Lyle Warner was a beloved husband, father, teacher and friend.

Hospice helped Mandan teacher celebrate life

June 24, 2019

When Lyle Warner was told he’d only have a few more months to live, all his family wanted was to cherish every moment with their husband, father, grandfather and friend. Sanford Hospice granted them that wish.

“Hospice made the last five months that we had with Lyle possible!” said Lyle’s wife, Pat Warner.

Lyle taught agriculture business for 35 years at Bismarck State College and amassed a long list of students who would come to visit him in his final days. Pat and Lyle also raised sheep on their farm near Baldwin, N.D., before retiring to Mandan, and had a strong community of fellow sheep tenders.

“Lyle was a great educator, teacher and professor because he was down to earth,” Pat said. “He didn’t just teach out of a book, he actually taught hands-on, real-life lessons. It was what you needed to know to make you a successful farmer, human or family member.

“He loved teaching, not just in the classroom. He would take any opportunity, big or small, to teach someone something. Everyone admired him and used the advice that he gave.”

Lyle and his family.

Lyle was first diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2013. He fought the disease and was cancer-free for five years. Then in summer 2018, Lyle learned that cancer had returned and had already spread throughout his body.

With just months to live, Lyle and Pat prioritized spending time with their two children, Kevin Warner and Kari Fried, four grandchildren and countless friends. They also accomplished a bucket list-level goal, traveling to Nashville, Tenn., to meet bull rider Jess Lockwood.

The family also hosted a celebration of Lyle’s life. They filled a local hotel past its capacity with former students, friends and family.

Along the way, Sanford Hospice helped care for Lyle and give him the best quality of life in those final months. Lyle wanted to be at home with family and friends, not in a hospital or facility. Hospice put the family’s minds at ease, especially supporting his primary caregivers Pat and Kari, and helped take care of everything.

“Comfort is the No. 1 priority at all times with hospice care providers,” Pat said. “Hospice is not just going to the house and giving meds. It’s treating the patient as a person. They treat you like you’re not dying. Under hospice care, we got the Lyle that we all knew and loved back.”

Lyle’s nurse Suzie Johnson became more than a hospice care provider – she was a friend.

“Lyle and Suzie had such a great connection,” Pat said. “She would sit on the floor right in front of Lyle to make sure she was directing all questions towards him. He was her main focus.”

Social worker Jill West was kind-hearted in explaining everything the family needed to know about hospice. She also arranged for a military pinning to honor Lyle for his service in Vietnam as a member of the United States Navy.

Chaplin Kurt Styron also made an impact on Lyle and his family. Regardless of what religion Lyle practiced, Styron came to their home every Thursday, pulled up a chair and visited with Lyle. These meetings had such an impact that Lyle requested Styron perform his funeral service – a request Styron graciously accepted.

These caregivers helped give Lyle and his family not only the quality time together they hoped for but also opportunities to make new memories.

Then on January 24, Lyle’s pain became more than he could bear. Johnson met the family at the Sanford Bismarck Medical Center and held Lyle’s hand until he was admitted.

When Lyle passed away peacefully the next morning, Pat was by his side. While the loss of her beloved husband still brings tears to her eyes, she was comforted by the knowledge that her family cared for him in the best way possible with the help of Sanford Hospice.

“Starting the process early on was the best decision we made,” Pat said. “Hospice is not just for the last days or weeks of life – start it earlier, start it so that they can help the person live a happy comfortable life with their family.”


Your impact

Foundation donors help families like Lyle’s through the most difficult of times. Gifts to Sanford Hospice helped make his final months filled with family, friends and memories possible.

Show your support for Sanford Hospice by joining us at the fourth annual Go Hawaiian for Hospice Luau on Aug. 6. For a suggested donation of $5, you can enjoy food and fun to benefit local hospice care. Last year, more than $68,000 was raised to support local families like Lyle’s.