Meet Jane St. Anthony
Paul St. Anthony moved into Grace House I on March 17, 1995, his sister Jane’s birthday. She followed the medical transport to Grace House from the hospital, devastated to see him moving to hospice care. Paul, 49, had lived in his own home until a seizure sent him to the hospital and now, Grace House.
According to Jane, Paul was thrilled to call Grace House his home. Family members spent time with Paul almost every day and met other residents and their families as well as the volunteers who cooked evening meals.
“Paul couldn’t say enough about the generosity of the volunteers,” said Jane.
On June 25, 1995, Paul sent a letter to several of his friends to update them on how he was doing. “Where do I live now?” he wrote. “At Grace House, which is the Rolls Royce of hospices. The staff is incredibly helpful, kind and respectful. There are only four residents. Grace House, by the way, is a hospice for terminally ill AIDS patients. I do not consider myself terminally ill, but I love being here. Besides the staff who are here to help day and night, there is a horde of volunteers who do everything from cleaning toilets to making dinner. So much generous work for just the four of us.”
Jane was equally impressed with the volunteer corps, but reluctant to call herself a cook. Eventually, she and her mother made dinner for Paul and the other three residents.
“Paul was so excited to have us there,” she said. “He came downstairs to the kitchen and helped a little. Through us, he contributed to the house.
“When Paul first moved in, my son and I visited until dinner one day. Paul wanted us to stay, and I wasn’t sure if we should. I asked Joel, one of the caregivers, what we should do. ‘It’s not my house,’ Joel said. ‘It’s your brother’s house.’ I finally understood.”
“Paul was a wonderful, involved, caring uncle to both of my children,” Jane added.
Paul died peacefully three weeks after writing the letter to his friends. Jane and her mother became two of the volunteers that Paul so appreciated.
“We had gotten to know the other residents and didn’t want to abandon Grace House,” said Jane, who eventually chose the first Sunday of each month as her dinner day. Her mother, also Jane, became progressively less able to help. She would visit with the residents who wanted to talk. “The connection to Grace House helped my mother deal with Paul’s death,” said Jane. “She knew about his conversations with the staff and how much those talks helped him.”
It’s been 14 years since Jane became one of Grace House’s many loyal volunteers. After Jane’s mother died in 2002, Jane’s husband, Louis, became more involved with Grace House Sundays. As the face of AIDS changed, Jane and Louis adjusted their involvement as well. After new drug treatments were developed in late 1995-”maybe just a few months too late for Paul”-the needs of the residents changed. For some, the quality of life improved and Grace House became less a hospice and more a place for people who looked ahead to the rest of their lives. “Residents actually left Grace House for places of their own,” Jane said. “Louis sometimes helped with the moves.”
Asked about the biggest change she’s seen in the past 14 years, Jane responded, “More of the residents’ families used be very involved-although many still are-spending hours with their child or, in a few cases, mother or father. The sister of one resident often slept at Grace House, showered in the morning and went off to work.”
Now, years later, Jane doesn’t worry about what she’ll cook but rather prepares what she thinks residents might enjoy or have enjoyed in the past.
When she’s not volunteering at Grace House or elsewhere, Jane continues to work in communications and has published two middle grade books as well. Louis, a visual artist, also works at University of Minnesota Bookstores.
Occasionally, Paul and Jane’s brother, Neal-a supporter of Clare Housing, joins residents for dinner. “We love to see the caregivers at the table, too, she said. “Neal, Louis and I still know some of the special people who cared for Paul. And we love it when former residents show up for dinner.”
A year after Paul died, a friend of his and Jane’s from Belgium came to visit Grace House. “Paula, our friend, asked to see it,” Jane said. “We walked through the garden. When we left, Paula said that she had felt Paul’s spirit. I guess that’s why we keep coming back. I know that it pleases Paul. For now, I can’t think of an excuse big enough to keep us from cooking once a month. It’s a privilege to be part of the community.”