards her volunteer work as a passion and loves seeing peace come upon individuals as a result of a reiki treatment.  Pam feels honored that she is able to support them on their journey.

If you’ve been one of the lucky ones to receive reiki from Pam, chances are you’ve also met her friend and “reiki sister” Kim Schmus, LMT.  The pair find great joy in working together, combining their skills in reiki, guided meditation and light touch massage to provide a holistic approach to relaxation, comfort and relief.

Pam is tearful and genuinely moved when recounting memorable stories and experiences she’s shared with hospice patients.  She mentions two special patients who she will never forget, having been with them at their time of death.  She smiles remembering the Alzheimer’s patient that she and Kim worked with for many months. While this woman could not express herself on the outside, through their reiki they could feel her love and peace – and fire – from deep within.  Pam remembers fondly the gift of thanks that one patient gave them in her last few weeks: For all the grace and glory that they enabled their patient to experience.

She says “just to be able to touch so many lives as a RHPC volunteer is incredible.”  We like to think the work Pam does is pretty incredible too.

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Pam is a Regional Hospice and Palliative Care volunteer who provides reiki, light touch massage and guided meditation to patients and family members.  She has volunteered over 125 hours and worked with over 200 people.

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To learn more about Pam Picard, please visit her website at: http://www.reikimedical.com/

Pam Picard is offering a special discounted rate of $50 for any friends of hospice who would like to try a one-hour reiki session.  Please reach out to Pam directly and mention Regional Hospice and Palliative Care to receive this discounted rate.

She is also available to provide reiki at Salt of the Earth on weekends.

If you are interested in learning reiki and taking a Reiki I, 2 or 3 class instructed by Pam and Kim, please visit their website at healinghalls.wordpress.com.

To learn more about Kyle’s story, visit angelightfilms.org and select “The Kyle Show” to view a short documentary about his journey with brain cancer.

Inspired by Pam’s story?  To volunteer as a reiki practitioner, please visit Regional Hospice and Palliative Care’s Volunteer Page and fill out an application today!

Cathy Hickey-Williams – Her Passion is Her Gift

Cathy’s story is one of impressive education, remarkable career accomplishments, dedication to her family, deep faith in God, and selfless service to her students and her church.

An Accomplished Professor

Jack and Cathy Hickey-Williams

Cathy is an intelligent, educated woman who studied microbiology at the University of Pennsylvania in the mid sixties earning her PhD, when science was not the conventional career path for women.  She speaks lovingly of her years at UPENN, where she met her devoted husband of forty-two years Jack and enjoyed her studies.  After graduation, Cathy spent ten years as a researcher for the federal government in Washington, D.C.  Although she enjoyed this work, Cathy felt compelled to trade her research careerto pursue the world of academia.  While in D.C., she began teaching at the college level.  Cathy enjoyed it so much that when she and Jack moved to Connecticut, she was eager to accept a position at Western Connecticut State University where she taught chemistry for the duration of her twenty-eight-year career.  Cathy found this work joyous and fulfilling, teaching chemistry to aspiring nursing students and other undergraduates.  While her love of chemistry led her to this work, she was most rewarded by her work with students.  Jack speaks with pride of the gifts that she often received from her students in appreciation of her mentorship and the lasting friendships that she has made with her faculty colleagues.

A Loving Wife, Sister and Aunt

Cathy and Jack’s love is evident in the way that they look after each other.Their marriage is one of warmth and genrousity.  Jack studied ministry at the University of Pennsylvania and, like his wife, has devoted his life to serving others.  They speak to one another kindly and gently, continuously checking in with each other to make sure theyare doing okay.  Throughout their marriage they have had many adventures together, from their memorable vacations to the precious time spent with their many siblings, nieces and nephews.  Together they have visited Cape Cod, New Hampshire, Alaska, Ireland and the Jersey Shore.

Cathy and Jack adore their many siblings (Cathy has two sisters, Jack has five siblings) and speak with love about their many nieces and nephews.  Their families are important to them, and it is clear that they are important to their family members.  Cathy’s sister organized Christmas this year so the whole family would gather at Cathy and Jack’s house – complete with a pre-made dinner – to make sure they were included in the festivities.  Cathy’s eyes smile as she speaks about how humbled she was by the generosity and love her family members showed as they brought the entire meal to their house and continue to visit in droves since the new year to help out.


Leading Her Life by Example

Cathy is a faith-filled person and both she and Jack are active members of Saint Rose of Lima parish in Newtown.  She is a Eucharistic minister and a member of the Women’s Club and speaks warmly of the many wonderful friends she made through her involvement in the church.  Over the past few months, she has received baskets full of cards from these friends showing their support.  These cards mean so much to her.  She and Jack consider their trip to Italy with other Saint Rose parishioners as one of the highlights of their lives.  They fondly remember seeing the Pope, enjoying a beautiful party thrown for the Saint Rose group and touring the countryside.

