Remembering Everyone’s Best Friend
St. Ann Center means different things to different people—from a day care to a place to get a massage, volunteer or learn to swim. But for Doug Burdick, it has been something else entirely…a second home.
Doug became a client at St. Ann Center Adult Day Care 24 years ago. He was among the first young adults in the program when the Stein Campus opened as an intergenerational facility in 1999. If there was any doubt about the wisdom of children interacting with adults, Doug put it to rest. “He was fabulous with the kids,” said Sandy Bonnier, lead CNA with the young adult unit. “He would hold and rock the babies and then get down on the floor with the bigger kids and play with trucks. Old or young, everyone was Dougie’s friend.”
A perfect example was the day Doug and other St. Ann Center clients went to a baseball game—the first time he’d seen Miller Park. He instantly endeared everyone in his section with the greeting, “Hi, I’m Doug. How about them Brewers?” Shawn Chilson, Stein Campus Vice President of Adult Services, who was chaperoning, remembers, “Somebody hit a home run, and Doug was so excited, he jumped up.” With that, the nachos that had been in Doug’s lap rained down on the fans below. “Instead of getting ticked off, the guy in front of him bought Doug another plate of nachos,” Shawn said.
“Doug had a way of getting people to laugh and remember what really matters.”– Shawn Chilson
One of the things that mattered a lot to Doug was sports. With the sports page tucked in his back pocket, he’d tell anyone within earshot about his beloved Green Bay Packers. He also engaged more than one Sister of St. Francis in a discussion about professional wrestling. Another love was music. A devotee of Elvis, Doug had the hip swivel down pat. He was an enthusiastic member of St. Ann Center’s adult choir and enjoyed performing in concerts for his family and friends.
The talent Doug was famous for around St. Ann Center earned him his nickname, “Huggy Dougie.” Mary Olson, a CNA in Shepherd House, remembers how he got it. “We were having a contest to see who could collect the most hugs,” she said, explaining players had to get a signature from everyone they hugged. “Doug ended up filling three cards!”
A couple of years ago, Doug started having trouble remembering things. As his health declined, he joined the clients in the Shepherd House memory care unit. Growing more and more quiet, he’d nap during the day. Eventually, Doug even forgot when the Packers played. In April, he was moved to a 24-hour nursing care facility. On his last day at St Ann Center, he gave out big hugs to everyone, and took the love and respect of his St. Ann Center family with him.
Doug passed away peacefully two months ago at the age of 60. During a memorial service held at the center, clients and staff alike remembered his ear-to-ear grin and most of all, his hugs. “Doug found his purpose here,” Sandy said, recalling how he loved helping her with activities and encouraging everyone to participate. “We’re richer for having had him with us.”
Read all the stories of our joyful intergenerational community in the October-December Issue of Seasons of Life.