TMC Hospice: Honoring Our Veterans

TMC Hospice volunteers Lewis Jones, center, and Dave Falkner honor a veteran and hospice patient for her service to her country.

When Lewis Jones came on for his shift at Peppi’s House, staff let him know that one of the hospice patients was a veteran and had been honored for his military service earlier in his stay. When the man died later that day surrounded by his large extended family, which included active-duty military, Jones joined with another volunteer to drape the unit’s American flag quilt over the body. As the mortuary came to take him away, the pair, themselves veterans, stood silently saluting as the patient was wheeled out of the building.

The family and staff were overwhelmed with emotion seeing such a show of respect and appreciation for this veteran. Jones stayed to comfort some of the family members, giving that special touch he gives all the time that makes him memorable to everyone.

Today, on Veterans Day, the staff, volunteers and supporters of TMC Hospice honor those who have served our country. TMC Hospice provides care for close to 300 U.S. veterans each year. With the need only growing, we partner with We Honor Veterans and the Hospice Veterans Partnership to better care for, reach out to and honor veterans needing end-of-life care.

Earlier this fall, Jones was one of 200 hospice volunteers across the nation nominated for the 2018 Volunteers Are the Foundation of Hospice award by the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization. While he wasn’t one of the top winners, he’s still a winner at TMC Hospice.

“Out of many volunteers, Jones is the one everyone talks about. His hugs, smiles and greeting help uplift the staff every time he volunteers,” said Krista Durocher, volunteer coordinator for TMC Hospice, noting that November is also Hospice Awareness Month.

Jones has been a TMC Hospice volunteer since 2010, logging nearly 1,100 hours of service in that time. He started out filing medical records and then was recruited to the bereavement team making weekly calls to families. He started helping with quarterly celebrations of life and eventually became the lead volunteer for these events.

In 2016, this versatile volunteer migrated from bereavement calls to the Tuck In program. Each Thursday, Jones gets a list of homecare patients who are still in their homes (vs. a care facility or nursing home) and checks in to make sure they’re OK and have enough supplies to get through the weekend. Not only do the patients appreciate the calls, but the weekend on-call staff appreciates the reduction in urgent calls for supplies, allowing them to better focus on symptom control and other pressing needs.

“When we started its journey with We Honor Veterans a few years back,” Durocher said, “we knew right away that Jones would be an excellent person to help grow this program in our community.” Jones met with various veteran organizations in town and made invaluable connections as his love for honoring veterans began to blossom.

Hospice patients who are veterans are offered the opportunity for an honoring. During this ceremony, a patient is presented with a certificate of appreciation, a lapel pin and a small American flag as small tokens of gratitude for their service.
Jones, being a Vietnam veteran, has a soft spot for other Vietnam veterans and especially loves to conduct those honorings.

“At every one of those honorings,” Durocher said, “he makes a point to say ‘welcome home’ to the veteran and explains to those in the room why it’s especially important to say that to a Vietnam veteran.”

From all of us at TMC Hospice to all our veterans – including Lewis Jones — thank you for your service.

If you’re a veteran interested in helping honor other veterans or are interested in volunteering with TMC Hospice find out more.

LoveLights twinkling brightly outside Peppi’s House

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For some, the holiday season has officially arrived again, now that the LoveLight Tree has been illuminated outside Peppi’s House on the TMC campus.  The symbolic tree-lighting event is put on each year by the TMC Auxiliary as a benefit for TMC Hospice.

The Auxiliary raises money by selling “lights” on the LoveLight Tree that represent loved ones who have passed away and are being memorialized, or as a way to honor those who are still living.  Recently the tree has added gold lights, in honor of veterans and those serving in the military.

At the LoveLights tree-lighting party, more than 150 people gathered to visit outside Peppi’s House on a crisp evening while the sound of soft music played in the background.  Just after dusk – the moment everyone was waiting for as the crowd counted down from 10.  Suddenly the tree lit up while the crowd applauded.  Red, green, white, blue and gold lights glistened on the tree that was circled with beautiful poinsettias, and adorned with a giant heart.

The money raised during the sale of LoveLights and the event is still being tallied, but will all go to the emergency fund at TMC Hospice.  “This money is used for all sorts of things, like funerals for families who can’t afford to bury their loved ones, plane tickets for family members who can’t afford to come to Tucson and say goodbye, even things like utility bills and groceries for families who otherwise can’t afford it when they’re going through such a sorrowful time,” said Kelly Oursler, RN, TMC Hospice Manager.

Special thanks to TMC Auxiliary Vice President Lewis Jones for organizing this year’s event.

If you’d like to drive by and see the tree, it’s located at Peppi’s House, on the northwest end of the TMC Campus, 2715 N. Wyatt.

The LoveLights Tree will be up until the New Year.


Tucson Medical Center | 5301 E. Grant Road | Tucson, Arizona 85712 | (520) 327-5461