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Story of love goes over 60 years

It is a love story of sorts that just doesn't happen anymore.

In 1944, Delia was on a bus near Chicago. She was in nursing school. Sitting on the bus, a young serviceman approached her and asked if he could sit next to her. She said yes.

"In his uniform, he was very handsome. That's what I fell for," Delia said.

The two started talking, exchanged addresses and continued to write back and forth.

"We wrote a lot. It was kind of interesting," she said. "Pretty soon, I got a ring in the mail."

At her school, Delia wasn't allowed to be engaged or married, so she wore the ring on a chain around her neck. Two years later, Delia and Henry Hokenson were married in Chicago. Sixty years later, they are still happily married with five children, nine grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

Delia tells this story as she and Henry, or Hank as most call him, sit in the living room of their rented trailer house. They own a home near Cotton Lake, but came into Detroit Lakes two years ago.

Both relax in recliners, but one major difference is that Henry is hooked up to oxygen and is a Hospice patient.

In February, Henry got sick with double pneumonia.

"He said he was 'too sick -- when I get better, I'll go in,'" Delia said of her husband.

His grandkids convinced him he needed to go to the hospital right away. Then in August, Henry went on Hospice. Now a nurse comes to the couple's home to bathe Henry and help with his medication.

"Hospice has been good to us," Delia said.

Henry agrees.

"I think it's a good thing," he said.

Since Henry's heart no longer pumps as it should and has faulty valves, Hospice of the Red River Valley has been called in to assist.

"They're calming for me. I can just call them," Delia said. "They're all so nice. They're sweet and smile."

Besides having Hospice come into their home, the organization will also assist Henry in a hospital for five days a month if Delia should need to leave for some reason.

Like this fall when she traveled to Wisconsin to attend Apple Fest with her daughter for the weekend.

"He doesn't like me to drag him around," she said.

Patients can be on Hospice for up to two years. They are evaluated every six months to determine if Hospice services are still needed.

"I really do appreciate them. Deep down, I appreciate them very much," Delia said.

"If I can keep Hank from a nursing home, I will. He doesn't want that. I want to obey. I know he would do the same for me."

In May 1984, the volunteer organization Lakes Area Hospice was introduced to Becker County. In 1993, after pressing Minnesota licensing requirements, Hospice of the Red River Valley took over for Lakes Area Hospice, adding Detroit Lakes as the third office of Hospice of the Red River Valley.

Since then, several community members like Dixie Johnson, Dave Karsnia, Jerry Schutz, Ron Peterson and Ann Ryan have helped grow the organization.

Businesses such as BTD, Arvig Communication Systems, SJE Rhombus, the Barry Foundation, Foltz Trucking, Daggett Truck Lines, Midwest Bank, and Wild Rice Electric have also helped financially.

At times, Hospice is misinterpreted as an end-of-life service only for those with cancer. Actually, less than 50 percent of patients served have cancer. Instead, many face end-stage dementia, Alzheimer's, congestive heart failure, chronic obstructive lung disorder and other diagnoses.

The Detroit Lakes office serves families within a 60-minute radius of Detroit Lakes.

"We recognize that just the word 'hospice' can be frightening," Gaylen Volk, program manager, said. "To that end, we pursue building relationships in our communities through education."

Detroit Lakes' Hospice started Summer Seminars this year, with speakers addressing end-of-life topics such as wills and funeral arrangements.

Hospice has also worked with the Detroit Lakes Community and Cultural Center on the Youth Fit for Life program, area parish nurses to offer support, and offer a library, Monte Jones Resource Center, filled with resources.

With a strong backing from businesses, organizations and community individuals, Hospice holds events including golf tournaments, Light up a Life campaigns, summer Monte Jones' benefits and more.

"We are paid $128.19 per day by Medicare to deliver care, and this must stretch to cover all the staff that visits and cares for the patient and family, the medications that are related to their diagnosis, and the equipment they may need (i.e., hospital bed, walker, oxygen, incontinence products, etc)," Volk said.

Hospice is working on an operational campaign called "Go 360 with Hospice of the Red River Valley." With a goal of $360,000, the organization has already raised over $200,000.

Like Hospice's positive attitude, Delia Hokenson is following suit.

"You have to be on top of it and stay cheerful," she said. "And I trust God. He's taken care of us."