Betty and Gary Hanna were married for 59 years.

Hospice: ‘We are so grateful for what you did’

December 5, 2018

“We never thought we’d need you, but we are so grateful for what you did for my dad and our family.” – Meghan Hanna, in a note to Sanford Hospice.

After a brief battle with cancer earlier this year, all Gary Hanna wished for was to live his final days fully in his own home with those he loved most. Sanford Hospice gave him that chance.

Gary was well known in his community of Canby, Minn., having taught junior high geography for 36 years and continuing to instruct driver’s education after his retirement. He was an active church member and always had a new Ole and Lena joke for anyone who would listen.

Even into his 80s, Gary stayed active. He cherished time working outside, especially mowing grass and gardening with his wife of 59 years, Betty.

Then in November 2017, Gary and his family were devastated to learn he had chondrosarcoma, a rare cancer of the bone, with very limited treatment options. Gary underwent 13 radiation treatments to relieve some discomfort, but the cancer continued to spread, reaching his liver and lungs.

In February 2018, just three months after his diagnosis, the family turned to Sanford Hospice and from their first meeting, felt a sense of relief. Nurse Marissa Nelson assured the family she would be there when they needed her.

“We felt immediately that we had people to turn to,” said Gary’s daughter Meghan. “Experienced people who knew what was to come and people who could support us.

Gary and Betty Hanna with daughters Torri, Tahlie and Meghan.


Precious time

Sanford Hospice allowed Gary to stay in the home he loved. Gary and Betty had designed and built their dream house 20 years earlier.

Shortly before completing the project, Gary had penned the words, “When all is said and done … We will have a home in which to retire and one to live in until we expire.”

Gary was able to sit in his favorite chair, listening to music and sharing precious time with his family — Betty, their three daughters, grandchildren and first great-grandchild, Kinsley. He also found comfort in new faces: his caregivers from Sanford Hospice who were there to meet the needs of his mind, body and spirit.

“We wanted to fill each moment with meaning, love and comfort for him,” Meghan said. “Dad wanted to be in his home, in his world, with his family. Because of Sanford Hospice, what he wanted became possible.”

On Good Friday, Gary passed away with the dignity and grace he deserved, surrounded by his family.

“Our family was just able to be there and surround him with love,” Meghan said. “We all stayed by his side until his very last breath. It was such an honor to be right by Dad’s side, holding his hand, and to be present for his passing.”



While Betty and the family continue to grieve their loss, they are thankful for those final few weeks with Gary and the memories they will cherish forever.

They are also grateful for the generous and compassionate support that allows Sanford Hospice to care for patients and families across the region in ways that simply would not otherwise be possible.

“We are so fortunate to be in such a small community and to have the medical services we have,” Meghan said. “We truly could not have done this without Sanford Hospice.”

In the spirit of the holidays, please consider a gift to Sanford Hospice and help bring peace to more families like the Hannas at sanfordsiouxfalls.org/holidays.