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Forbes Hospice Creates Program for Veterans


Walter Chebatoris

Walter Chebatoris

Walter Chebatoris Jr. lived a life filled with love and accomplishments. He was a husband and a father, a son and a brother, a railroader by trade, and the kind of guy people relied on in Pittsburgh’s Sheraden neighborhood.

He was also a veteran who held his World War II service close to his heart. The Army drafted him in 1942 and he served as chief clerk at a military hospital in Devises, England, about 50 miles outside of London. The experience affected him so strongly that he and his wife returned to Devises many years later to visit the site of the former hospital and to reconnect with friends.


Walter died Sept. 26 at Forbes Hospice, comfortable and surrounded by his loving family: Lucille, his wife of 61 years; and children Mark, Kurt and Mary Jo. As one of the nation’s pioneer hospice programs, Forbes Hospice has led the way in improving care at the end of life and continues to reach out to meet the changing needs of the population. Forbes Hospice has launched a program that aims to honor veterans such as Walter as they face the final weeks and months of their lives. One aspect of the program is matching the patient with a volunteer who is also a veteran, engaging the patient in conversation about the years spent in service to our country and finding other ways to honor the patient’s military service.

A second component of the program is journaling to capture veterans’ war experiences in the form of written legacies. A Forbes Hospice volunteer, who also is a professional writer, visits with the veteran and takes notes on their conversations. She then writes an article based on those conversations and presents it to the family. The benefits here are twofold: the veteran has the comfort of a visitor who is interested in his or her stories, and the family gains new insight into their loved one’s life experiences in an article that they can share with other family members.

Forbes Hospice Director Maryanne Fello said Forbes Hospice always strives to meet the unique needs of each person, and with so many veterans living in southwestern Pennsylvania, this special effort to reach veterans is a natural fit.

“I am deeply moved by this special program we have developed to honor our dying veterans,” said Ms. Fello. “It’s our turn to serve those who have served our country so well.”

Kurt Chebatoris grew up listening to his dad tell tales of World War II, and enlisted in the Marines in 1977. He now serves in the Army Reserves and did a tour in Iraq. Having a chance to retell his story was tremendously important to his father, Kurt says.

The Chebatoris’ experience inspired leaders at Forbes Hospice to create the veterans program.

“Being part of the military is such a tremendous, life-changing experience. Most veterans, as they get older, find it is something they want to talk about,” he said. “How do you help veterans in hospice?” Kurt asked. “Let them tell their stories. I think you will find that every story is different.”

Lucille Chebatoris knew the importance of military service to Walt, and appreciated the way Forbes Hospice honored the man who was the love of her life. “I used to say to him, ‘Oh Walt, you’d find the good in the devil, wouldn’t you,’” she said with a smile. “I could not have asked for better parents,” Kurt echoed. The care Forbes Hospice provided his father was exceptional, he said. “They made it extra easy on all of us, considering the circumstances. I felt very comfortable that when we weren’t there, he was being taken care of.”

posted in the Forbes Health Foundation Healthy Roots Fall 2010

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