Meet Andy. He’s a 97-year-old World War II Veteran, who enjoys learning about people and cultures. He has a story to tell and wants to hear yours.
School wasn’t easy for Andy as a young boy growing up in the small central Indiana community of Daleville. But experiences in his childhood led Andy to love learning about people and cultures, something he’s carried throughout his life.
It was 1935, when Andy coaxed his parents into letting him spend a year with his aunt and uncle who were missionaries in Peru. He recalls taking off on a ship and passing under the Golden Gate Bridge while it was still being constructed.
His year in Peru exposed Andy to multiple cultures. He found he enjoyed meeting people from all over the world; touring cathedrals and museums in Lima, Peru; and going up into the mountains where he spent money that he earned selling bread door-to-door. It was a pivotal time in his life.
When he returned to Indiana, Andy found school challenging until he had a social studies teacher his junior year who inspired his love of learning about people and cultures. For the first time, Andy enjoyed school and wanted to learn.
After high school, Andyworked in a factory until he was drafted in 1943. He joined the Army Air Corps, where he served most of his time in Europe.
After the war, Andy decided not to return to factory work. He enrolled at Ball State University to become a teacher. While at Ball State, he met a woman named Gerry. They married in 1947 and settled in Gerry’s hometown of Elkhart, Indiana, where they raised their five children. They were an active family who enjoyed traveling the country and camping every summer.
Andy taught in several Elkhart elementary schools before becoming a principal, a role he held for twenty-five years.
During their sixty-six years of marriage, Andy and Gerry traveled to all fifty states, and visited many countries in Europe and South America.
After Gerry died, Andy found life was lonely without his wife. He also felt he could use a little help around the house.
One day Andy went to visit a friend, when a Firefly caregiver named Liz, answered the door and let him in. Andy watched while Liz picked up groceries from the store and then shared where she put each item in the refrigerator. Andy’s friend had difficulty seeing, and Liz’s patience impressed Andy. He wondered if he could receive help around the house too. Liz handed her Firefly business card to Andy as she left.
At his next VA appointment, Andy talked with his doctor about receiving help like his friend. The doctor told him about programs the VA offered and that his time in the military qualified Andy to receive services. He also mentioned that Firefly had a good reputation working with veterans.
When Andy first signed up with Firefly, he only needed help with housecleaning and errands. But as his needs changed, his caregivers adjusted right along with him. Today he lives in a nursing home, and no longer needs help with housecleaning. Now caregivers take him to doctor’s appointments, assist him with activities such as showering and dressing, and offers companionship—something that Andy values.
Leslie is one of Andy’s current caregivers. Originally from Texas, Leslie lived in the Washington, DC area for several years where she had the opportunity to travel to many countries with the Department of Defense. It’s through this experience that she developed a deep love and respect for veterans.
Leslie has always had a heart for caregiving and is pursuing a career in nursing. While a nursing student, Leslie was having coffee with a friend when she saw a car drive by with a Firefly Home Care logo. Wanting a job where she could take care of people and build relationships with the elderly, she applied for a job. During her interview, she requested to work with veterans. Andy was a perfect match for Leslie.
“What I enjoy about Andy is that he loves everybody… and what I admire most is his humility.” Leslie sees Andy twice a week for two-hour shifts. She accompanies him to doctor’s visits, and because he has difficulty hearing, she ensures Andy understands what his doctors are saying, and relays information to his family. When they don’t have doctor’s appointments, and they’ve completed daily living activities, Andy and Leslie enjoy sharing stories of the places they’ve visited. Leslie learned of Andy’s love of apple cider, and one time she took him to visit a local cider mill, which Andy enjoyed.
The relationship between Andy and Leslie is close, “Clients become a part of your family—it’s a special bond. How Andy was when he was a young boy in Peru, is how he is today. He wants to experience, learn, and grow. I get to be a part of that with him.”
It’s clear by their interactions they share a special bond. Andy even shared that his doctor complimented Leslie on her attentiveness during a recent appointment. Pleased to hear this feedback she added, “I love Firefly. Love it. It’s been a really good fit for me.”