by: Maria Lorensen
Development Director, Hospice of the Panhandle
Sheryl and Ted Person were married for 55 years when he passed away under the care of Hospice of the Panhandle in late winter 2023. They had known each other much longer – since she was in the 5th grade. They had met in church – they were both members of the Church of Latter Day Saints – in Arizona, They had dated throughout high school, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Ted and Sheryl spent their final years together living in Martinsburg, while he worked as a software engineer for the American Chemistry Society. They had lived in Montgomery County, but made their move to the Stonebridge community about nine years ago. Early in his career, Ted was a linguist for the U.S. Army. They spent time (and had children) in Panama, but eventually moved to Gaithersburg, MD, to raise a healthy and abundant group of eight children.
“I just love babies,” Sheryl said with a smile. “From the time I was 5 years old, I new I had wanted a big family.”
In fact, Sheryl had eight children in 13 years.
“I’d have a baby, he or she would be about 7 months old, and I’d say to Ted, ‘We need to have another’ and he’d say, ‘OK.’”
Seven of eight children have master’s degrees, all own their own homes. And Sheryl managed to work outside the home when the last children were young teenagers, as a Montessori teacher as well as a newspaper circulation manager for the Gaithersburg Chronicle.
Those “babies” (now ages 41-54) and grandbabies (27 of them) all managed to get home and were a great comfort to Sheryl and Ted in his final days. They visited with each other, sat with Ted, gave Sheryl a bit of a break, spent time together reminiscing, and even painted a few rocks to help pass the time. They also all came for his funeral, and each sported one of his many watches – he had quite a collection.
Ted was under hospice care for eight weeks. His primary diagnosis was heart disease, something that came to light after a back surgery he had in March 2022. That surgery left him with more pain and led to another surgery in May of that year.
“He lost 41 pounds while he was in the hospital, came out in terrible pain and left with a heart problem,” Sheryl said.
In September, he returned to the hospital and was found to be in congestive heart failure.
“(His health) deteriorated from then on,” Sheryl said. “But he was always determined he could get better. But I knew better.”
In January of this year, the Persons decided it was time for Hospice care.
“I can’t say enough about the care he received,” Sheryl said. “The (team members) were kind, compassionate, upbeat and always ready to listen.”
“I was just blown away by the care. They were amazing.”
In Ted’s final days, Sheryl said team members would come “every day” if needed, but also were always just a phone call away. “They were so responsive,” she said of Ted’s care team. At the end, however, Ted wanted Sheryl nearby.
“We were together for 55 years,” she said. “He wanted me there.”
In the time since Ted died, Sheryl has been busy – she still teaches piano once a week in Gaithersburg, and her two toy poodle-Bichons, Sampson and Sophie, keep her moving. Plus, several of her children live in the DC suburbs. She feels comforted by family, neighborhood and church friends. But she admits there is quite an adjustment.
“When you know someone for this long…I remember him from the 5th grade,” she said. “His dad was our doctor…I knew him from church.”