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Party Patrol plans 52nd anniversary party for loving couple

Jerry Hamlet often refers to his family as “a small village,” which is fitting, since it happens to be the definition of the word “hamlet.”

That small village grew a bit bigger earlier this year, when Hamlet’s wife, Dianne, became a patient of BJC Hospice. And, on June 16, more than 50 members of the village — family, friends, and BJC Hospice employees and volunteers — gathered together to celebrate Jerry and Dianne Hamlet’s 52nd wedding anniversary.

The Party Patrol, part of the Friends of Wings Joyful Celebrations program, which supports BJC Hospice families, pulled out all the stops for the couple, giving them a party reminiscent of their wedding day.

An overdue celebration

Dianne came under the care of BJC Hospice in March. Her nurse, Debbie Klinghammer, RN, says she immediately knew the couple was special.

“The first day I met them, her husband took me aside and said, ‘She is the love of my life. I will do anything for her. I want to do something special for her. Please don’t let us down.’ So, I made it my mission not to let them down,” Klinghammer says.

Two years ago, Dianne and Jerry had made big plans for their 50th wedding anniversary. Dianne wanted to visit her family in Kentucky, so Jerry had arranged a trip — not only to visit family, but also to revisit the cabin where the couple had spent their honeymoon.

Unfortunately, however, Dianne was too sick to travel, so family members helped the couple celebrate their 50th anniversary in the hospital.

As the couple’s 52nd anniversary approached this year, Klinghammer, who also volunteers for BJC Hospice, and Party Patrol volunteer Joan Thompson, along with the couple’s children, got busy planning a special anniversary celebration.

Klinghammer says the family was so receptive, eager and loving — it made the Party Patrol’s job easy. After some phone calls and lots of organizing, the party came together in June at McKelvey Manor Condominiums.

A joyful event

The tables were covered in yellow and blue and topped with centerpieces of fresh daisies, reminiscent of the Hamlets’ wedding day. Hacienda Mexican Restaurant prepared a full taco bar and all the trimmings. Jesse Tran took photos, and Friends of Wings donated flowers, decorations and a cake. Music therapist Adam Rugo provided music, including a special request from the couple, “Circle of Life” from “The Lion King.”

Many other BJC Hospice and Friends of Wings volunteers helped with the event, including Julie Peters, Jodi Fleshner, Alicia Allen, Chante Shannon, Chaplain Doris Ford-Brown and Eileen Spinner.

Dianne’s final request for the party was that ice cream be served. And, although she could only spend a couple of hours at the party before getting tired, Dianne requested that the leftover ice cream not go to waste. So, the Party Patrol sent to-go packages home with the couple and other guests.

Less than a month later, on July 11, Dianne died, surrounded by all of her children and with Jerry holding her hand. In addition to her husband, two sons and two daughters, she is survived by 10 grandchildren two great-grandchildren.

Jerry says he’s grateful the Party Patrol volunteers allowed Dianne to spend a joyful day with her family and created a memory the family will cherish forever.

“The Party Patrol and hospice volunteers were very helpful in accommodating all of my wife’s wishes and delivering on all aspects of her plan,” he says. “I am so grateful to all the BJC Hospice volunteers and nurses who were there in my time of need.

“I refer to my family as a small village, and I asked for a gift from God when it was desperately needed,” Jerry adds. “Each of those marvelous people is now an official member of this village.”

More about the Party Patrol

As part of the Friends of Wings Joyful Celebrations program, Party Patrol volunteers plan memorable days for BJC Hospice families, marking special occasions and milestones or simply bringing joy to adult and pediatric hospice patients.

To learn more about Friends of Wings activities and events, call 314-953-1662.

“The Village” includes, front row kneeling, Emma, Sienna, Jayleigh, Heather, Hazel, Maggie and Stephen; middle row, standing, Ryder, Willow, Miki and Dianne; and back row, standing, Taylor, Jay, Caleb, Brian, Jerry, Jake, Tina, Jacob and Alex. | Courtesy photo

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