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November 8: Mother of American Hospice

November 8, 2016
Florence “Eppie” Wald (Schorske), who headed the Yale School of Nursing and cofounded the first hospice center in America, died at 91 on this date in 2008. Her mother was Jewish, her father gentile, and both were supporters of Ethical Culture. A 1963 lecture by Cicely Saunders about her efforts to establish a hospice in Great Britain lit a fire under Wald -- “It was like opening a door where there had been a wall,“she said -- and four years later she quit Yale to serve as intern at Saunders’ hospice. In 1974, Wald founded America’s first modern hospice, the Connecticut Hospice, which became a model for some 3,200 hospices that treat some 900,000 dying patients in the U.S. today. “Wald’s husband Henry gave up his job as an engineering consultant to back her financially, morally and with concrete ideas as to how a hospice could work,” writes the Financial Times. “Their son and daughter turned the project into a family affair. . . . In her later years, Wald was deeply involved in spreading the hospice model to U.S. prisons. She had been inspired by a prisoner serving 25 years for drug-trafficking, who had been giving moral support to dying inmates in the prison hospital. If inmates were trained as volunteers to care for the dying, she believed, it would be a morale booster for both parties and save the taxpayers money. Hundreds of U.S. prison inmates have now been trained as volunteer hospice carers.” “She was a five-foot giant.” --Joel Wald (her son)