Cathy lives her life with passion and enthusiasm and Jack jokes about the fact that she was never one to sit in front of the television.  When not volunteering at church or visiting with family and friends, Cathy also enjoys hiking, being outside, and reading a good mystery book.  She is not afraid to try new things and has recently taking up crocheting for the first time.  Cathy leads by example: she does not observe from the sidelines, but continues to live her life with passion, vitality, generosity and fearlessness.  She pauses and smiles when thinking about how blessed she is.  After getting to know this incredible woman, I am sure that all who know her have been blessed in return.

Written by Regional Hospice Volunteer Debbie Bodie

Roberta Goodwin: Heart of Gold Wins Medal of Gold

Roberta Goodwin volunteered 541 hours for Regional Hospice and Palliative Care in 2016, earning her a Gold Medal from the President’s Volunteer Service Awards.  You can find Roberta greeting at the front desk at the Center for Comfort Care & Healing and facilitating bereavement groups for the Healing Hearts Center for Grief and Loss.  She thinks that “Regional Hospice is the best place around to volunteer.”

Since 2001, Roberta Goodwin has been a devoted Regional Hospice and Palliative Care volunteer.  After experiencing a life-altering car accident, the tenacious real estate agent realized that she needed to make some time in her life to volunteer again – something that she’s always valued. An avid bowler, at her first game post-recovery, she wondered out loud whether anyone knew any good charities to volunteer for.  As luck would have it, the team she was bowling against was comprised of Regional Hospice employees and the rest is history!

Roberta began volunteering at Regional Hospice in the role of Family Support Volunteer.  For two years, she visited with patients in their homes to provide companionship, support and respite for their family members.  In 2003, the Healing Hearts Center for Grief and Loss was expanding their programs and Roberta, a mother of four and grandmother of (now) 11 – with 1 great-grandchild and another one on the way – was eager to get trained to facilitate support groups for children who have experienced loss.  Working with “Littles” (children aged 4-8) and eventually “Middles” (children aged 9-12) was a perfect fit – she enjoyed working with kids on arts and crafts projects and guiding them on their grief journeys.

In 2011, after nearly 8 years of working with children in Healing Hearts, Program Manager Joanna DeNicola, LCSW, saw potential in her and suggested that Roberta facilitate adult bereavement groups.  Roberta agreed, feeling up for the challenge, and she’s been facilitating adult groups ever since.  She credits Joanna to her success in the program, stating that she is “absolutely incredible with her teaching.”

When Regional Hospice opened the Center for Comfort Care & Healing in February 2015, Roberta decided to expand her volunteer work again and took on another role as a Lobby Greeter.  She loves this role and looks at this as another important way to connect and interact with families.  She wants patients and visitors alike to feel welcomed and at ease, greeting them by name whenever possible.  When she is greeting at the desk she gets to know the other volunteer on shift with her in addition to the visitors coming in and she feels fortunate that she is able to hear their interesting life stories.

With all of these volunteer roles, it’s no wonder that Roberta volunteered over 500 hours last year, achieving the gold level of the US President’s Volunteer Service award.  When asked what keeps her coming back after all of this time, she answered without hesitation: the people you’re helping and the people you’re surrounded by.  She speaks of the Regional Hospice team as a group of “givers” – not “takers” –which has created a wonderful balance in her life, juxtaposing her career in the business world.

Roberta gets asked a lot by friends and family how she is able to volunteer at Regional Hospice and she tells them unequivocally that volunteering is a complete ‘upper’ for her because she is helping families at some of the saddest times in their lives.  She asserts that it is not negative or depressing – and that it gives her the opportunity to get to know people from all walks of life.
Roberta has had many memorable moments over the past 16 years of volunteering.  She takes particular pride in watching some of her Healing Hearts group participants experience what she refers to as a “breakthrough.” She describes this as a day when, after months of someone attending a support group, a participant is finally able to share his/her real fears and emotions with the group.  She feels that when that happens, the team has done their job.  “We were able to give them enough support to feel comfortable coming back and speak up.”  Always one to downplay her own contributions, she credits those moments largely to the comfortable environment at the Center for Comfort Care & Healing and the delicious cookies, coffee and tea that help set the stage for this support and change.

Roberta’s dedication to volunteering has set a shining example for others.  Within the last year, her son Edward and her grandson Zachary followed her lead and signed up to become Regional Hospice volunteers themselves – something she refuses to take any credit for.  This three-generational volunteer team often signs up for shifts together and it’s clear that the compassion that Roberta has for others and commitment she has to “giving back” has also been instilled in her family.

When asked about her family, she reflects for a moment, “My family? We’re all very close. It’s all about family, as far as I’m concerned.  And [as members of the Regional Hospice team] we’re here helping families – that’s what Regional Hospice does.”

We are so grateful that Roberta is part of our Regional Hospice and Palliative Care volunteer family!