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Sue Bush
More articles from Sue Bush

Caregiver Award Delivered At Special Ceremony

By Susan Bush
12:00AM / Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Horizon Caregiver of the Year Shirley Jean Lee and her husband Howard S. Lee, who nominated her.
North Adams – It was just a bit delayed, but on May 11, Shirley Jean Lee was presented with the first-ever Horizon Caregiver of the Year award during a special afternoon ceremony at the Clark House.

Lee was announced as the caregiver selected to receive the honor during a May 4 ceremony held at the Visiting Nurse and Hospice of Northern Berkshires headquarters on Curran Highway. She was absent from the event because she was helping to care for her husband Howard Lee. Howard Lee nominated his wife for the award and watched as his wife was honored yesterday.

Simply the Best

“She’s the best,” he said. “I don’t know what I’d do without her, really.”

Shirley Lee, known as Jean, has been providing care for her husband since 1992. The couple lives on Richview Avenue and has been married for 47 years.

Jean Lee also offers companionship and life-skills assistance to a woman with Down’s Syndrome whom she met at the Pittsfield-based Berkshire Medical Center dialysis unit. The woman refers to Jean Lee as “my pretend mom,” according to Howard Lee’s written nomination.

“[Jean] teaches her to tell time and pays close attention to her,” Howard Lee wrote. “Often times, the staff will have Jean interpret what she has said. Jean has made [the woman’s] time at the unit a social event, and she looks forward to going there.”

Jean Lee also offers much assistance to her sister and brother-in-law. Lee does much of the driving for the couple and takes care of shopping and prescription medication pick-ups. She delivers her sister’s pet cat to a veterinarian twice a month so that the cat’s feline diabetes can be monitored.

She is a mainstay for her husband, who is dealing with several serious health issues.

Inspiration

Horizon Chairwoman Beth Parker-O’Brien presented Lee with a plaque donated by the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, a certificate of nomination, and a specially-crafted chocolate rose from the Chocolate Springs shop in Lenox.

“You are an inspiration,” Parker-O’Brien told Jean Lee.

Howard Lee’s attendance at the ceremony was greatly appreciated, Parker-O’Brien said.

“I’m so happy you could be here,” she said to Howard Lee. “It was your words about your wife that touched us all.”

Northern Berkshire Healthcare Community Relations Director Paul Hopkins and REACH Community Health Foundation Vice-president Betty Chludzinski attended the ceremony as well.

Task of Love

Both Jean and Howard Lee appeared a bit overwhelmed by the ceremony and the honor. She is far from alone as a family caregiver, Jean Lee said.

“There are so many wonderful caregivers out there,” she said, and added that the endeavor is a task of love.

“We do what we do because it’s what people do for each other."

Lee said that she was very surprised to learn that she had been named as community caregiver of the year.

“I really didn’t expect it,” she said. “I didn’t have a clue.”

And when Parker-O’Brien and Chludzinski told Lee that she was a wonderful example of a caregiver, Lee’s eyes glistened with tears.
“It’s hard to think of me that way,” she said.

Susan Bush may be reached at 802-823-9367 or by e-mail at suebush123@adelphia.net.
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