Monday, October 22, 2012

"This Is A Family" Part 1

Leo Tolstoy begins a famous novel with an equally famous first sentence:  “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”

Unhappy families have complicated problems that don’t get solved, and that leave each individual unhappy.  Happy families solve their problems with simple tools—for example, by courage in the face of hard work.  Unhappy families are racked by selfishness and antagonism; happy families have concern for each individual and value cooperation more than argument.  Happy families divide work: strength and enthusiasm from the young, experience and understanding from the old.

The title of this series about Gracedale is not my invention.  They are words spoken by one of Gracedale’s residents, who knows Gracedale from within and who knows what Gracedale is able to do.

Louise Keppel worked her entire life (including some years at Gracedale, caring for the elderly).  Having lost her mother at age 15, Louise was blessed with five of her own children.  But through accident and illness, four of her children have died.  When her daughter was killed in a highway accident, Louise took it on herself to raise five grandchildren.  “The youngest was two,” she says, “and he made it easier for me.”

Finally, after a lifetime caring for others, Louise reached retirement.  However she suffered a serious fall that broke her back and sustained other injuries that confine her to a wheelchair.  She is able to take a few steps now and then but she entered Gracedale four years ago to get the 24-hour care she needs.

Louise says Gracedale has saved her life and has given her health back to her.  “I received therapy for my hands and now I can crochet again,” she says.  Louise is busy from morning to night, helping with patient announcements, playing a mean game of poker (“just with chips, gambling would be illegal”) and staying actively involved with everyone around her.

Louise lives in a spotless private room filled with sunshine, family photos and other personal mementos.  She often waves hello to staff members and wishes they had more time to spend with patients.  “They need more help.  They are working every minute.”  (I can verify that every staff member I encountered during my visit, from the nurses’ station to the cleaners in the halls, was busy every minute I visited.)

Louise spoke of her admiration for President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and how “he cared for people.”  Louise would like other leaders to show the same spirit.  And in fact for the FIRST time in her life she registered and voted for the first time last year.  I expect she will stay involved and aware of politics, especially as they relate to Gracedale, for the rest of her life.

Louise spoke openly about her feelings and brought up one topic that allowed me to ask, “Do you think about dying?”  Louise calmly replied “Yes, sometimes I think I’m ready to go.  But other times it seems I have more to do.”

What do you want the public to know about Gracedale?  “They don’t know what they missing!”  Louise says that her life in retirement was isolated, except for family visits.  But she feels Gracedale is giving her something wonderful that is making this time in her life the best.

Not everybody achieves a good balance between awareness of themselves and a meaningful connection to others.  But I believe that Louis Keppel has achieved that balance, with Gracedale’s help.  Perhaps if others would get to know Louise, her resident neighbors and the Gracedale staff, the gifts of a happy family might be spread a little further in the world.

Authored by Donald Dal Maso


  1. Dear Readers: Through some mischance this blog entry has an error in the headline. The title of the series is "This Is A Family" which exactly quotes Louise Keppel, and which says it all. I have requested in a telephone call and email that the error in the title be corrected by the sitemaster. Meanwhile, I hope you enjoy the article. --Donald Dal Maso

  2. This article is wonderful. It gives insight into the heart, lives and feelings of the residents of Gracedale. We need to hear more about the wonderful people who reside there. They are not invisible as some would like to believe. They are very much alive and have much to share.
    Thank you Mr Dal Masso and Ms Keppel. for making this article possible. I for one look forward to more. Peg

  3. Oops - printed as received, not sure where in translation the error matter - article updated to reflect your desire. Thanks for your article Don...please keep them coming.

    Also, if anyone else in Gracedale-land would like to submit an article of interest dealing with Gracedale, please don't hesitate to send it to

  4. Don, i know this lovely woman she is truly blessed with lots of friends and a loving family. you have nailed it on this article. Louise has helped many new admissions cope with placement at Gracedale by her visits. thanks for a great article Don. chris

  5. Your article " This Is A Family Part 1 " was very interesting. It is great to be able to share their past and present, and know they are content. Great job
    Mr.Don Dal Masso, and Ms. Louise Keppel keep up the good work. Looking foward to reading part 2.

  6. Please keep telling the loving story of Gracedale. It is important to kep the Home on the front burner. We know there are some who will still jump at any chance to dump the Home.

    I will not forget how close we came and that these folks may now be less vocal but they are still out there waiting for another opportunity.

  7. I heard that O'Hare with help from people like Angle and some other haters will try to discredit pro-Gracedale candidates for county office next year. I ask the Coalition to help these candidates. They will be attacked by the newspapers and the O'hare fanatics.

    So I ask that when the pro-Gracedale candidates run for office the COAF please help them so we can keep our Home safe.

    Thank you.

  8. Thanks to all and especially to the web editor (Rev. Mario I believe) who has issued an invitation for contributions about Gracedale from others. I think THAT invitation is the most important development--with the possibility of huge benefits to the Gracedale family. Inclusiveness works!! Inclusiveness is also the best answer to the perpetual divisiveness practiced by some few others. Stay Well, all of you--Donald Dal Maso

  9. This heartfelt story is the reason why I, as well as all COAF members made the decision to become involved and to stay involved, especially relating to Gracedale.

    We will continue to monitor events as they occur, and we will always step up and be the voice for all those who cannot speak for themselves.

    In the upcoming elections, please get out and vote, for the vote is the true power of the people. And the truly effective manner in which to bring about positive change.


  10. article like these should be put into the local papers so the community can see how a resident at Gracedale really feels. I worked there all of my adult life and am very proud to say that I worked there.. Our happiness at Gracedale made it thier happiness.. Our community needs to know how much there is to do at Gracedale and that it's not a "warehouse" for the elderly! Please keep posting this type of articles!! Thanks you so very much COAF for saving us! AFSCME Local 1435 could not have done this alone!!! Thanks again!

  11. On the Hate Blog, BO was asked about Gracedale. he claims he wrote the definitive history of Gracedale. When he was challanged on his abiltiy to do that, he statred deleting all references to the questions.

    In his blog he talks about the need for public water and sewer and the evils of privatization. A reader made a good argument about that extending to the need for quality care for the elderly poor and O'Hare, of course, went nuts and statred deleting like he usually does when he is shown up.

    BO calls himself an "unbiased" person on the subject.

    Just remember his quote abourt how "we" should have tried to dump Gracedale differently on TV. BO, the secret Adminstrator of Stoffa.