Power of Touch Story



You make a powerful difference
“I was at work, when I saw the most beautiful woman,” Bob Bear shared with his children. “She was walking to the snack area with her friend. She was dressed very classy, with her heels. And after that, every time they went to the snack area, I did, too.” His smile said it all, as did the rosy blush on Lois’ cheeks, as they recalled the start of their love story.

“She was beautiful then, and she’s beautiful now,” he went on to share, clasping her delicate 91-year-old hand. For 54 years, neither of them had left the other’s side. His life was hers, and her life was his, and together they were one.

You likely know how powerful touch can be and over the last two years have come to appreciate – even more than before – the comfort which comes in the small gestures, such as an outstretched hand or a gentle hug. For the Bear family, touch has been as much a part of their daily lives as eating or breathing. Bob and Lois were always holding hands, whether walking down the street or relaxing in their living room. We sat down with three of their children – Danny Seay, Teresa Berry, and Melanie Cunningham – who talked with us about their parents and their time together as a family. Bob and Lois made an indelible mark in the lives of their children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, as well as our team of compassionate Kansas City Hospice professionals who were honored to care for them in their final days.

The important things
It was a second marriage for both. Lois was divorced and at the time they met, things were not going well with her first husband – Danny, Teresa, and Melanie’s biological father. It was a tumultuous time for her family and she was hesitant to open up to another. Bob was also divorced, with two teen daughters from his previous marriage. A government form might define his role as step-father to her four, and she step-mother to his two, but their children were quick to point out that there were no “steps” at their house. He was their dad.

“They were just an amazing couple,” their daughter Teresa shares. “She would be up at the crack of dawn, and he would be there, right beside her. It wasn’t at all uncommon for mom to be doing something and for him to just quietly assist.”

“She didn’t believe in throwing cereal at you and calling that breakfast,” chimes in Melanie. “Every morning was a full breakfast of bacon or sausage, biscuits, and fried apples. Everything was always made from scratch and then we’d all go off to work and school, well-fed with a good start to the day.”

Lois worked full-time as an executive secretary at a center for individuals with developmental disabilities and Bob was a drafting engineer. Their careers kept them busy, but never too busy for their children. There was always room for one more at the dinner table, and Danny remembers hearing the sounds of the vacuum well into the night as Lois put the house to rest, ready to get up the next day and do it all over again. “I’m not sure she slept, but there was never a complaint from either of them.”

Bob had a mechanical mind and could fix just about anything. You could often find him outside at their property in Shawnee, KS, mowing the lawn or working on equipment. His life hadn’t been easy. Born in 1927 and growing up during the depths of the Depression, he was orphaned by the tender age of six. Sent out on an Orphan Train from Page, West Virginia, the only home he’d ever known, he was placed with the Bear family of Hinton, West Virginia. He would later recall his first impression upon arriving at their home on Thanksgiving Day, 1933. He had never seen so much food in his entire life. There was SO MUCH food, it scared him.

Little Bobby would become the 12th and youngest child of the Bears when they adopted him. He was loved right from the beginning, and it was this experience that Bob’s children would later believe served as the foundation of his life with them.

Danny recalls, “I was 16 when Bob came into the picture. He walked into a situation that was very tumultuous. You hear about the storms of West Virginia, but there was no storm inside him. He had the ability to calm the storms, and he always made you feel like things were going to be okay no matter what was going on. I’m just grateful. Grateful for him and grateful for what he brought to us.”

Honoring their love and kindness
When Bob and Lois grew older and their health more fragile, their children knew that it was their turn to ensure that no matter what, they would make sure Bob and Lois were okay. Together with their parents, the three decided they wanted to help them stay at home if at all possible. Danny, Melanie, and Teresa split the responsibilities between them, with Teresa handling the medications and doctors’ visits, Danny managing the finances, and Melanie providing the hands-on daily care. And they were happy. Happy they could give back to their parents and help them stay side-by-side.

Earlier this year, Melanie, Bob, and Lois became ill with COVID-19. As Melanie recovered she asked for regular updates about her parents, but the news was disheartening and it was clear they would not recover. She couldn’t bear the thought of her parents in a hospital COVID unit, separated and struggling. She begged Danny to find a place of peace for them. She hoped for a large room with a picture window that would let the sunshine in. A place where they could be side-by-side, holding hands, just as they had done for the past 54 years.
Danny had an earlier experience with Kansas City Hospice House™. He knew what to expect and that this would be the perfect place. Stopping by for a tour and ever the advocate for their parents, he made some specific requests. Could they be in a room together? Could they lay side-by-side so they could hold hands and comfort one another? Would there be a large window to let the sunshine in? Could we help them feel close to nature, as they had always loved the outdoors?



Your gifts ensured expert and compassionate care
In our fifteen-year history, this was the first instance of a couple coming together that anyone could recall. Our expert team of caregivers got to work. We wanted to accommodate them, but also ensure we were in compliance with all regulations in doing so. A short time later, the Bear family was told “yes”, we would make it happen.
Bob and Lois arrived separately by ambulance from the hospital. It would be the last time they were separated. They embraced. They held one another’s hand and the hands of their children, and they said their final goodbyes.

Their children later shared, “No matter where you looked, it was just kindness. There was not one person who was not the most kind, the most compassionate. It was everywhere.”

Danny shares, “Caregiving is fatiguing, in different ways for different people. My fatigue was different than Teresa’s fatigue, and Teresa’s fatigue was different than Melanie’s fatigue. But even so, one of the scariest things is to NOT be in that caregiving role. For us, we found a fourth person in our family, which was Kansas City Hospice. When we needed help, when we were spent, when we were tired, when all we felt like doing was crying and grieving, there was kindness. There was help. We felt like we had a fourth caretaker in our family.”

With a pause, Danny went on to share, “We know our parents are in a better place. Our faith tells us that. They were together, with us, for 54 years. We wanted to do the best that we possibly could, and we found that because of you.”

Your support changes lives
As the CEO of Kansas City Hospice, I am so thankful for families like the Bears, who place their trust in us to provide their loved ones with dignity, compassion, and expert care. I am thankful every day to lead this team of professionals who “make it happen”. While pandemic-related safety measures have changed some of our practices, one thing that has never changed is our commitment to providing comfort and support to those facing serious illness and grief.

It is our joy and our hope that each person we serve, and their family, feels a part of OUR family. This care is carried out each and every day at both of our inpatient facilities – Kansas City Hospice House and NorthCare Hospice House – as well as in homes throughout the community.

But we cannot do this great work without you. Your gifts help us thrive, bringing hope and compassion to families like the Bears at Kansas City Hospice House. Your gifts ensure that we can say “yes” to everyone who needs our care, regardless of their age, illness, or resources to pay. And they ensure grief support after loss, even for families who didn’t have the opportunity to experience hospice care before the death of their loved one.

Your gift today will touch many, making an extraordinary difference for families throughout the Kansas City community, and I’m grateful to let you know that a local family who experienced that difference firsthand with their own loved one wants to encourage you to give generously. They will match your gift today, dollar-for-dollar, up to $35,000!

Thank you for your partnership today and throughout the year as we work to carry our mission forward throughout the community. We are blessed, because of you.

With a grateful heart,

David S. Wiley
President & CEO

P.S. Don’t forget, your gift today will be matched dollar-for-dollar by a generous local family, up to $35,000! As always, your gift directly supports families coping with serious illness and grief right here in Kansas City.