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Agrace HospiceCare News

For hospice patient, a life lived with art offers healing powers near the end

As seen in the Wisconsin State Journal on Sunday, October 19, 2014 by Doug Erickson

Given two weeks to live last fall, Madison glass artist Diane Bresnan Fleming gave away all of her art materials, including her kiln. It gave her great joy, she said, to bestow on friends and family members items that had imbued her life with such meaning.

Then one day in January, she awoke to a realization. The cancer in her body was not going to take her quite so swiftly. She decided to make art again. A lot of it.

“I came back to the artwork at a place beyond where I left off,” said Fleming, 68, who retired in 2002 after 30 years as the art teacher at Madison’s Elvehjem Elementary School. “My friends say, ‘Your art is different since your illness,’ and I can see it, too. It’s better.”

Fleming has been on a productive tear ever since, creating distinctive plates, bowls and jewelry with renewed passion. She recently was notified of another honor in her career. Her plates and bowls are now for sale in the museum store of the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art.

The pieces, which went on display Sept. 22, are all newly created since January. She also is planning an art show at her home in December, where she intends to display at least 40 new bowls and plates, all made during her resurgence.

“She’s had this explosion of ideas,” said a son, Conal Fleming, a mental health professional who recently moved to Madison from Waukesha to be closer to his mother.

Diane Bresnan Fleming said her cancer is growing but manageable. She credits art with enriching her life, perhaps even prolonging it.

“I just wake up each day wanting to do art, even if it’s just contributing something small to a project,” she said. “When you concentrate on that part of your life — the creative part, or what I also consider my spiritual part — it allows you to put away the physical part for a while.”

On a recent afternoon, Fleming tapped a tiny sifter above a circle of glass, dispensing a coat of fine glass powder over a hand-cut ginkgo leaf stencil. She was at The Vinery, a stained glass studio on Madison’s East Side owned by Denny Berkery, a fellow artist she has known since he visited her classroom nearly 30 years ago as a guest artist.

Because Fleming gave away her kiln (and would never dream of asking for it back), The Vinery is where she now fires her glass and creates many of her pieces. Berkery fashioned a work station for her at a table just the right height for her wheelchair.

Berkery said he has always believed in art as therapy, something Fleming’s life has only reinforced. “Last fall, she came by and said, ‘I’m really ill, I want to sell all my inventory and tie up all the loose ends,’” Berkery said. “Then all of a sudden in January, she calls me and says, ‘I really want to make this one particular plate.’ Her art really seems to have revived her.”

Fleming works in a medium called fused glass. Instead of blowing her own glass, she composes art out of existing glass pieces and fuses them in a kiln, often creating multi-colored images on them with glass powder.

“Her work incorporates a lot of nature — flowers, birds, leaves,” said Leslie Genszler, director of retail operations for the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art. “They are just beautiful pieces, and it’s very approachable work. A lot of people identify with it.”

While Fleming continues to live most of the time at her home, on this particular day at The Vinery she had come from the residential facility of Agrace HospiceCare in nearby Fitchburg. She had suffered a setback and was temporarily staying at Agrace to regain her strength. Conal had driven her to the glass studio.

She has a second son, Sean Fleming, an attorney and graphic designer in Barrington, Illinois. The two collaborated in 2001 on “Simply Wright: A Journey into the Ideas of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Architecture,” a coffee table book for children that won an outstanding achievement award in children’s literature from the Wisconsin Library Association.

Lindy Anderson, a videographer at UW-Madison, was among the children who passed through Fleming’s Elvehjem classroom in the 1970s. The two reconnected about 15 years ago when Anderson worked on a film project at the school.

“I respect her as an artist, and I marvel at her ability to be resilient through all this,” said Anderson, who wears Fleming’s jewelry regularly. “She continues to inspire everyone around her and to demonstrate the value of approaching whatever you do with creativity.”

Fleming said she hopes her personal tale imparts the same message she sought to instill in the hundreds of children she taught — that art can enrich and soothe and maybe even heal.

Donuts and a run with cops in support of palliative care

MADISON (WKOW) -- A group of Madison Police officers are taking the "cops and donuts" stereotype a step farther, to give to charity.

The inaugural Hot On The Trail 5K and Kids Donut Dash hosted by the Madison Professional Police Officers' Association will be held Saturday, October 18, starting at 9:00 a.m. at Door Creek Park.

Proceeds from the event will be given to Agrace Hospice and Palliative Care. MPPOA decided on Agrace as their designated charity for this run after MPPOA member, friend and co-worker, Karen Krahn used the organization during the end of her battle with cancer last year. Officer Emily Samson with MPPOA says Agrace was very accommodating in allowing the officers to bring all things Madison Police to her while she was in their care, because of Krahn's love for the organization.

