John Putz, third from the left, and his family

Hand in hand: Hospice helps family care for loved one

June 24, 2020

John Putz was known for dependability and integrity in every area of his life from caring for his wife, children and grandchildren to serving in the Army National Guard for 38 years.

“John was a military man at heart — loyal, dedicated and service-oriented,” said his wife, Linda. “He was a gentle soul.”

John passed away in January 2020 after a year-long cancer battle. With the support of Sanford Hospice, he was able to live out his final days with peace and comfort.

“We held his hands, while he held our heart,” Linda said recalling those final moments with John. Those words have become so meaningful, they are now engraved on John’s gravestone.


Difficult diagnosis

In December 2018, John took a bad fall on the ice, and a trip to the doctor showed something wasn’t right. He was diagnosed with advanced pancreatic liver cancer.

“The oncology team at Sanford was just amazing,” Linda said. “He received unbelievable care. The nurses in the infusion clinic could make you smile even on your worst day.”

John underwent chemotherapy, knowing it wouldn’t cure his cancer, but hoping to have extra time with his family. His children and grandchildren had never seen him without his iconic mustache, but the chemo caused his blond hairs to fall out.

He also lost his appetite and stamina to do the things he loved — cheering on his grandkids, traveling, riding his Harley-Davidson motorcycle, hunting and even eating BBQ ribs.

“It difficult to watch John have to let go of all the things he loved,” Linda recalled. “He never complained, but you could see his disappointment and sadness.”


Gift of hospice

During John’s final weeks, Sanford Hospice and nurse Lisa Goetz became a lifeline for Linda and her family.

Gone were the difficult hospital trips multiple times a week. John could receive all the care he needed at home. Throughout his cancer journey, John never spent a night in the hospital, and that wouldn’t change as he entered the final stages of his illness.

“Lisa has such a strong and compassionate heart,” Linda said. “We couldn’t have gotten anyone better for us. She was perfect.”

Having cared for her own father 36 years earlier without hospice services, Linda knew how scary providing end-of-life care without support can be.

“The fear is unprecedented when you are watching someone die and you don’t know what to do,” Linda said. “Having hospice helped to ease our fears. The two experiences were like day and night.”

John was able to have special moments with Linda, their two daughters and son, eight grandchildren and countless other family members, friends and fellow servicemen. Those memories are ones that will be cherished for years to come.

“It is a privilege and an honor to be able to take care of someone you love so deeply,” Linda said. “Hospice gave us that chance.”


A legacy

John’s legacy carries on through all those he has touched, and in little Jonny, a new grandson who was born in April.

Join us in honoring his memory and all those impacted by Sanford Hospice during the Choice Bank Go Hawaiian for Hospice event. Stay tuned for details about this special event happening in August.

Your support will help ensure hospice services are available for all the local families who need it.