Patricia Thompson is grateful to Masonic Village Hospice for being there for her family during their times of need.

Masonic Village Hospice cared for her father twice, including during the COVID-19 pandemic when Patti was unable to be there with him. They also took care of her mother, who passed away in 2019.

“The pandemic was a really hard time,” she said. “I don’t know what I would have done for my father’s last few days without the Hospice staff because I couldn’t be with him.”

Patti’s parents, William Sr. (Bill) and Dina, had been living independently in their Hershey home when Bill broke his hip on Christmas Eve 2016.

In July 2017, after recovering from his injury, Bill and Dina moved to Masonic Village at Elizabethtown. Two weeks later, doctors discovered that Bill had no blood flow to his foot. He entered hospice because of a gangrenous toe, in addition to signs of heart failure. That September, Bill was still on hospice when he became septic and had to have his leg amputated. He survived and recovered from the surgery.

On Christmas 2017, while celebrating Bill being alive and adapting to one leg, Dina fell and broke her sacrum. The couple then moved into personal care. The following year, Dina broke her hip, and after rehabilitation, she wasn’t progressing in her recovery. She went on hospice in August 2019 and passed away in October, one day before Bill’s 93rd birthday.

“My mother never wanted to be a burden to me,” Patti said. “She had this aide through Hospice who made her feel like a queen in her dying days. If she didn’t think her hair looked good, they would do it for her. I could tell how calm she would be after she spent time with Hospice staff. I knew it was all going to be ok.”

Bill had to learn to adjust to being on his own in personal care. Heidi Young, hospice bereavement coordinator, was his “right-hand woman,” Patti said. “He talked to her about a lot of things, and she was there for him.”

Bill had been suffering from prostate cancer for several years when his other foot became gangrenous. He decided to stop his medication and went on hospice; only a few days passed until he died on July 23, 2020.

Patti couldn’t be with her father because of the pandemic, but Hospice staff stepped right in to fill the gap. “They were our eyes and ears,” she said. “For me, knowing that these people had known my dad for years and cared about him was a godsend. I don’t know what we would have done without them.

“I told my dad, ‘You don’t get to choose how you die,’ but he said, ‘Yes I do.’ Hospice helped him do it his way. They had fabulous people working with them, like his nurse, Amber. Bob was also his nurse back in 2017 and was with him the day he passed.”

Bill and Dina were married for 70 years, an achievement they were quite proud of. Bill was a member of a submarine crew in World War II and helped capture a Japanese submarine. After the war, he worked for the local telephone company.

Dina, the daughter of Italian immigrants, worked in the garment industry. Her mother had died when she was 11 and her dad when she was 18.

She was one of the most hardworking people I knew,” Patti said. “Her last job was running the garment industry in the Poconos. It was in a 95-degree sweatshop, and she was making buttonholes so we could make ends meet.”

Bill and Dina originally met as neighbors and attended the same high school. They dated for several years before marrying after Bill finished his tour of duty in the Navy.

Bill was always known as the “less social” partner in the marriage. He was very active and athletic and lit up when talking about sports. He was known to have a quick wit, a stubborn streak and a good sense of humor.

The couple had two other children besides Patti, sons William Jr. and David. Bill and Dina belonged to Hershey Free Church. They had moved to the Hershey area years ago after spending the first part of their marriage in the Poconos.

Bill was a longtime member of Carbon Lodge No. 242 in Jim Thorpe. It was only fitting that Masonic Village at Elizabethtown became the right place for Bill and Dina to spend their final years.

When her father passed away, Patti felt secure in knowing he died peacefully.

“Amazon Alexa was playing his music, and he had the biggest grin on his face,” she said. “He died the way he wanted to die. That happened because of Hospice being so supportive.

“Not only was Hospice there for my parents, but they were helpful to me. On the anniversary of my parents’ deaths, Heidi called just to see how I was doing. These people are just genuinely gifted at what they do, and what they do is such a difficult job. End of life is hard, and they smile and care and never act like they are busy, even though you know how busy they are.”