George Daugavietis: Hospice Volunteer Delivers Compassion in the Final Days
If a rocking chair had feelings, it would be endlessly frustrated by George Daugavietis. That’s because
the 62 year-old will never be inspired to give into it.
George could easily be a model for AARP. Thin, fit and tan, with shock of “silver fox” gray hair and striking blue eyes, he is a vertical advertisement for health and vitality. But he doesn’t simply count on eating right and exercising. The retired U.S. Air Force pilot who currently teaches math and geography at Solano Community College believes a balanced life must include volunteering. For the last 15 years, the Vacaville resident has served NorthBay Hospice & Bereavement.
“There are two ways to get things done in life: We can do everything for ourselves or we can do everything for someone else. I personally feel there is more benefit to do the latter.”
Born in Germany to Latvian parents, George and his family lived for a number of years in a camp for “displaced persons” after World War II. They managed to find a sponsor in Michigan where he lived until he joined the service. He married his wife, Nancy, a former military nurse, in 1975.
George’s duties vary as a hospice volunteer. They range from reading books or newspapers to patients, taking them outdoors or simply holding their hands. He has also been asked to provide a much-needed break for a caregiver or to help with preparing a meal. “I remember one man who had Alzheimer’s. His wife used to push him around in his wheelchair, but she got sick and I did it. One other gentleman just wanted to talk. I visited him for a year and a half and saw him the last night before his death. I was very happy I was there for him.”
“Sometimes people forget that, although someone is dying, they are still living and want to participate in life’s ordinary routines,” says Veronica Wertz, volunteer coordinator for NorthBay Hospice & Bereavement. “George has a keen awareness of how important those routines are, and he is able to meet someone ‘where they are.’ He is always so sensitive and insightful about what is needed by our patients and his quiet modesty makes everyone around him so comfortable.”
“I feel I already have a pretty reasonable attitude about death and dying, but working with those who are looking at the end of life has had an impact,” he says. “Most of those I’ve assisted have a very refreshing approach to dying. There is a level of acceptance. After all, we are all going to get there in the end.”
Because of that, George wishes more people would be inspired to volunteer for hospice—particularly if they are male. “Right now, I’m the only guy,” he says. “And for a lot of men who are going through the end of life, they would appreciate talking to another man.”
He explains that “you don’t have to be a “super” volunteer, but everyone can do something. If we all did just a little bit, the world would truly be a better place.”
So, while it’s tennis on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays and a run on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, George says he is every bit as dedicated to giving his time to help others. He will continue to keep his physical, mental and spiritual life vital.
“We all know that our mortality is finite,” he says thoughtfully. “Nonetheless, nobody should die alone. That’s why I enjoy working for NorthBay Hospice.”
Pat Dennis: Guild President Brings Grace, Gusto to Role
Sitting with Pat Dennis in her comfortable and spotless Vacaville home, you have the distinct feeling that you’re witnessing something unusual for her. She is sitting still.
Pat, president of the NorthBay Guild, wearing a fashionable outfit and her trademark spiked hair and funky jewelry, defines enthusiasm. At 74, her energy is palpable—and you can see that she enjoys multi-tasking in a way that might make a woman half her age groan.
Neatly piled on her dining room table are scores of projects she is working on for various organizations including the hospital, Vacaville Museum and Vaca Arts, which provides accessibility to art and culture in the community (she has also been a past member of the Saturday Club, Vacaville Concert Society and Solano Symphony). You have the feeling she’s going to happily dive right into them after her interview.
“I realized I just didn’t want to clean my house anymore. I wanted to do something more,” she says.
Pat has racked up more than 5,000 hours of volunteer time at since she joined the Guild in 2001. Starting at the Guild gift shop, she worked
in various capacities, eventually becoming a vice president then, finally, president.
“Pat is simply tireless,” says Jane Schilling, NorthBay Healthcare director of volunteer services. “She has a strong sense of what needs
to be done—and she’s the kind of person who really can make big things happen. We owe a lot of our success with our volunteer program to her and we’re thrilled to formally recognize her accomplishments.”
Born in Collinsville, Illinois (which is about 15 miles from downtown St. Louis), Pat was the daughter of a truck driver and a factory worker. She spent her career in serving the Veterans Administration in admissions, discharge and eligibility. She believes that the demanding work made her stronger.
“Not everybody likes you when you had a job like I had,” she explains. “That made me learn to be a bit more aggressive. In fact, most people would say that I’m not really a sweetheart. I’m outspoken and I always have an opinion.”
About volunteering, for example. “Every day you’re volunteering, somebody is going to cross your path and you can make their day or they will make yours. I will keep volunteering until I can’t go anymore. ”