A fortuitous meeting at a bridal salon led Janell (Berté) Bertelman to Masonic Village Hospice.
Janell, owner of POSH Bridal in Lancaster, was working at her store one day when a mother/daughter team arrived for a wedding dress fitting.
Janell didn’t make it a practice to share her private life with anybody at work. But she was feeling overwhelmed that day. Her mother, Ruth, a resident at Homestead Village Skilled Nursing Facility, was in declining health and Janell, an only child, knew she and her husband, Richard, couldn’t take care of her on their own.
“We had a three-story home and did not want mom to fall down the stairs,” she said. “We couldn’t bring her home with us until she was bedbound, and I felt safe enough that she wouldn’t try to get out of bed.”
The mother at the appointment, Allison Maloney, was a practicing nurse and Janell thought she might have some insight on how to best care for Ruth moving forward. Her daughter, Jasmine Rakszawski, worked for Masonic Village Hospice and explained to Janell what her options were.
“As soon as she said she was linked to Masonic Village, she didn’t have to go any further,” Janell said. Janell’s family has deep roots in the Masonic organization. Her father was a 33rd degree Mason and member of Scottish Rite, Tall Cedars and the Shriners. Ruth was in Order of the Eastern Star. Janell was a Past Grand Worthy Advisor for Pennsylvania Rainbow Girls.
“I had visited the Masonic Home [as Masonic Village was then known] many times when I was in Rainbow, and I was very knowledgeable about the facility,” Janell said. “I knew it would be outstanding.”
Hospice took care of everything for Janell — setting up a bed and table for Ruth in her home and providing lots of support.
“Having John, our nurse, and his assistant, Samantha, was so amazing,” she said. “Samantha had a great attitude and always dealt with mom beautifully. John had the best bedside manner, and we adored him. Through the end, he was there practically every day and was so helpful and strong for our family. Without him, I wouldn’t have made it. He was really our foundation.”
Once COVID-19 hit, businesses shut down, which turned out to be a blessing for Janell. It allowed her to stay at home and spend 100% of her time with her mother at the end of her life.
“There was not a lot of activity going on, and it made it easier for John and Samantha to come in and out of the house,” she said. “They were able to stand by our side through everything. It made it so much more meaningful for me and comfortable for my mother. She didn’t die alone or among strangers.”
Ruth died on her birthday, April 7, 2020, at 89 years old.
Ruth was originally from Mount Pleasant, PA. She met and married her husband, Henry, and they lived in the North Huntingdon area. He passed away more than 30 years ago.
“I grew up in an ‘Ozzie and Harriet’ family,” Janell said. “My dad worked full time and brought the bread home. My mom took care of the house and the family. I had a wonderful childhood. My mom’s life revolved around my father and me.”
Ruth was a baker who enjoyed making cookies. She eventually became well-known for bringing homemade cookies with her when she traveled with Janell to bridal shows in New York City. She would serve the cookies to buyers and editors to rave reviews.
“The editors of Town & Country magazine, Martha Stewart, they all knew my mom,” Janell said. “Mom got invited to all of Martha’s parties. She was even invited on Martha’s television show, but she was too shy to do it. My mother was a humble lady. I know she was tickled though.”
Ruth always enjoyed music. When she was living in the western part of the state, she would attend the Pittsburgh Symphony regularly. She always loved going to NYC for Broadway shows, and she enjoyed opera. She also loved to garden, and Janell often took her to Longwood Gardens to explore. “That was her happy place,” she said.
Ruth and Henry traveled the U.S. together, but it took Janell and Richard to take her on international trips. Janell fondly recalls a three-week trip she took with her mother and husband traveling around the world in December 2001.
“We were greeted with open arms everywhere we went. We visited Greece, India, Thailand and Hong Kong. It was a great experience for the three of us and a wonderful memory.”
Meeting Jasmine in the bridal shop that day was a blessing, as Janell was again welcomed with open arms — this time by Hospice staff.
“Things happen for a reason,” Janell said. “Obviously it was meant to be, and I could not speak higher of the services that my mother and our family received.”