makes a friend
“The people at St. Mary's are the most blessed people on this earth. The more I get to know them the more I love them,” said Tony. “When my heart attack brought me here Dr. Minnehan saved my life.”
According to Shawn Severson, Home Health Coordinator, Tony was living in a tent in a friend’s yard in Fenn. He was happy, but with his health condition everyone felt he needed a more stable place to live. When she sent out an email to the hospital staff asking for help, she received 35 responses from people willing to contribute towards rent, to do his laundry, to help him move and to assist in any way possible.
Through the efforts of Dr. Jack Secrest, his medical assistant, Tina Fernandez, and a variety of people in a number of agencies working together, Tony recently moved into his new apartment directly across from the hospital.
“Before his move Tony was often taking naps on our couches and joining us in the dining room for his meals. Our dietary manager, Craig, and the people in the kitchen were making sure he was fed no matter what the time of day or night. If Tony wanted juice instead of milk or baked chicken instead of a casserole, our dietary people would fix it for him at no charge,” said Seversen. “Tony is a very special person with a thousand stories to tell. I don’t think a day goes by that he isn’t bringing one of the nurses a rose or some candy for the rest of the staff.”
When Tony animatedly talks he weaves stories about the places he’s been, the people he’s met and the adventures he’s had. His mother was from Spain and rode horses and elephants in the circus. One story leads to another. He says he was friends with Burt Lancaster and asked to play a part in one of his movies. He also recounts the time his teeth were lost in a mining disaster. Tony first came to the area in the 1950s when he hopped a freight because he had heard about the train trestles and wanted to see them. He came to the area years later. His stories are endless and one leads to another.
One of his closest SMH allies is Stacie Jackson, clinic receptionist. She, her son, James and Collette Shaeffer’s son helped move Tony’s belongings from his tent in Fenn to Cottonwood. “We couldn’t believe how much he had stored in there. We like to tease him because he loves a good joke. He’s a really interesting person. We just want to make sure Tony has everything he needs, “said Jackson. That’s one of the reasons you’ll see her after work fixing a meal for him, jumping the battery on his van or ordering cable TV for him. Tony also mentions Kim Stubbers, clinic receptionist, and claims she makes the best pies he’s ever eaten. She also bought him a phone card and, according to Tony, wouldn’t take any money for it.
“I love the people in Cottonwood,” said Tony. “I’ve traveled a lot and this is where the people are the best. I’ve been a hard rock miner, a movie extra, a circus barker, a plumbing fitter, a navy officer, a lightweight boxer and a commercial fisherman. At age 81 there are a few things I haven’t done, but I’m willing to try.”
Tony may not have a lot of time left in this world, but he says he makes every day count. He has a crowd of friends at St. Mary's who are rooting for him and helping make sure each day is as special as he is.