Providing Continuum of Care to Families in Need
It is a sad part of the work we do with seniors: some patients will reach a point where their health prevents them from leaving the home to seek acupuncture or other health services.
As part of our commitment to bridge the gaps between patients and providers, Free Range Health offers in-home treatments to patients who can no longer leave their homes, and all our providers are certified through the National Association of Hospice and Palliative Care Acupuncturists.
Longtime patients at the Stillaguamish Senior Center, Chuck and Sue Millonzi, could no longer come into the clinic after Chuck was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Chuck experienced relief from his cancer pain after having acupuncture, so he asked to continue receiving treatments in his home.
What started out as regular acupuncture visits, turned into a deep connection to the Millonzi Family, and a great friendship was formed in the last days of his life.
Before his death in 2017, Chuck and Sue graciously consented to share their story of how Free Range Health provided support and comfort during his final days at home. Chuck’s hope was that his story would inspire others in the community to step up and help build support for this valuable service.
We are honored to share this story with you. The story of Chuck and Sue.
CHUCK AND SUE: A Special Love Story
ONE OCTOBER EVENING…
No one can ever predict when they will find that special someone. For some it is in high school or college, for others through a friend, or maybe you’ll meet your special someone at work or the gym. Today, many people meet through on-line social media or by being fixed up on a blind date by a friend.
Chuck Millonzi was born in Jamestown, New York in 1935. Sue was born in upstate New York several years later. Chuck met his future bride Sue in New York when she was only 15.
Every summer, Sue’s family rented two cabins at the Allegany State Park for only $15 a week. Sue would often meet boys from the local college on summer break. That fall, Sue was coordinating the annual October Fest BBQ in honor of Columbus Day for the high school.
Chuck was in the Airforce near the local college. The boys heard about the dance and made plans to attend. Since Chuck could drive, he brought a car load of “fellows” to the dance. After all, the dance tickets were only 50 cents back then!
When Chuck saw Sue, he was smitten. Chuck wrote to Sue faithfully, and when she turned 18, they got engaged.
They were married in June 1959, shortly after Sue turned 18. They moved to California where Chuck got a job as a plumber. They had the first 4 of their 5 children during those first five years! When asked how she did it, Sue said, “You just do. You live with less, and you get by.” And so, they did.
Nearly 30 years later, the Millonzi’s moved to Washington State when a daughter was stationed at Ft. Lewis Army Base, just south of Tacoma, WA. Chuck and Sue fell in love with the Pacific Northwest. They moved to Camano Island (about an hour north of Seattle) in 1998 where they built their home and their life.
Chuck and Sue loved to travel and especially enjoyed cruises. It was on one of these adventures that they discovered acupuncture. Most cruises offer acupuncture as one of the benefits of the trip, so they decided to try it. From then on, Chuck and Sue always enjoyed acupuncture treatments during their cruises. When they learned about the Free Range Health Senior Wellness Clinic offered at the Stillaguamish Senior Center (not far from Camano Island, WA) – they were delighted and registered to participate in the Wednesday clinics.
Chuck and Sue loved to travel and especially enjoyed cruises. It was on one of these adventures that they discovered acupuncture. Most cruises offer acupuncture as one of the benefits of the trip, so they decided to try it.
From then on, Chuck and Sue always enjoyed acupuncture treatments during their cruises. When they learned about the Free Range Health Senior Wellness Clinic offered at the Stillaguamish Senior Center (not far from Camano Island, WA) – they were delighted and registered to participate in the Wednesday clinics.
Both Chuck and Sue had some illnesses that included pain management issues. Sue had her knee replaced, and unfortunately, the procedure was basically a failure. She needed to wear a brace from then on. Sue says she will never be able to bend her knee again. This was constantly painful, and her mobility was very limited. Thanks to acupuncture treatments through Free Range Health, she experienced less pain and gained enough mobility to be able to drive a car again and participate in more of the activities she loved.
Chuck began his treatments for general wellness, but as time progressed he began to experience more symptoms of pain discomfort. After seeing many doctors, he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, which caused him pain and nausea. He began to experience fatigue and weight loss. Acupuncture treatments helped reduce the pain and improved his energy. It also helped improve his appetite, which allowed him to be more active and engaged with his family.
In January 2017, Chuck and Sue spoke about their experience and their appreciation for Free Range Health. The treatments helped Chuck with pain management, and they felt the treatments “are quite amazing!” Even during that interview, Chuck seemed to rally after the treatment.
