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Williamsport volunteer brings cheer to nursing home

February 15, 2019

WILLIAMSPORT, Md. (AP) — Walter “Walt” Suffecool Jr. didn’t take Monday off, even though it was his 87th birthday.

Instead, he was at his post at Williamsport Retirement Village, doing whatever is needed. Suffecool starts each day delivering newspapers to some residents.

Then it’s time to get residents to activities and meals, mainly pushing those who in wheelchairs as a transporter with the Life Enrichment department. Suffecool said he uses that time to “chat back and forth” with the residents.

Suffecool’s birthday started with his brother and sister-in-law singing “Happy Birthday” to him over the phone. Besides volunteering at the nursing home, he also donates blood, which he started doing during his 35-year career at Washington County Hospital.

He thinks he’s donated about 225 pints, more than 28 gallons, over the years.

Not only is Suffecool reliable, showing up six or seven day a week, but he always walks through the doors full of cheer and with an infectious smile.

Regional Administrator Timothy Berry said Suffecool adds so much with his “personal touch, especially at a time when people come here and are discouraged.”

Berry said the staff worries that Suffecool is a workaholic, but notes that Suffecool is a “doer” and needs an outlet for all of his energy.

“If we lost him, we wouldn’t need to replace him with one staff person. It would take 1 1/2 to 2 staff people,” Berry said.

Suffecool became a fixture at Williamsport Nursing Home when his wife, Gladys “Irene” Suffecool, was a patient there, starting in 2012. He’d visit with her and, unable to sit still, started helping out.

“I try to keep active,” Suffecool said.

After Irene’s death in February 2013, he kept volunteering.

“I got more involved all the time. You learn more, you do more,” said Suffecool, who lives several blocks from the North Artizan Street nursing home.

Suffecool spends about 6 1/2 hours a day during the week volunteering and two to three hours daily on weekends. He comes on Sundays after attending worship services at New Life Christian Ministries in Hagerstown.

“It is a job that needs to be done. A little cheer — that’s my job,” Suffecool said.

“He’s in a super class, in a category all his own by nature of his benevolent giving. We can’t say enough about Walt. The only thing we haven’t done is clone him. We would if we could,” Berry said.

Berry said Suffecool is a familiar presence in the community, which gives new patients and their families peace of mind when they see someone they know at the nursing home.

“He’s a very warm guy. A transport isn’t just a transport. We spend lots of time moving people around the facility. He’s affirming, making them feel safe and loved. He’s a positive guy and he has a genuine caring for the people he’s helping,” Berry said.

If Suffecool wasn’t volunteering, he’d have to “get into something,” he said, but he’s not sure what it would be.

“I’d probably be sitting at the house too much,” he said.

“He’s just a great blessing, to have him here. He’s an amazing, amazing guy and humble,” Berry said.

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Information from: The Herald-Mail of Hagerstown, Md., http://www.herald-mail.com