Hospice Receives $1.2 Million Gift

Published: Wednesday, June 06, 2012

The Daily Commercial, Leesburg, Florida





Nick Buchholz, Executive Director of Cornerstone Hospice Foundation, and Marcella Bland, a Registered Nurse and Manager of the Lane Park Hospice House in Tavares, share their memories Tuesday of the late Alfred and Vera Reetz of Leesburg, who left a $1.2 million gift to Cornerstone Hospice.

Former nurses Alfred and Vera Reetz of Leesburg, who lived frugally, have bequeathed $1.2 million to the Cornerstone Hospice Foundation, the organization's largest gift to date.

"We were just thrilled because it has been a tough economy the last few years, and donations are harder and harder to get," said Nick Buchholz, executive director of Cornerstone Hospice Foundation. "To get a gift of that size was just incredible for us, and there is so much we can do with the donation to help patients and patients' families."

Buchholz hailed gift from their estate as even more special since the Reetzes were both nurses. Alfred worked as a hospice nurse at Cornerstone (when it was previously called Hospice of Lake and Sumter) and he knew firsthand of the benefit of hospice and palliative care and its impact on families dealing with life-changing experiences.

Marcella Bland, a registered nurse and manager of the Lane Park Hospice House in Tavares, worked with Alfred there when she joined Cornerstone Hospice 20 years ago.

"He was just a nice person, a very quiet, non-assuming gentleman who went about his work," Bland said. "More recently, he came back when his wife was a patient here."

She remembers Alfred was always by Vera's side.

"She was very quiet and she didn't want to put him out," Bland recalled. "She'd say, 'You don't have to come every day.' But, he would drive here. They were both very special."

Married for 65 years, the Reetzes were noted as a private couple who lived frugally.

Originally from Long Island, N.Y., Alfred was a graduate of Hillsdale College in Michigan and was a member of the school's "Independence Fund." In his retirement years, he tinkered with radios and transmitters, but his real passion was investing and the stock market. At age 92, Alfred was actively buying and selling stocks online. He was noted as Internet and investment savvy.

"I knew that he was an active investor," Buchholz said. "He had talked about how he liked to invest and had bought gold bars."

The couple did not have children, but they cherished their two Weimaraner dogs that died before them. The Reetzes also were known for spending hours working together on brain-teasing tasks such as puzzles and crosswords. Vera was one year younger than her husband. In addition to nursing, she was avid gardener and enjoyed sewing.

Desirée Coleman-Cohrn, director of Planned Gifts and Major Gifts for Cornerstone Hospice, hails the Reetzes donation as a great gift that will benefit the community and all of Cornerstone Hospice's seven county service area.

"I have to say I haven't seen too much in huge gifts for hospice," she said of researching philanthropy journals. "Gifts of $1.2 million are more for research and teaching hospitals."

"We have quite a few hospice employees that contribute," Buchholz said of employees and volunteers that make donations or leave some money in their wills for Cornerstone Hospice, "but never to that magnitude of $1.2 million."

Cornerstone Hospice plans to use the money to sustain many of its programs, including Nurses Preceptor mentorship; Cornerstone Salutes!, a program recognizing veterans; Pets Peace of Mind, and grief counseling for both adults and children. The Cornerstone Hospice Foundation also supports four hospice houses: Lane Park at Tavares, Mike Conley Hospice House in Clermont; Lane Purcell Hospice House in Sumterville and The Villages Hospice House.

About Cornerstone Hospice

Since 1984, Cornerstone Hospice and Palliative Care, a not-for-profit community-based healthcare organization, has provided care and services to central Florida residents experiencing life-limiting or life-threatening illnesses. To learn more about Cornerstone Hospice and the work of the Cornerstone Hospice Foundation, call (352)343-1341 or toll-free (888)728-6234 in Lake and Sumter counties or visit www.cornerstonehospice.org as well as www.SeriousIllness.org/Cornerstone.