Column: No mystery, volunteer reader feels blessed by her listeners

PAT HESS, RIGHT, reads a mystery for Ruth Gruenwald, who lives at Maplecrest in Ripon.

Ian Stepleton photo

AFTER A LIFETIME OF working for someone else, sometimes people figure life after a job should be a time for me.

But following Pat Hess’ retirement a few years back, that’s not the conversation she had with a friend.

“When I wasn’t working anymore, I thought, ‘Gee, what am I going to do?’” she said. “I was all by myself.

“Then I talked to a lady who works at Maplecrest. I thought, ‘Maybe I should volunteer someplace.’”

... A friend who worked at Maplecrest had a suggestion. “She said, ‘Do what you like to do,’” Pat said. “I said, ‘I like to read.’”

But can simply reading be a way to give back?

For a lady at Maplecrest and a gentleman bound to Michalene’s, it absolutely is.

Twice a week, for three years now, Pat brings a cheerful attitude and a good book to these two elderly residents whose sight no longer allows them to read.

For that hour, she’s a good friend, a confidant, even a member of their extended family.

And yet Pat feels she’s the one being blessed.

“I learn more from them than they do from me,” she said. “They’re very intelligent, and very smart, and very nice.”

EACH MONDAY AND WEDnesday, Pat’s first stop is at Maplecrest, where she meets with Ruth Gruenwald.

“She likes mysteries,” Pat said.

That’s right up Pat’s alley — give her a good mystery, and she’s happy.

... Ruth appreciates the time — no one can interrupt.

“It’s kind of cute, too, because someone will call her apartment and she’ll say, ‘My reader is here!’” Pat laughed.

Together they chat and smile — two long-time friends enjoying a quiet afternoon.

After about an hour, she says her goodbyes and heads across town to Michalene’s, where Orville Osheim lives.

... “He likes Westerns,” Pat said.

A bit out of Pat’s wheelhouse, but she’s been a good sport about it.

“I’ve learned a lot,” she said. “He had some Western books — some Mexican ones. It would say they ‘drank this’ and ‘smoked that’ — I had no idea what it was! I had to go on the Internet.

... “[He told me about how] he went by horse and buggy to this ice cream place; that’s where he met his wife, and they were together ever since. It’s really neat [to hear these stories]. They’re fun.”

She hopes other individuals will choose to give back as she has, too.

“Do what you like to do yourself. Anything you like to do,” Pat said. “Whatever hobby you like, you should share it with them and it is so much fun — it really is.”

To read the entire column, see the Oct. 31, 2013 edition of The Ripon Commonwealth Press.

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