Woods Talman may not have been able to speak, but he knew how to give an order. When Woods was about eight years old, he realized that if anything happened to his parents, there would be no one to look after him. For a bright child with cerebral palsy that was a frightening thought. So Woods went on a campaign urging, in his own way, his parents to have a second child. When Woods’ sister Ann was born their mother wrote
on a Polaroid picture of the new baby, Woody’s Order! It was the start of a destiny binding brother and sister in a lifelong bond. Ultimately it inspired Ann, a professional actress, to write a one-woman show, Woody’s Order!, which led to an award-winning documentary of the same name.
Woody, as Ann calls him, passed away in her arms on January 29. A resident of the Good Shepherd Home-Bethlehem, he was 69. Woody was born in Bessemer, Alabama, on July 22, 1948, to Woods Garth and Martha Elizabeth Talman. Woody was not expected to live past the age of 12. But his parents were pioneers in mainstreaming and inclusion, and did all the right things to help Woody thrive. “They were groundbreakers for their time,” says Ann, noting that they adapted toys and clothes better suited to a child with a disability. “Woody was a Cub and Boy Scout. He went everywhere with us on vacations. My parents never hid him away.”
There were summer vacations in Ocean City, New Jersey, visits to the zoo, and trips by planes, trains and automobiles to family events near and far. When the family moved to Pittsburgh, Woody became a Pirates fan and thanks to Bob Prince, KDKA’S Voice of the Pirates, was allowed to sit in the dugout.
Woody moved to the Good Shepherd Home in 1964 when he was sixteen. Living so far from his parents and sister was hard, but Woody adjusted. He became a devout member of Grace Lutheran Church in Allentown, and he enjoyed attending the annual resident ball and sports outings. Passionate about politics and the news, Woody was an avid viewer of CNN and CNBC, and participated in resident discussion groups about current affairs. “He cared deeply about the issues of the day,” says Ann.
The bond between brother and sister became even stronger after Martha was tragically killed in an auto accident in 1977. About five years later, Alzheimer’s disease took Woods Sr. “Woody was the one person in the whole wide world who loved me unconditionally and had my back,” says Ann. “He took care of me. I had major depression as dad was dying and Woody is the one I felt helped me get through it.”
If you were to ask Linda Breitenbach where to find a little bit of heaven on earth, there’s a good chance she would have pointed you towards the Delaware shore where she shared a camper with her life partner Rob Hawkey. There the couple spent many happy vacation days feasting on a bounty of fresh-caught crabs, flounder and clams hauled from the briny deep. For Linda, it was an escape from her job as a regional manager for True Value hardware, a job that kept her traveling up and down the East Coast until a neurological disease sidelined her career.
Linda, a resident of the Good Shepherd Home Raker Center in Allentown, passed away on Sunday, March 4, leaving behind her beloved partner of 18 years, Rob, and dog Dozer, as well as many friends and a caring staff at Good Shepherd. Born May 16, 1965, in Middletown, Delaware, Linda knew Rob since childhood. Their lives took them in different directions until they reunited at the campground where they first met and continued to spend vacations.
Shore life was where Linda and Rob refreshed their souls.
“It was all about the beach for us,” says Rob. “We were beach trolls.” Long leisurely days were spent on Rob’s 16-foot boat. “Linda was a great fisherman,” says Rob. “She won a few tournaments in her time fishing for flounder.”
The couple loved their seafood so much at one time they had 73 pounds of crab meat in the freezer, says Rob. On one occasion Linda prepared 85 shish-kebabs with mahi-mahi, tuna, shrimp, and scallops, and added cherry tomatoes and peppers fresh from the garden. All their campground neighbors were invited to the feast.
Linda’s culinary skills weren’t limited to seafood. “Linda was a great cook,” says Rob. “Her chicken and dumplings were to die for and her Italian love cake with ricotta cheese…She got me real fat real quick.”
In 2012, Linda was diagnosed with neurosarcoidosis, a neurological disease affecting the nervous system. The disease began robbing Linda of her vision, motor skills and ability to walk, eventually landing her in a manual wheelchair. Linda lived in a nursing home for two years before coming to Good Shepherd in 2014 where a motorized wheelchair gave her greater independence and enhanced her social life.
Linda’s sense of humor and sarcasm were among the hallmarks of her outgoing personality. “I fell in love with the whole package,” says Rob, whose daily visits to Linda were also enjoyed by many residents on her floor. “She could make me laugh, she could make me cry. She was fun to be with.”
It was never hard knowing when Chaplain Paul Xander was in his office. Inevitably there would be music pouring out. Loudly. Rock. Classical. Spirituals. Jazz. Paul’s musical tastes were eclectic and he embraced it all with the same gusto he embraced life and ministering to the spiritual needs of Good Shepherd’s long-term care residents and colleagues.
Paul passed away unexpectedly on Saturday, April 21, at his home, quietly enjoying one of his favorite pastimes: reading. Compassion, humor and a commitment to living out his faith were among the hallmarks of his ministry.
“Ministry was his passion,” says Susan, his wife of 39 years, “and he absolutely had a passion for chaplaincy. He grew a lot from the Good Shepherd staff, and the work with the residents was his love.”
A keen sense of play was never far from the surface and Paul exercised it with robust delight, his hearty laugh as memorable as his broad smile and twinkling eyes. He delighted in doing funny sketches at volunteer recognition events and portrayed Willy Nelson, Lou Costello and most recently Tom Brady in a deflate-gate parody.
“We did some pretty crazy stuff up here,” says JoAnn Frey, volunteer coordinator and special events manager, whose office was adjacent to Paul’s. “He became a really good friend and mentor. Out of everything I miss his laugh the most.”
A lengthy illness last year kept Paul away from his beloved ministry, but he was determined to return to work, which he did in February. “His drive to get back to work was singular,” says Susan. “He knew that’s where his healing would take place…that work in humanity is where everyone is healed. God is a healer and he believed we can probably help each other if we talk about healing and figure out a way to heal together.”
We were sad to learn recently of the passing of Matilda Sunnygard, at home in Fairfax, Virginia, on June 23, 2017. Matilda was the daughter of the late Hannah (Ely) Jacks Raker and step-daughter of the late Rev. Dr. Conrad Raker, former administrator at Good Shepherd and son of our founders the Rev. John and Estella Raker. Matilda was a graduate of Hood College with a dietetics degree. She worked as a dietitian in Allentown before moving to Santa Fe, New Mexico, where she worked in the same capacity with the state until her retirement around 2002. Survivors include three children: Kristin Ehrler, Fairfax, Virginia; Melissa Sunnygard-Couse, Albuquerque, New Mexico; and John C. Sunnygard, Denver, Colorado; five grandchildren and two great-grandchildren