They attended the Senior Wellness Clinic every week for as long as Chuck was able to make the appointments.
THE LAST DAYS…
Chuck was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in the beginning of 2017 and his health was failing rapidly. The family was preparing for the future while continuing to hold on to hope. They were good spirits but also knew the sad reality of Chuck’s prognosis. In February 2017, Chuck and Sue had to make that sad and difficult decision to enter hospice care.
Free Range Health was by their side. Executive Director Cole Alexander knew there would be patients who would need this continuum of care in their home when they could no longer travel to the clinic. Once they had entered hospice care, there was not an established service to continue providing effective acupuncture services.
To prepare for the needs of these patients, Dr. Cole and the other Free Range Health provider, Kristan Rutski, completed training to become the first providers in Washington State to be Certified Hospice and Palliative Care Acupuncture Specialists (CHPCA) through the National Association of Hospice and Palliative Care Acupuncturists.
Dr. Cole continued to visit Chuck and Sue in their home. He stood with them through their final journey providing acupuncture care for them and any family caregivers in need.
Reducing pain and stress is so important for the quality of life in those final days.
Their son, Tim’s, cooking was so yummy it helped to lift everyone’s spirits. Dr. Cole enjoyed sharing a meal with the family during his visits.
Chuck was aware of the environment and smiling. Tim slept outside the bedroom and helped to lift Chuck in and out of bed.
Within three weeks, Chuck passed away peacefully surrounded by his family and loved ones.
Sue spoke about her loss and Chuck’s journey in that last month of his life. The family had gotten so close during those final days, but each person deals with loss and grief in their own way.
All the kids – two from California, two from Texas, and one from Colorado were there. They had talked with each child separately. The oldest child held out – not wanting hospice to come in - feeling that it wasn’t time.
But it was Chuck’s time, and he knew it.
It was now March and Chuck was resting in bed. He called for Sue to go and get a candle. She brought the candle in, and he said, “Light the candle and go gather the family.”
Stanwood Camano News
Charles "Chuck" George Millonzi passed away March 9, 2017 after a months-long battle with pancreatic cancer. Chuck was born on July 21, 1935 in Jamestown, N.Y., to Italian-American parents Joseph and Salvatrice Millonzi. Chuck is survived by his wife, five children, five grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.
Chuck married the love of his life Sue in 1959. They resided in Southern Calif., for 39 years where they raised their children; Cynthia, Richard, Linda, Carole and Timothy. He has a younger brother, Richard and nephew Scott.
Chuck was also proud veteran of the United States Air Force. Chuck was a plumbing supervisor for the Los Angeles Unified School District, retiring in 1995 after 28 years of dedicated service.
Chuck and Sue moved to Camano Island in 1998 and have since enjoyed the more relaxed island life style which for Chuck included fixing up his boat "The Betty Boop", driving his 1926 Model-T hot rod, and taking his grandchildren for a spin on his riding lawn mower.
Chuck was a wonderful grandfather to his three granddaughters, Tracy, Allie and Brittany and two grandsons Willie and Teddy.
He always made time to come to dance recitals, supported his grandsons' diagnosis and treatment for leukemia, and enjoyed taking the kids fishing or visiting air museums. Many of his great-grandchildren, Jake, Ameria, Daphne, Joey, Colin and Jayceon will hold dear memories of picking blackberries and building train sets with Papa Chuck. His newest great-grandson, Grayson (born just days before his passing), will no doubt hear wonderful stories about him for years to come.
Chuck had a builder's mind; he could fix anything, and he enjoyed passing his knowledge and skills on to his family. Chuck made friends wherever he went, which is evident in the many people who will genuinely miss his local visits to the Camano Island Country Club, The Twin City Idlers, Everett Silvertips hockey games and Angel of the Winds Casino. Even when he was in pain and exhausted from chemotherapy, he still cracked jokes, poked Sue in the butt with his cane while strolling the aisles of Rite Aid and offered plumbing advice to anyone who asked. He made the best pasta sauce and meatballs, loved marshmallow Peeps and black licorice, and was famously talented at scaring off unwanted telephone solicitors. And the man could rock neon green wayfarers and his hot pink model-T like no other.
