Maria LorensenBy Maria Lorensen, Development Director

KEARNEYSVILLE – Hospice of the Panhandle patient Walt Pellish visited the Hospice Board on Nov. 16 to express gratitude for the services he’s received, but told members he had one regret: that he had never served on the Hospice Board of Directors.

Board members fixed that. At the end of the session, they voted unanimously to give Pellish, who currently serves as a Jefferson County commissioner, the status of "honorary Board member.”

"We hope he will be able to join us in December,” said Board chair GT Schramm. "His story is absolutely amazing. We’re so grateful that he took the time to share it with us.”

Pellish has been a hospice patient since late July. He was originally diagnosed with esophageal cancer in September 2013, and despite a poor prognosis, tolerated chemotherapy treatment reasonably well. This past spring, his oncologist told him that the cancer was progressing. He was told he had "one-four months” to live.

"And here I am,” Pellish told the Board. Pellish said that each time he sees his oncologist, the physician "shakes his head, and tells me he doesn’t understand (how I’m still here).”

In July, Pellish attended an Eastern Panhandle Business Association meeting, which meets regularly at Hospice’s Kearneysville campus, and decided to find out more about hospice services.

"I talked to Margaret (Cogswell, the CEO), then made an appointment with the nurse,” he said. "We just moved from there.”

Pellish, an avid golfer, continues his active lifestyle as much as he is able. He admits that some neuropathy has "raised hell with my golf game.” He did, however, participate in a local golf scrabble two weeks ago, where he played 18 holes. He continues to attend Thursday weekly county commission meetings, and attends other meetings as part of his appointments to related boards and commissions. He sits on West Virginia University Healthcare’s Foundation Board, as well as the Jefferson County Development Authority.

"My assignment hasn’t been finished,” he said with a smile.

Pellish retired a number of years ago as the human relations director at U.S. Silica in Berkeley Springs. It was a job he enjoyed, mainly because of those he worked with, and those he got to interview for jobs at the plant.

"I used to always ask them to tell me about themselves,” he said. "And I can tell you (that I’ve learned since July) that your team (at hospice) is outstanding. Everyone has the attitude…They care, they want to serve, and they are committed and dedicated. And I am no different than anyone else. Everyone is treated this way. What a blessing!”

Pellish described a trip late this summer when he went to a Paul McCartney concert in Washington, D.C. When he got there, his hospice team had made sure he had a wheelchair for transport.

"All my needs are anticipated,” he said.

Pellish’s typical day begins a "little more slowly than in the past.” He takes care of his pets, a 3-year-old dachshund named Max, and his two cats, Abigail and Skitch, first, and then "gets moving.”

"I do as much as I am able, but do get tired,” he said.

Pellish’s advice to those facing a critical illness?

"Call them (hospice),” he said. "They are here to help you.”