Walking through Kathy Beavers’ door at the Granite Falls Manor, hospice nurse Michele Prekker and hospice social worker Lindsey Peterson, were drawn to the picture of a woman astride a 650cc Yamaha. That sight of hospice patient Kathy Beavers was new to Prekker and Peterson but not so for the residents of Granite Falls. For years, whenever weather permitted, Beavers could be seen with her red hair tucked under her white helmet, zooming around town on her cycle.
“I’ve been riding for almost 30 years,” shared Beavers. “I love it.”
“We could tell that cycling was a passion with her,” said Peterson. It didn’t take long for her hospice team to determine that Beavers was an excellent candidate for the Rice Hospice Sentimental Journey Program. The program, which began in Willmar in 2010, grants final journeys to terminally ill hospice patients.
Rice Hospice provides a team approach to provide services for their patients. “Our goal is to help patients set goals and coordinate those goals with all the caregivers whether the patient is at home, assisted living, in a nursing home or a hospital. Good communication is so important for everyone to make sure we’re all on the same page to focus on meeting the patient’s goals,” shared Prekker.
Beavers’ team consists of Prekker, who coordinates her physical health care needs, Peterson as a social worker assists with financial issues, bills and her emotional needs, and Pastor Dale Svendson is available to coordinate her spiritual needs with her home church. “It’s a team approach,” said Peterson. There are the hospice professionals on the team, but Peterson was quick to note that it is the hospice volunteers that make so many things happen.
“The volunteers are very important,” stated Peterson. “Once we talked with Kathy and she said it would be awesome if she could ride one more time, we contacted Brad Hanson, the ambulance manager in Willmar, he came down and we planned the ride.” Once the hospice requirements were determined, calls to volunteers were made. “The first order of business was to find a trike that Kathy could ride on and a driver.” One phone call to a volunteer and an hour later Lee Kvanli of Montevideo had agreed to drive his silver Goldwing 1800 with a Roadsmith Trike to make Beavers’ Sentimental Journey a reality.
“When they told me about the ride, I beamed from ear to ear,” shared Beavers, “I didn’t think it would be true but I lit up like a balloon.”
Sentimental journeys can be organized within 48 hours. “We actually met with Brad Hanson on Monday afternoon and the ride was Wednesday evening. Once the ride was approved, it just mushroomed and so many people wanted to come on board,” shared Prekker.
Page 2 of 3 -
Riders began showing up at 6:00 p.m. on that hot and humid Wednesday; riders from Granite Falls, the Legion Riders from Montevideo, riders from Willmar. Many of the riders sported leather vests, some with Patriot Guard patches. Volunteers spread the word about the ride to veterans. Beavers has been an active member of the Granite Falls American Legion. She had often ridden with the Legion Riders from Montevideo.
“I was both in the Legion auxiliary and a veteran member,” smiled Beavers. She had enlisted in the U.S. Air Force right after high school. “I guess I had a calling.” She explained that as a child she had watched war movies, and felt compelled to serve her country. She served for four years, and earned the rank of Airman Second Class working in communications.
When her tour of duty was over, she moved to be with her family in Granite Falls. She met Harvey Beavers in 1964 at the bowling alley and they were married on September 10, 1966.
On that Wednesday night, as rider after rider pulled in and got in line behind the silver Goldwing trike, those gathered were not thinking of the heat, they were focused on the journey – life’s journey. When life’s journey is at an end, the human body cannot always carry people where they’d like to go without a little help from friends. In Beavers’ case, in addition to friends, volunteers from the Willmar Ambulance service, ambulance crew members Heather Hubel-Coleman and Brad Swenson transported her in a Rice Hospice ambulance to the Yellow Medicine County Museum where the ride was to begin. Waiting for them were hospice volunteers from Willmar dressed to ride: Brad Hanson- ambulance manager, Michelle Hanson- paramedic, and Mike Kubesh –paramedic.
Shortly after 6:30 the roar of cycles filled the air; Beavers’ sentimental journey began.
The ride took a little over an hour as about 40 cyclists snaked their way along Highway 67 south of Granite Falls and then over to a Renville County park before returning to Granite Falls.
The ride is over. The memories will last a lifetime.
Back at the Manor, Beavers spoke openly about the lifetime she has left. “It’s just a matter of time. We’re all on a time clock.” She explained that she has heart problems. She had heart surgery in 1990 to repair a hole in her heart and shared, “now my valves aren’t working.” This time surgery is not an option.
“One of my friends told me I wouldn’t be on a bike again. I shouldn’t be, but I’m gloating.”
Page 3 of 3 -