MOUNT GILEAD — Pastor Kristin Santiago recalled the home visits she made with Hospice Director Frances Turner at the bedside of hospice patients when she was Hospice chaplain from 1996-2000.
“She would greet all the family with care. Then she got down on her knees on the side of the patient’s bed and reached out her hand,” remembers Santiago. “Every fiber of her being was focused on what they needed.”
Santiago, who served as a Lutheran pastor for 32 years, added, “I have never seen such spiritual, respectful, holistic care as she gave.”
She was at Turner’s bedside a few days before she passed away at the age of 91. Santiago spoke of the influence Turner had on the direction of her life and on many of her co-worker’s lives.
“It was Frances gift to be intuitive and to give people space to be fully who they are.” Santiago added. Examples abound with family, nurses and others who credit Turner with giving them direction in various fields of medicine.
Dr. Jesse Frank met Frances Turner first in 1989 when he began his practice in Morrow County. She later asked him to be medical director for Hospice of Morrow County and he began his training for the care of the terminally ill because of her persuasion.
Turner encouraged him to become board certified as a specialist in palliative care. He is now a full-time hospice and palliative medicine specialist with Ohio Health Doctors Hospital in Columbus, Ohio.t
“Frances was a true inspiration to me personally and professionally,” Frank said. “And I give her full credit in guiding me in the direction of finding great satisfaction in caring for the terminally ill.”
Turner worked for the Morrow County Health Department first, as a nurse from 1973-1982, and as Director of Nursing there from 1982-1995 when she became Hospice Director.
Funeral Director Gene Gompf first met Turner when she was working at the Health Department. He recalls that the Health Department was in the second floor at the Morrow County Court House for all those years.
Gompf said the office space was antiquated and cramped, yet Frances was always welcoming, warm, and most of all, upbeat. She asked Gompf’s opinion whether there was a need for Hospice to assist families with their loved ones end of life care in Morrow County. Gompf agreed there was a huge need in the county.
“Looking back, that was all the affirmation she needed,” Gompf said. “Frances spent countless hours setting up what is now, Hospice of Morrow County. Most remarkably, she did this single-handedly on a non-existent budget.”
Hospice of Morrow County served patients with the support of the County Health Department from 1992 when it was licensed until January 1995 when it moved to the home beside Woodside Village with a nurse, an aide and Turner.
Marie Bishop, RN served as a nurse in Morrow County for more than 24 years and worked with Turner first at the county health department as a home health nurse. She retired from Hospice in 2016.
Bishop saw the beginnings of Hospice of Morrow County as Turner saw the need for the care of patients at the end of life. Patients would often be going home without medical help or any support outside their family. Frances often went to their homes on the weekend to follow up after they left the hospital, to change dressing and help in other ways.
“She was very compassionate, and care for the patient’s family was also always very important,” Bishop said.
Bishop recalled with a chuckle an elderly couple who loved to eat doughnuts. Bishop was pretty sure that doughnuts were their main source of nutrition.
“Frances had us fix them meals,” Bishop said. “I even took some of our family’s Thanksgiving meal so they would have something besides doughnuts.”
The Hospice team
Hospice of Morrow County Admissions/Outreach Coordinator, Kathy Bright said Frances loved to tell her the stories of the early hospice days when they worried about how they would pay the bills and chased raccoons out of the Hospice House attic.
“She told me the most important thing is listening and finding out what people need,” Bright said. “She encouraged me, ‘just keep doing what you do.’”
“It takes a team at the end of life,” said Hospice nurse Irene Roski RN, “She developed that team with volunteers, aides, nurses, physicians and patients’ families.”
“Even at the end, she was hospice-minded and a joy to be around,” Roski said.
Turner’s son Paul Kemp said life in their home “was always eventful.” He recalls that she would take him along on a Sunday night to help a patient get a hospital bed moved in.
“She never lost sight of the patients. That’s why she made Hospice non-profit,” said Kemp. “It takes much more, and you have to have a passion for it. It was never about the money.”
“She had the quickest laugh,” said Hospice volunteer and former board member Clara Hilton. Hilton’s husband Bill was in Hospice care 18 years ago. Clara was glad to have the comfort and friendship of Hospice and Frances.
“You felt she listened and understood everything you said,” Hilton recalls.
Turner’s cousin Mary Grace Headley is 88 and she grew up with Frances in Windsor, Ontario.
“She was the perfect nurse,” Headley said her family came first and she was very proud of her four boys and her husband Tip’s son and daughter.
“Her faith held her together,” Headley said. “When I look up at night, she is one of the stars in the sky.”