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Fridays on the Front Porch


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Fridays on the Front Porch

Dale VanOrman, CFHC patient, Jeff Bickel, CFHC volunteer, and Frank Krakowski spend a Friday afternoon jamming on Dale’s front porch.

Editor’s note: Dale VanOrman passed away on July 4, 2008. This story is published in his honor.

To the passerby, it might appear that Happy Hour was taking place on the VanOrman’s front porch in their quaint neighborhood on South Bend’s west side. 73-year-old Dale VanOrman, a patient with the Center for Hospice Care  (CFHC) and his wife of 45 years, Pat, seemed to be entertain­ing neighbors, family, and friends on a beautiful Friday afternoon in May.

Dale’s favorite guitar

Dale sat back in one corner, donning his 1960s Gibson Dove guitar from Sears. Next to him sat Jeff Bickel, semi-retired and a CFHC volunteer. Next door neighbor Dolly Brooks and Ken Lula from across the street were hanging out, too. So was Dale and Pat’s daughter, Kim Niezgodski. And if that wasn’t enough, Grammy nominee Frank Krakowski (Little Frank and the Premiers) was on hand with his guitar. It was an all-out jam fest.

Did someone say Dale is a Center for Hospice patient? He sure is, but you would never know it as evidenced by the smiles and laughter taking place at his home this particular Friday afternoon. After singing his signature song, “I’ve Been Everywhere,” Dale reminisced about his guitar-playing days. “In the 60s and 70s, I traveled with the rodeo, playing seven days a week,” he said. “I haven’t played for years since my arthritis got too bad.”

Dale VanOrman’s vitals are checked by Susan Whitehead RN, OCN, his primary care nurse with CFHC

That’s where volunteer Jeff Bickel comes in. After CFHC helped his mom, Jeff knew he wanted to do more to give back. Impressed with CFHC, he began volunteering about a year ago. Then in April, he was paired up with Dale. The two got to talking about some of life’s pleasures and that’s when Jeff learned of Dale’s guitar playing career. Jeff, himself a singer with Little Frank and the Premiers, encour­aged Dale to resurrect his guitar. Dale was also encouraged by his spiritual care counselor to start strum­ming once again.

And so the Friday jam sessions began. “It’s been so nice having Jeff here,” commented Pat with a smile. “I can’t remember the last time Dale played his guitar. It’s been a lot of fun. We all look forward to Fridays on the front porch.”

Dale VanOrman, a patient with CFHC, smiles after finishing a song.

Ironically, the VanOrmans aren’t the only ones benefiting from these Friday jam sessions on their front porch. “I’ve learned more about myself since knowing Dale,” commented Jeff. “I can’t explain how great this has been.”

Rest in peace. Dale VanOrman, October 5, 1934 - July 4, 2008.

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