A lifetime of caring inspires new hospice unit

The Courier/Photo by Melissa Chan

While cancer may have claimed the life of Maureen Russo, a brand new hospice unit named in her honor means her memory will live on forever.

The Maureen Russo Hospice Unit at Flushing Hospital celebrated its ribbon-cutting ceremony on April 23 in front of Russo’s family and friends, hospital leaders and elected officials.

“My wife, Maureen, cared for others all her life. But at the end of her life, it was her time to be cared for,” said Michael Russo, her husband and the current chair of the Board of Trustees at Flushing Hospital.

Russo passed away on May 12, 2011 after a five-and-a-half year long battle with cancer. Michael said hospice played a key role in her end of life care — physically, emotionally and spiritually.

“Hospice, along with family, friends and loved ones, surrounded her,” Michael said through stifled tears. “So it’s fitting that this hospice has been created in her name, in her memory, so that others who are at the end of their journeys can have the final chapters of their lives in dignity, care and support. When I look at my life and the things I have accomplished, they pale in comparison to the importance of this day.”

The new 1,800-square-foot, four-bed hospice unit is located on the third floor of the hospital. Over $350,000 was collected to bring the project into fruition, hospital officials said. The unit’s first patients were admitted the day after the ceremony on April 24.

“I’ve had the distinct pleasure and honor to have known Maureen for about a dozen years,” said Bruce Flanz, president and CEO of Flushing Hospital. “In that time, I came to love and appreciate the very special person she was. She was without a doubt one of the nicest, kindest, most caring and inspirational individuals I have ever met. Maureen’s approach to life was not only that the glass was half full, but it was full and overflowing.”

Russo’s four children — Regina, Maureen, Anthony and Michael — shared their gratitude and hopes for the unit’s future patients.

“My mom had love for us, and she loved everything that God created. She was the most wonderful woman in many people’s lives. She had peace, joy and love through her life and also at her end,” said son Anthony.

Youngest son Michael Russo said he hopes the hospice unit will be “blessed with her spirit and give peace and acceptance to all who enter it.”

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