At Orientation sessions for new staff at Springwell I always encourage them to get to know something about each resident’s personal story. It’s important in doing what we do to know that there are families, passions, careers, accomplishments and interests behind each elderly person who calls Springwell their home.
It’s a gift when residents all are willing to share insights about themselves with us. I witnessed a transformative relationship between my oldest son and a former resident in my first year here. I saw it again this Spring when a group of our residents mentored a dozen boys from a nearby middle school. It happens all the time frankly and it helps us to create the kind of warm and friendly community we strive for.
We recognize that our residents are a group of diverse, accomplished, caring individuals who have contributed greatly to their families and their communities. Often though, like last week, I’m reminded there are even more virtuous qualities about each one that we frequently just don’t know. Maybe that’s due to our failure to ask good questions, to the busyness of our jobs or to the general humility of the current generation of our elders.
I met Herman Stump during my first year here – a time when Springwell was still trying to get its name better known and attract residents to our newly established community. There were only 55 folks living here at the time. He was interested in two separate residences – to meet the needs of his beloved wife Louise through our Memory Care program along with an Independent Living apartment for himself. The family’s decision to make a move to Springwell was a much appreciated vote of confidence in our plans. When we first met during that process he recoiled when I called him Mr. Stump. “It’s Humpy!,” he said with gusto, immediately giving me license – as he did with all he met – to use the nickname he was known by to his friends & family.
While here, Humpy continued to pursue his interests and build new relationships while visiting Louise daily. He was a driving force behind organizing a Resident Bible Study (he also rode out with friends out to St. John’s Church in Glyndon for a weekly study). Ironically, he was also a founder of the Men’s Poker game. Truth be told he was a far better bible student than poker player. (As the 2nd worst player in Springwell’s brief history I should know). He was a devoted walker who appreciated our 15 acre campus (perhaps recalling his 15 acre farm) and one of the few residents to take advantage of the Golf Driving Range next door.
He was also the “culprit” behind a “missing resident” caper that was a bit harrowing for our staff, but classic Humpy. One afternoon, a very new resident had a visitor arrive and to our dismay we couldn’t find that resident anywhere. We searched high and low to no avail. After dashing to my car, I was preparing to pull out and explore the neighborhood for him, when two gentlemen in shorts and ballcaps appeared in my rear view mirror. They were grinning ear to ear following a wonderful afternoon together during which Humpy had invited the “new kid on the block” out for a walk capped off with a Rolling Rock beer in his apartment.
By virtue of stories from his friends and family and the time we shared with him, we all knew Humpy was a special guy. In spite of the sorrow of losing a son to an accident, he had a keen wit and a zest for connecting people. He was never quite himself though after Louise passed during the holidays. We all did what we could to buffet his physical decline and a wounded spark over the ensuing months. So when he himself passed on Mother’s Day we were saddened but not totally surprised.
We were indeed surprised though, in reading his obituary and through conversations after his funeral, to learn – – how his successful insurance practice had helped bootstrap some young contractors who remained friends for life, how his former rector described him as “the holiest man I’ve ever met in my life”, how he helped his church found Paul’s Place, a soup kitchen/men’s shelter in Southwest Baltimore or oh by the way, how he was a founder of the Valley (now Jemicy) School, which helps teach children with learning differences. And, that in addition to a cold Rolling Rock, he enjoyed sipping a Southside cocktail now & then.
Surprised but not shocked I suppose in retrospect; wistful though that we hadn’t learned about these other admirable qualities sooner to express our appreciation of them. Humpy was a unique individual, but symbolic of our relationships with one another here at Springwell – that there is always more to the person than meets the eye and that is a worthwhile endeavor for us all to get to know one another better.
It was a privilege getting to know the Stump family and their many friends who were frequent visitors to enjoy Humpy and Louise’s company their final years. It was also a privilege and the ultimate compliment for Springwell to be mentioned in the eulogy for Humpy as a source of comfort and joy for him. We hope, that as we get to know one another better, we are able to do that for all of you as well.