Thomas Jeffress and his lovely wife, Irene, gave us the privilege we had envisioned for our community over the past eight years. He was the first patient at our Center for Comfort Care and Healing in February.
Mr. Jeffress had indomitable spirit that led him as a 16 year-old to join the Navy during the Korean War and become a musician on the Aircraft Carrier SS Forrestal, play for a president and a princess—Eisenhower and Grace of Monaco—finish school with a Masters in Psychology, marry his soul-mate, raise a family and perform with some of his music icons.
It was his same spirit that kept him alive long after he suffered a severe stroke while on vacation in Virginia, and doctors told Irene that Thomas wouldn’t survive infections, surgeries or make it back home to Bethel. After surviving three months in hospitals in Virginia and Washington D.C., Irene wanted to bring him home to spend his final days in the new Center she heard was about to open.
With intervention from Senator Richard Blumenthal, Thomas made it back to the VA Hospital in Connecticut and finally into our Center for Comfort Care and Healing. “The Center is a very special place. Everyone was so positive and loving. I wanted this for my husband, so he waited at the VA hospital until your doors opened for us. The morning he died, even the nurses who weren’t on duty came in to be with us. They honored Tom for his service to our country; many of them came to his funeral; they thought of everything.”
Mr. Jeffress died at our Center on February 21, 2015. He had a long career as a counselor for the Mental Health Association of Connecticut and indulged his passion as a jazz drummer with the local group the Silver Tones while also crossing music genres to perform with Ray Charles and Joe Tex.
By coming through our doors as our first patient family, Thomas and Irene made Regional Hospice history. Even more important, they came into our hearts, and we will never forget them.