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Agrace HospiceCare News


Cost Cutters manager honored for HospiceCare work

As found in the Sun Prairie Start on December 5, 2014

Ashton Newell Cost Cutters Sun PrairieAshton Newell, the manager of the Cost Cutters hair salon at 1334 W. Main St., was recently honored for her volunteer service at Agrace's Ellen and Peter Johnson HospiceCare Residence in Fitchburg.

Newell, along with Bekah Schulze, manager at Cost Cutters in Portage and Angela McIntosh, a stylist in Madison, received the award from Cost Cutters of Madison, consisting of 50 salons in Southern Wisconsin and Northern Illinois.

Once per week, Newell donates her time and talent to provide haircuts and styles for residents at Agrace HospiceCare, Fitchburg. Bill Kaminski, Madison, owner of the Cost Cutters salons, created a salon at the hospice residence in honor of his late sister several years ago whom he cared for and arranged hospice services for her.

Barbara Graham, inpatient volunteer coordinator at Agrace HospiceCare said patients leave the salon with their spirits raised. "It's a bright spot in the day for our patients to have their hair done and we thank the Cost Cutters stylists who donate their time and talent to terminally ill patients," Graham said. "They make a world of difference to the patients they serve."

A League of Her Own

As found in the Wisconsin State Journal, December 7, 2014, by Doug Moe

A League of Her Own

My favorite Mary O'Meara story, and she told some good ones, was set in Kalamazoo.

She was Mary Froning then, playing professional baseball in a women's league that blew through the Midwest like a fresh breeze in the 1940s and '50s. One year, the league drew a million fans. The scene was colorful enough that in 1992, Penny Marshall, Madonna and Tom Hanks made a movie about it called "A League of Their Own."

O'Meara — Froning — played outfield for the South Bend Blue Sox. "They expected us to play like men but look like ladies," O'Meara told me, during a chat some years ago in her home on Madison's West Side. "We played in skirts with shorts underneath."

Part of the deal was a 10 p.m. curfew on road trips, which is why O'Meara and her teammates enjoyed road games against the Kalamazoo Lassies. Karl Winsch, the manager of the Blue Sox, planted himself in the hotel lobby, to make sure his players stayed inside, and out of mischief in Michigan. Winsch, however, had miscalculated.

"The elevator in the hotel went to the basement," O'Meara said.

It's doubtful the escapees caused too much trouble. They were having too much fun playing baseball. "The most enjoyable four years of my life," O'Meara, who played from 1951-54, said later. The All-American Girls Professional Baseball League (AAGPBL) folded in 1954, victim of a diminishing fan base that had discovered television.

There was always the danger that they might be relegated to a footnote in baseball history, but that didn't happen. The movie was part of it. But four years before "A League of Their Own," the AAGPBL was honored with a "Women in Baseball" exhibit at the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York, a display that has since been expanded and made permanent. The passion of the women who played the game made that happen, and one of them was Mary O'Meara.

O'Meara, who died last month, at 80, at Agrace HospiceCare, lived in Madison for more than 50 years. (There will be a celebration of her life on Jan. 10, time to be determined, at Our Lady Queen of Peace Parish.)

After baseball, she moved to Rockford, and met Tom O'Meara, whom she married in 1958. Tom's job brought them to Madison, where they raised four children. Their daughter, Kathy, is married to Dane County Sheriff Dave Mahoney.

O'Meara led an active life in Madison — raising the kids, working part-time, playing and coaching a variety of sports — and didn't seek attention for her earlier life as a baseball pioneer. Still, she was happy to talk about it if a reporter came calling, as I did in 2008.

I'd heard a 73-year-old woman had been asked to throw out the ceremonial first pitch on opening day at the West Madison Little League Softball-Junior League, a league for girls in their early teens.

It was O'Meara, of course, we met at her home a few days before she was to throw out the first pitch. We sat under a framed poster of "A League of Their Own," signed by a number of the AAGPBL players.

It started, she said, with a stroke of luck. O'Meara grew up in the small village of Minster, Ohio, longing to play sports, but lacking opportunity. She swam, rode her bike, and jumped when given the chance to play weekend softball with a Catholic Youth Organization team.

She proved a natural, fast on the base paths, with a rifle arm from the outfield. Luck arrived one Sunday in the person of a board member of the AAGPBL's South Bend Blue Sox, who was visiting his mother in Minster, and saw O'Meara play. Soon she had a contract for a tryout.

The AAGPBL was started in 1943 by Cubs owner Philip K. Wrigley, who feared World War II might suspend Major League Baseball, which didn't happen. The women, who first played softball, were a hit. The league expanded from four teams to 12, and by the time O'Meara signed her contract, in 1951, they were playing hardball, and pitching overhand. Out of 100 women at the try-out, O'Meara was one of four selected. She earned $50 a week.

They called her "Fearless Froning" for the way she crashed into fences chasing long fly balls in the Blue Sox outfield. Across her best two seasons, 1953-54, O'Meara got 136 hits and stole 58 bases. Her biggest thrill might have come early, in her rookie 1951 season, when the manager, Winsch, put her in a game for the first time, as a pinch-runner. "I'll never forget it," O'Meara said.

In the end, she forgot none of it. O'Meara attended the unveiling of the exhibit in Cooperstown in 1988. There were tears. All the players in attendance received lifetime passes to the Hall of Fame. It might have meant more than the movie, an official acknowledgment: they belonged.

Of course, the movie was great fun. O'Meara met Penny Marshall, who directed "A League of Their Own," and the cast during the filming.

In 2003, a decade after the movie's release, there was another honor, enshrinement in the Milwaukee Brewers' Walls of Honor at Miller Park. O'Meara threw out the first pitch that night, before a game with the Cubs.

Five years later, it was the first pitch at the start of the Little League season in Madison. I had wondered if she was nervous about that. After all, she was 73. "I can still throw," Mary O'Meara said.

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 www.active.com 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.

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