A Zest For Life

Mar 21, 2018

From the first time John Noonan saw the Kline Hospice House, he was in love—with his room, with the staff and volunteers, with the view from the deck, with everything and everyone. “This place is like Heaven,” the 92-year-old said with sincere gratitude. “When we’re here, we don’t worry about nothing.”

John captivated the hospice team with his sense of humor, upbeat personality, and fascinating stories of a life well lived. One of 10 children, John was raised in Brooklyn, New York, where he honed his love for country music by listening to the Grand Ol’ Opry broadcasts and learning to play the spoons. His “spoonability” put him in the spotlight at many a family gathering, he said with pride.

Joining the Army enabled John to travel around the country before settling in the Rockville area. After 50-plus years of marriage, his wife died, and John moved in with his granddaughter Dana and her family in Mount Airy.

When John’s illness progressed, his family requested a tour of the Kline House. It was love at first sight for all of them. “It’s such a wonderful homelike setting,” Dana explained. “And it gave him the freedom to do what he wanted.” Dana’s eight-year-old daughter frequently accompanied her on visits, bringing peppermints and candy bars for John and curling up on the sofa in his room to read to him. “For Sara, this place was just like home,” Dana said. “She loved to come and see him here.”

And John loved entertaining his guests, whether they were family or total strangers. Every visitor to his room was treated like a long-lost friend. “I took a bath and put on Old Spice just for you,” he said in earnest as he welcomed one guest. Within minutes came the question, “Do you want to hear me play the spoons?” An impromptu concert ensued, with John tapping his treasured spoons in perfect rhythm.

John’s zest for life was contagious, and he defied all the stereotypes of a person with a terminal illness. “I guess the guy upstairs just doesn’t want me yet,” he’d say with a chuckle. “When he needs me, he’ll call.”

Determined to make the most of every day, John would stay up until 10 o’clock every evening and fill his waking minutes with the people and activities he loved most. He would joke around with the staff and volunteers—“His room was just a ball of laughs,” Dana said. John also enjoyed spending some quiet time on the deck, soaking up the sunshine and watching the birds. From his recliner, he would play along with “The Price Is Right” and listen to WFRE or to the volunteers who frequently read to him from the Book of Psalms.

“He touched so many lives while at Kline House,” John’s granddaughter Dana reflects. “I will never forget any of the wonderful people who took such wonderful care of my granddad."

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