By Maria Lorensen Development Director
Hospice of the Panhandle
Frank A. “Hick” Hamilton Jr. served as a member of Hospice of the Panhandle’s Board of Directors for 34 years — since its inception in 1980, until his Board retirement in 2014.
He was the Board’s treasurer for many years, which prompted weekly trips to Hospice’s offices to sign hundreds of checks. He also performed vital “Face-to-Face” visits with patients, at the end of his Board tenure.
Now, he is a patient of Hospice of the Panhandle. Entering the program in late June, Hamilton, a retired family practice physician, decided to forego aggressive treatments for cancer. He is 96 years old.
“If I had advice for other patients it would be to come in (be admitted) to Hospice sooner,” Hamilton said in a recent interview. “It serves everyone better.”
Seated in a recliner at his home at Harmony Assisted Living, Hamilton reached down every now and again to pet his small 16-year-old dog, Daisy, a rat terrier who tends to bark at strangers, but doesn’t bite. He looked over at his wife of 70 years, Mary Ann, seated in another recliner nearby. When Hamilton served as the Board’s treasurer, he would often bring Daisy, who he received for his 80th birthday, to the Hospice Kearneysville Main Office Building for a visit.
“Daisy was always a big hit,” said Volunteer Services Manager Katrina Stevens. Stevens worked closely with Hamilton during the time he visited Hospice patients. “Dr. Hamilton was very easy to work with.”
And the patients loved him, said Board chair GT Schramm. “They were always so grateful to talk to him, because he was a great listener.”
Hospice Medical Director Sarah Phillips said she had the utmost confidence in Hamilton when he visited patients. She especially enjoyed seeing him leave the Hospice offices toting his small black medical bag. He was, after all, making house calls. “It was very old school,” Phillips said. “And so many of our patients knew him from his work in the community.”
A quiet reserved man, Hamilton was “unflappable,” Schramm said of Hamilton’s tenure on the Board. “He would often listen attentively, but always with a little smile on his face.”
Over the years, Hamilton saw many changes at Hospice of the Panhandle. He recalled a time early in the agency’s history when the organization, which started as an all-volunteer non-profit, was housed in an old residence on Burke Street in downtown Martinsburg.
“Lots of birds in the attic there,” he said with a smile.
A longtime member of Trinity Episcopal Church, Hamilton and his wife attended services regularly until several years ago.
Nina Arnett, also a Hospice Board member and a member of Trinity’s church vestry, said she always “adored” Dr. Hamilton.
“He is such a kind, caring man,” Arnett said.
As the chair of Hospice of the Panhandle’s nominating committee, she remembers approaching Hamilton a number of years back when he decided to discontinue his service on the Hospice Board. He told her, “Well, you know Nina, I’d be about 90 when this term would be up. It’s probably time (for me to retire from Board service).”
The Board presented him with a scrapbook in recognition of his years of service, now housed at the home of Hamilton’s daughter, Susan Haas, who also lives in Martinsburg.
Haas is grateful for the care that her father has received from Hospice of the Panhandle.
“He’s in a much better mood,” Haas said. “(After the diagnosis), he wasn’t eating at all and had lost 15 pounds. Now he feels better.”
Recently, she invited her parents to her home for a visit and prepared a meal.
“My dad ate every bite — steak, macaroni and cheese and a wedge salad — and said it was a gourmet meal,” she said.
She talked about visiting her father and mother, but also pointed out that she likes to have them get “out and about,” going to lunch at area restaurants.
“I think it’s (his diagnosis) been tough for him,” she said. “He’s always been so involved, where he got to connect with so many people.”
Always reserved, Hamilton liked keeping busy, Haas said. In retirement, he had volunteered at Berkeley Senior Services for years, and was a computer whiz (he at one time taught classes) who enjoyed woodworking.
She said he once built a car that he drove in the Apple Harvest Parade, and a color TV. Building a small plane was in the works at one time, but that didn’t happen.
“He just always wanted to give back,” Haas said.
To learn about how Hospice of the Panhandle or Panhandle Palliative Services can help your family, call (304) 264-0406 or visit the web at www.hospiceotp.org