Registration is $25. Head to and search "The Inaugural MPPOA Hot on the Trail Run & Kids Donut Dash" to sign up. Enter the promo code "ONFOOT" and received $5 off your registration.

Open House Highlights Local Opportunities to Volunteer with Agrace

PORTAGE, Wis. – Volunteering for Agrace can be a tremendously rewarding experience in a person’s life. On Wednesday, October 1, from 12:30 p.m. to 3 p.m., people in Columbia County can learn about local opportunities to help people with serious and life-limiting illnesses at an open house sponsored by Agrace. A nonprofit, community-supported hospice and palliative care agency founded in 1978, Agrace serves patients throughout southern Wisconsin, including Columbia County.

“Several volunteers are needed right now in Columbia County as Agrace delivers an experienced choice for hospice and palliative care to residents of this area,” said Andy Boryczka, manager of volunteer services for Agrace.

The open house will be held at the Portage Library. Interested area residents can learn about the services Agrace provides with the support of its current volunteers. The open house is open to the public. Registration is not required, and there is no obligation to commit. Volunteer opportunities are available for people aged 14 and older.

Founded in Madison as “HospiceCare Inc.,” Agrace has provided end-of-life care and related services to patients and their families throughout southern Wisconsin for 35 years. For further details about the open house or volunteering with Agrace, contact Andy Boryczka at (608) 327-7103 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Founded in 1978, Agrace is a nonprofit, community-based hospice and palliative care agency dedicated to providing exceptional care and support to patients and families facing the challenges of serious illness. With offices in Madison and Janesville, Agrace serves more than 650 patients every day in southern Wisconsin.


Congressman Paul Ryan Visits Agrace


Congressman Paul Ryan visited the Agrace Center for Hospice & Palliative Care in Janesville on September 4 to tour the new 12-bed hospice inpatient unit and learn more about this valuable community resource.

Agrace Myers-Ryan-Roth-compressedCongressman Paul Ryan with Agrace President & CEO Lynne Myers (left) and Jayme Roth, assistant director of building operations & community outreach for Agrace.

 It was a privilege to visit Agrace’s new inpatient facility in Janesville. The impressiveness of the facility was surpassed only by the professionalism and compassion of Agrace’s staff.

"I appreciated the opportunity to discuss with patients, family members, and employees the wide array of services Agrace provides to those facing a serious illness. Agrace’s presence in Janesville and their expertise will provide meaningful benefits to Rock County residents during trying times and I thank them for their steadfast commitment to serve our community.”   --Congressman Paul Ryan

High School Seniors Encouraged to Apply for New Agrace Minority Certified Nursing Assistant Scholarship

MADISON, Wis. – Agrace Hospice & Palliative Care today announced the launch of a new Minority Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) Scholars Program. The program offers a scholarship opportunity for high school seniors of color to complete their studies toward a Nursing Assistant Certificate at Madison College. It funds CNA education, training and certification, and provides the opportunity for a CNA job with Agrace once the scholar’s certification is complete.

Students selected to participate in the program will receive full tuition, books and supplies as well as hands-on training with Agrace’s clinical staff to enhance the students’ professional and personal development. The cost of the certification exam is also covered.

The Agrace Minority CNA Scholars Program, supported by the Agrace Educational Institute, honors Agrace’s commitment to being an inclusive environment that welcomes diversity. Agrace is a local, nonprofit palliative care and hospice agency offering specialized pain and symptom management and other services to help increase patients' comfort and reduce their stress during any stage of a serious illness.

“What makes the Agrace Minority CNA Scholars Program different are our networking, mentoring and tuition advancement features, which are all commitments to support both the student’s success and Agrace’s desire to prepare students for leadership roles,” said Alia Dayne, diversity coordinator at Agrace. 

“In Wisconsin, minorities make up less than 5 percent of registered nurses. We are growing our diverse employee population by investing in education and encouraging more minorities to enter the health care field.”  According to Dayne, studies show that as more minorities become nurses, people in underserved areas get better access to health care.

Full details and the scholar program application can be obtained by calling Alia Dayne at Agrace at (608) 327-7236 or visiting The deadline to apply is November 7, 2014.


Founded in 1978, Agrace is a nonprofit, community-supported hospice and palliative care agency dedicated to providing exceptional care and support to patients and families facing the challenges of serious illness. With offices in Madison, Janesville and Baraboo, Agrace serves nearly 650 patients every day in southern Wisconsin.