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Hart found solace in consoling others

Local resident Mary Kay Hart retired recently from volunteering with Our Hospice of South Central Indiana. She provided support to hospice patients in Shelby County for 25 years.

By LUANN MASON - For The Shelbyville News

Be still. Hold a hand. Just let them know you are there.

Mary Kay Hart did each of those during 25 years of volunteer service with hospice patients in the area. Today, she is retired. It was just time, said the 82-year-old local resident.

“It’s very dear to me and I hate to give it up, but you’ve got to be able to go right away when they call you,” said Hart.

That was becoming a challenge.

Her passion for helping those in hospice care started when Hart would visit Janet Plymate.

“We were very dear to each other,” Hart said about her late friend.

When Hart would visit, however, she admitted she “was chatting about people and their friends constantly,” and learned later that it was more important “just to be still and let them know you’re there.”

Years ago, hospice care was located in Shelby County. Physicians, nurses, home health aides, social workers, chaplains and volunteers started providing services to residents in the Shelby County community in the 1980s, according to Suzie Singer, manager of planning and marketing for Our Hospice. The care focused on residents who had either been diagnosed with a life-limiting illness or were no longer seeking active medical treatment. The same is true today.

During the onset of Hart’s volunteerism with hospice in August 1993, she attended multiple training classes at Waldron Health and Rehab “to learn what to do with a hospice patient.” She also served as a member of the county’s hospice advisory board and set up a thrift store that opened its doors on Vine Street. It later moved into a storefront on Harrison Street. The store closed when Our Hospice merged services in Shelby County with Decatur County. The offices of Our Hospice are currently located in Greensburg.

“Mary Kay has given so much to the patients and families of Our Hospice,” Laura Leonard, Our Hospice president, said during a recent recognition event. “She made a difference in many lives and she will be missed! Thank you for 25 years of service to Our Hospice of South Central Indiana.”

Hart said some of the patients asked for her personally when they were in need of company.

“Sometimes I would have four patients. I fed one patient lunch every day in a nursing home because that is what the patient wanted me to do. I would stay with patients three to five hours, or longer if needed,” she said. “It just made me feel better to help them. It made me become a more understanding person even with my family. And, my faith got stronger.”

According to Singer, many hospice patients want to talk about death and some would ask Hart what she thought it might be like.

“She recalls one patient in particular who had tried several times to talk to her family and just couldn’t because it was too painful for them. When Mary Kay would visit, some of their time would be spent talking about the dying process and death. Mary Kay has been with some hospice patients when they passed. It’s important for the volunteer to stay calm and help the family members remain calm when a patient is passing. Sing songs, recite scripture, read poetry; whatever is most comforting to the particular patient.”

Born and raised in Shelby County as one of six children, Hart said her mother, Martha Lux, was always helping others.

“She was a good woman,” she said.

The trait of helping others definitely trickled down to Hart. In addition to volunteering with Hospice, she volunteers at MHP ReNovo Orthopaedics in Shelbyville, Major Health Partners and St. Joseph Catholic Church where she takes communion to shut-ins one day a week.

“Out of everything I’ve ever done, hospice has changed me the most,” Hart said. “I got more from hospice than I gave. I counted my blessings. It made me a different person.”

Before she started volunteering, Hart was the buyer and manager of the gift shop at the former Major Hospital for 26 years, and prior to that, she taught kindergarten for 17 years at St. Joseph Catholic School. Her husband Bill, she said, has supported her in all of her endeavors. That support has spanned decades since the couple will celebrate their 62nd wedding anniversary in September.

“She’s very loyal in all that she does or has done. It gives her a worthwhile cause. It doesn’t interfere with our lives,” he said. “She loves people. She was very devoted to the people she’d visit (with hospice).”

Even now that Hart is home more, he said she continues to get calls to help people. “She doesn’t hesitate to lend a hand.”