Anyone who knew Tony Martinez well will tell you he was a character.
After watching his wife, Elaine, go through hospice care before passing away, Tony felt an immense loyalty and admiration for the team at Parkview Hospice, and eventually decided to become a volunteer for the program.
“It was something that gave him purpose,” his son, Mark Martinez, said.
“Tony visited patients regularly and would talk to them about their lives and their current thoughts and feelings,” Cathy Petrie, bereavement counselor, Parkview Hospice, said. “When appropriate, he would take his guitar and play or sing songs, sometimes hymns, and sometimes silly songs that he’d made up to make people smile.”
His motivation was simple and served as his north star for nearly a decade. “Tony appreciated what we were able to do for his loved one,” Jennifer “Jeni” Weigold, RN, clinical supervisor, Parkview Hospice, said. ”He wanted to give back, and he volunteered with us for almost ten years.”
In addition to visits, Tony served as a vigil volunteer, sitting quietly, sometimes all night long, with patients at home or the hospital, so that their families could rest. “He said hospice made him a better person,” Cathy said. “Our volunteers inspire our patients and families with their care. Families often have tears in their eyes with gratitude that someone chooses to serve their loved one at such a sad time in life.”
But his efforts extended far beyond what was expected. “He was such a tremendous behind-the-scenes helper,” Cathy said. “He would carry equipment and help set up for meetings without being asked. He would come early and leave late from our memorial services, always helping with whatever was needed.”
This included the group’s annual holiday event. “One year, my husband’s band, Second Wind, did the music for Festival of Trees. It was so wonderful! Tony was there and we got up and danced. It was so much fun,” Sue Bell, former Parkview Hospice nurse and long-time volunteer, recalled. “I knew Tony a long time. He had a certain zest for life. He loved people.”
Those who spent time with the dedicated volunteer, admired his mix of talents and tendencies. “Tony was a very unique individual. He was thrifty and committed to taking care of the environment. He was an avid reader and a true do-it-yourselfer. He taught himself how to play guitar!” Jeni shared. “But with all of these unique traits, what sums Tony up the most is that he was an open and honest friend to anyone in need. He was willing to visit anyone we asked him to visit, in any setting.”
Tony was very health conscious, known for walks in the woods, mixing up the latest wellness concoctions and riding his bike around Kendallville. “He would bring books, tapes and even his own homemade healthy green drink to our staff. That was the kind of guy Tony was,” Jeni said.
A difficult loss
Just over three years ago, a shift happened with Tony’s health, and he found himself on the other side of the role he’d filled so beautifully. His son, Mark, shared that he was diagnosed with prostate cancer and received hospice services for about five weeks. “It was our team’s gift back to him to serve him at the end of his life,” Cathy shared.
Tony passed away in March 2020. His death coincided with the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, which was a difficult time for many in healthcare and so many grieving families.
This past October, the Parkview Hospice team came together to finally pay tribute to their friend and teammate.
A memorial fit for Tony
Before his passing, Tony had requested that Parkview chaplain, Rev. Kenneth Weaver, perform his memorial. Ken worked with Tony’s son to coordinate a service and the hospice team collected money for a gift.
“Tony was so into nature and hospice is always about meeting the families where they are in their journey, so it only seemed natural for hospice to show their appreciation for Tony by planting a tree in his honor,” Jeni said.
And when it came to a location to gather and place the plant in the ground, it was an easy decision. “He often rode his bike on the Fishing Line Trail from Kendallville to Rome City,” Cathy said. “I worked with the Noble Trails and local parks department to coordinate the event and have the tree planted.” The first tribute of its kind, Tony’s tree is visible from the road, where the trail crosses highway 3.
On October 2, 2022, Tony’s family, Parkview Hospice staff and volunteers, and a member of the Noble County Parks & Recreation board gathered to honor a man who brought so much to others. The team ensured that audio/video capabilities made it possible for family members who were out of town could see the memorial and receive copies after the gathering.
“Tony loved music. We found out that one of his favorite songs was ‘Coyotes’ by Don Edwards,” Sue said. “So, my husband worked it up and played it for Tony at the memorial. It’s a beautiful little song, and when he started singing it, Tony’s whole family–and there were a lot of them there–started singing along. They all knew the words. It was very special.”
“We have very loyal and generous volunteers,” Cathy said. “They serve often, as Tony did, because of a personal connection to hospice. Being with families and patients at the end of life has a personal sacred element that inspires us to live more deeply and fully. Tony's experience with his wife and then as a volunteer illustrated that for our team and inspired us to lift him and his family up during their time of loss.”
“Providing hospice care can be difficult at times, but one of the things that keeps the hospice team thriving and able to continue to do difficult work is knowing that it’s an honor to help people navigate one of the most important, and sometimes difficult, parts of life,” Jeni said. “While Tony’s journey had ended, his family’s grief journey had just begun. Hospice wanted to help his family (hospice staff included) focus on the good that Tony was able to do, and celebrate that. By planting the tree, we were giving back in a way that we felt Tony would approve and appreciate.”
“Tony had been through it, and he knew what it was like to hurt like that. He wanted to help others,” Sue said. “He had a lot of compassion and was a giving guy. Because he died during the pandemic, which made things difficult, it was great to have the opportunity to provide some healing to those who loved him and his family. To remember him.”
Parkview offers grief and bereavement services for those experiencing the loss of a loved one. This includes support groups, that meet throughout the year. Learn more about these support services here.