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St. Paul Hospice That Opened On Pearl Harbor Day In 1941 Marks 80 Years

ST. PAUL (WCCO) -- This coming Tuesday will mark the 80th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor. It was the beginning of America's involvement in World War II. That infamous date also has an interesting connection to a hospice home in St. Paul.

"We are all inclusive. We include people of any faiths or no faiths," said Lisa Sweeney.

When a group of Catholic Dominican Hawthorne nuns opened the place now known as Our Lady of Peace, they worked in wards. Only curtains separated patients. But as the years passed, the amenities got better and so did the care.

"It's the hospice nurse with the dying cancer patient. It was a match made in heaven," said Dr. Wayne Thalhuber. "It's very close to my heart. Very meaningful."

Thalhuber was medical director for 40 years and was continually impressed by the compassion the sisters showed for patients during their final days. A place of peace whose doors opened during a time of war.

"I think it's an amazing coincidence that those two were put together," said Thalhuber.

The grand opening for the hospice home was Dec. 7, 1941.

"They had an open house and this is the kind of thing that was right up my dad's alley," said Raymond Wey.

Wey was 8 years old at the time. No sooner had the celebration started than he heard a nun yell out that Japan had attacked Pearl Harbor.

"That got everyone scurrying by that radio and listening and that took away from the whole open house thing," said Wey. "They were surprised -- surprised and worried and, in a sense, kind of angry. Everybody kind of sensed, this is it. Now we are in it. Now we are part of the war."

Wey later returned to the hospice home as a young priest providing comfort to dying patients. The war ended four years later but Our Lady of Peace remains strong today. Just like in 1941, they're providing light during the darkest of days.

"I've heard from families as I see them at the end that we lifted them and carried them through the process," said Sweeney.

Our Lady of Peace also provides home hospice care and post-surgery care. They will have an 80-year celebration of the opening of the home on Tuesday.


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