It should be evident by now that Chuck was a man who loved his family and lived each day for them. Chuck spent his last few weeks surrounded by his loving wife of 57 years, Sue (who he often called Beulah Witch), his children, brother Richard, nephew Scott and many friends, continuing to make lasting memories with them until the very end. He will be missed immensely.
We wish to thank Cole Alexander, Free Range Health and Evergreen Hospice for their loving care and support. Family and friends will celebrate Chuck's life at his favorite place, Angel of the Winds Casino, Sunday, March 26, 5 pm.
When the family was assembled (they were all at the house), Chuck asked that they turn off the lights. Sue reflected on how unusual this was. Chuck proceeded to give his own eulogy and said a prayer. Then he asked each person to take a turn. As his beloved family went around the room shared memories all were silent, tears glistening on their cheeks.
Chuck was smiling. Soon afterwards he closed his eyes and went to sleep. He seemed in such peace and in no apparent stress.
The next day, Sue had a dentist appointment and went to it. Chuck passed away in his sleep while she was gone. When the dentist heard what happened, he paid for Sue’s bill. From the time of the candle lighting to Chuck’s last breath he never opened his eyes again. He went peacefully surrounded by the love and support of his loved ones.
Sue will always feel the loss of her beloved Chuck, but she is beginning to move forward. At the celebration of life, Dr. Cole was there to share in their life story.
In reading the obituary printed in the Stanwood Camano News one can tell that Chuck Millonzi lived life well. From the time he spied his dear Sue at a fall dance in New York in the mid-50’s, to the time they married 57 years ago and raised five children, Chuck lived his life with love and purpose.
MEMORIES AND NEW BEGINNINGS…
Before Chuck passed away, Sue’s brother in Florida told Sue the story of the feathers. That in many cultures feathers represent a special meaning in a person’s life; such as good luck or protection. He showed Chuck a dream catcher depicting Chuck wearing an Indian headdress adorned with feathers.
And so, the meaning of the feathers begins. When their daughter from California got on the plane to fly to Washington State for the funeral, there was a white feather on her seat. Later, a friend with a spotless house found a feather by the flour container. Sue continues to find feathers in the most unusual locations.
In the summer, Sue went to California to attend her grandson’s wedding being held outdoors with a view of the mountains. There were clear skies everywhere and feathers scattered all over the ground. The grandson was very close to Chuck, and they all took it as a sign from heaven.
When the grandson was little he had leukemia, and Chuck took care of him. The grandson was very dear to Chuck. They feel the meaning of the feathers at the wedding is a blessing from Chuck. He was showing he was with them, and that made the day even more special.
Sue made lasagna for the wedding dinner (Italian – thinking of Chuck of course) and found a “one of a kind” blue feather by the lasagna casserole. Now the family is saving feathers! Grandson Joey who is 4, calls his feathers his “grandpa love feathers”. Sue took Joey to pre-school, and he had three feathers in his hand!
Now, Sue and the rest of her family each have a special feather collection to remember the man who touched all their hearts.
Life without Chuck has been a big adjustment for Sue. He was the love of her life and her best friend. Many people suggested she should move back to California, but she feels Camano Island is her home.
She is keeping busy with family activities and already has been on a cruise and attended a wedding in the past six months. She is driving her own car, and her mobility is improving. She even got a new brace for her leg. She had the brace specially designed, so when you see Sue now, you will immediately notice Betty Boop happily dancing up her leg.
Why Betty Boop? Chuck had a boat named “Betty Boop.” The design on her brace comes with a daily memory of Chuck and the many boat rides they shared on the beautiful Puget Sound.
Sue has returned to the Senior Wellness Clinic on Wednesdays. In addition to receiving her own treatment, she volunteers as a clinic greeter. She is so happy to chat with patients and help them have a great experience. She says she is grateful for the opportunity to have a place to go where she feels needed and welcome. She knows the time she gives to Free Range Health has a positive impact on the whole community. She can see it in the faces of the people being helped.
Chuck will never be forgotten. Cherishing dear memories helps everyone to heal and find peace. Regaining strength through service, friendship, and feathers will help Sue. As she continues her journey, the support of Dr. Cole and Free Range Health, who stood by Sue and her family in those darkest hours, will help to light the path for the days ahead.
We want to thank Sue and Chuck Millonzi for sharing their very personal story with us. It is their hope that you will be inspired to open your heart and make a donation to support in-home acupuncture services for other families like the Millonzis.
You can read more about our In-Home Services here
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