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Soul Mates for Life

Bill and Linda Prueter agree on most things, but not about their first kiss. As Linda remembers it, she made the first move, boldly and swiftly planting a quick kiss on Bill’s lips after attending his senior art show. Bill recalls the kiss was considerably more passionate (Linda calls it a “fish tale.”) What they do agree on is for better or for worse, thirty years later, their love is here to stay.

It’s a pledge that not only has stood the test of time, but many other tests along the way, including not being able to live together. Bill, who has multiple sclerosis, is a long-term care resident of Good Shepherd Home – Raker Center where he has lived since 2013. Until COVID-19 disrupted life, Linda spent about 20 hours a week with Bill. Their separation was difficult, but one memorable moment stands out: when Bill came out on the fourth-floor balcony of the Raker Center with Linda standing on the street below and they blew kisses to one another.

“That was our Romeo and Juliet moment,” says Linda. “We had a few window visits and Skype calls but not being able to hug or kiss him, or sit close to him for an entire year was hard.”

If anything has helped them cope, it’s knowing that Bill is loved and well cared for, surrounded by people who treat him like family.

Early Lessons in Stewardship

Linda was about 8 years old when she was introduced to Good Shepherd. Linda’s father, the late Rev. Howard Weidemoyer, a Lutheran pastor, brought Linda and a group of children from their church to help lead worship for the residents of Good Shepherd Home – Raker Center. “My father lived a very generous life,” says Linda, “so I think part of that was to bring some joy to the lives of others.”

Linda was so inspired by her Good Shepherd experiences, she and a friend held backyard carnivals to raise money. They learned then how truly generous people can be. “We realized people gave us extra gifts because we were raising money for a good cause,” says Linda. “I think that was one of my earliest lessons in stewardship.”

Life Partners

Linda completed a graduate degree from Widener University in Gifted and Talented Education. She moved to Washington, D.C., in 1986 and joined a young adult Bible study group where she and Bill met. Bill was completing his senior year at the Corcoran School of Art. It was 1990, and by then Bill had been living with multiple sclerosis since 1985 and was walking with a cane.

By the end of that summer there was talk of marriage. But Bill wanted Linda to understand what life would be like with a husband who had MS. In September, Bill took Linda to an MS weekend conference. “I wanted a soul mate, not a caregiver,” he says. “I envisioned mutually taking care of and supporting each other as partners through life.”

Whatever concerns Linda had were not enough to keep them apart. “I was already in love with him, and that was so much more powerful,” she says.

Bill proposed in a Maryland state park. Dating Linda had been like a “breath of fresh air.” Bill had found his soul mate and wasn’t about to let her go.

An Unexpected Career Change

Drawn to military service, Bill joined the United States Air Force when he was 17. He landed his dream job repairing aircraft electrical systems at Andrews Air Force Base.

Six-and-a-half years into his service, Bill started noticing changes in his body. During running drills he felt like he was going to trip. Problems developed with his vision and on his right side. It took a full year before he was diagnosed with MS. He was 24 years old and honorably discharged with a disability retirement.

“I was somewhat relieved because I now knew what was causing my weakness,” says Bill. “But I had to re-evaluate my priorities. I was trying to think what my next step would be.”

Artistic talent was in Bill’s DNA. His father, Theodore Prueter, had been an art teacher and “Renaissance man” who painted, sculpted, and made weavings and clothing. “I’ve always been interested in modern art, and was curious to learn the trade and craft of painting,” says Bill. He enrolled in the Corcoran School of Art and graduated in 1990. The next year, in July, he and Linda married.

Their wedding theme drew upon their faith and scripture from Ecclesiastes 4:12 – “A cord of three strands is not easily broken.” Three white ribbons representing Bill, Linda and Jesus, were tied to a cross and braided together. Bill wrote a poem that was printed on keepsake bookmarks for their wedding guests.

The Road to Good Shepherd

The couple moved into a condo in Rockville, Maryland, in 1991. Linda was teaching fifth grade in Washington. Bill was teaching art to seniors at a community college after earning a Master of Education degree from the American University.

They joined the National Multiple Sclerosis Society’s advocacy efforts on Capitol Hill. Bill was the driving force in getting curb cuts strategically placed on the Capitol grounds to improve wheelchair accessibility. “It felt good that I was instrumental in making a small change,” says Bill.

As Bill’s MS progressed, he needed a greater level of care. Over a four-year period,
Bill tried several different long-term care facilities, but all proved inadequate. Anticipating Bill’s future needs, he and Linda wanted a place that offered ventilator care. Bill made a list of other requirements, including a full complement of therapies. With no suitable options in the Washington area they expanded their search. “A lot of prayer was going into this,” says Linda. “God, what do we do? Where do we go?”

Turning to the National MS Society, Bill and Linda were given a list of 10 facilities in the country. Good Shepherd was on that list and checked off all the boxes. Bill applied and was accepted, but there was a waiting list. In 2012, Bill, Linda and Linda’s dad moved from Washington to the Lehigh Valley. Bill entered a local skilled nursing facility temporarily, and Linda and her dad bought a house in Hellertown. Six months later, in January 2013, Bill was admitted to Good Shepherd.

Life for Bill has been good. He attends concerts and other outings, and the resident art group lets Bill continue to pursue his passion for painting. Bill’s MS has led to medical complexities—he has a tracheostomy, uses a ventilator at night and relies on a tube feed —but he is getting the expert and compassionate care he needs.

“It’s been wonderful here,” says Bill. “The staff at Raker has been spectacular. Good Shepherd is a great place for people with disabilities to thrive. It uses leading-edge technologies and innovative solutions to meet the needs of the residents. With collaboration between Good Shepherd, the Veterans Administration, and technology companies along with private donations and other funding sources, I have access to advanced therapies and equipment.”

Grateful for the care Bill gets every day and wanting to support Good Shepherd’s mission, Linda has included a gift for Good Shepherd in her estate plans. “I always thought people had to be wealthy to make this kind of decision, but that is not the case,” says Linda. “This is a wonderful and satisfying way to support Good Shepherd’s legacy of care for people with disabilities.”

“It’s been wonderful here,” says Bill. “The staff at Raker has been spectacular. Good Shepherd is a great place for people with disabilities to thrive.”

To support expert and compassionate long-term care for the residents at the Good Shepherd Homes, visit goodshepherdrehab.org/donate or contact the Development Office at 610-778-1075.