Pleasant Hill, CA - One day in 1975, three women met for lunch. Evelyn Radford, (aka “Peggy”) was a historian and instructor at Diablo Valley College who remembered and sought to apply the slogan, “If you want it done right, you just have to do it.” Viola Riebe was a nurse and teacher at Los Medanos College who had learned of the English hospice approach to caring for the terminally ill and dying. Dell Oblacynski was an experienced volunteer who sought a more challenging volunteer job such as the one she found working in a hospital during World War II.
The three women spoke about the hospice concept and its application: managing pain and symptoms of illness while offering practical, emotional and spiritual support to patients and their families. By the time they were finished with lunch, the women had a united goal to create the first hospice program in Contra Costa County.
For two years the women worked tirelessly to recruit supporters, volunteers and funding. They enlisted volunteer nurses, social workers, physicians and chaplains. Churches provided office space and volunteer administrative support.
In October of 1977, Hospice of Contra Costa accepted its first patient. “The patient’s family generously requested that memorials in his name be donated to us,” remembers Peggy, “it was these donations that provided us with our sole financial support.”
On November 16th, 1978 Hospice of Contra Costa was incorporated by the State of California. Until 1980, all patient care and family support were provided by volunteers. Then, as now, the success of Hospice of the East Bay was principally attributed to volunteers’ hard work and dedication. Over the years, our organization has seen dramatic growth, now caring for more than 190 patients and their families each day throughout the county.
The unwavering dedication and initial leadership of Viola Riebe, Evelyn Peggy Radford and Dell Oblacynski, is the reason Hospice of the East Bay has evolved into a world class organization offering exemplary patient care and education. We are indebted to those committed three women who “recognized a need, set to work and did it right!”
- Category: Stories
- Published: September 20, 2013