Dr. David Joesting, 80, Eden Prairie
Nominated by Carol Peckskamp, 92, Elk River
The story: On Feb. 14, 1979, Dr. Joesting sent a letter to me the likes of which I had never seen and have never seen since. I have kept that letter all these years and, six months ago, began trying to find him but I wasn't having any luck. I met Dr. Joesting when my mother, then in her early 70s, was referred to him — a general surgery specialist — after being diagnosed with breast cancer. He performed the surgery and she did real well. She lived for 12 years after that. But while we had insurance for the hospital bill, it was going to take me longer to pay off the surgery itself. I told him, "If you'll be patient, I will pay this bill." He wrote that letter to me, saying in part, "I appreciate your willingness to help … but if neither you or your mother can pay this with relative ease, let us know and we will eliminate any remaining balance." And that's what he did. I'm so happy I was able to get that letter back to him. I want his children to see it and appreciate what kind of a man he is.
(When contacted by a reporter, Dr. Joesting, now retired, living in Eden Prairie and the grandfather of six, said he was just months into his first surgical practice in Edina when he wrote that letter. He doesn't remember it, but calls it "a wonderful look at the past. That letter represents what I think is the quality of care people should get," he said. "You can't do that in medicine anymore.")
Cindy and David Bearman, Plymouth
Nominated by Dick Schwartz, 70, Minneapolis
Cindy and David Bearman know cancer all too well. Together, they have faced and overcome Cindy's battle with breast cancer, but also the associated hardships, heartache and exhaustion. For this reason, Cindy and David created Cleaning Up for Cancer, a nonprofit offering free cleaning services to people in the throes of a cancer diagnosis, using nontoxic cleaning products, know-how and empathy. In "Wife, Widow, Now What? How I Navigated the Cancer World and How You Can, Too," Rachel Engstrom writes about contacting David and Cindy — a "lovely couple who would later become family friends." Rachel is just one of David and Cindy's many clients who praise not just the mopping, tidying and scrubbing skills, but also their genuine companionship and the welcomed normalcy of simple chit-chat they bring into cancer patients' homes. While I'm not a client, I am an admirer of the couple's compassion and this restorative gift they offer to so many.
Joan Vorderbruggen, 48, Minneapolis
Nominated by Andrea Specht, 51, St. Paul
Five days before Valentine's Day, Joan was putting the finishing touches on 205 baskets filled with self-care items (scented soaps and lotions, bath salts, candles, chocolates and more) that she would deliver to three Minneapolis emergency shelters the next day. Each basket was a surprise gift for one of the heroic and mostly unsung workers who have kept our housing shelters running throughout the pandemic. Tucked into each basket was a handwritten thank you card. Joan's volunteer work allowed her to see how much shelter workers have given of themselves to help our communities' most vulnerable members, and she was inspired to act. She mobilized more than 50 neighbors and friends like me to donate supplies and funds through a self-care kit supply drive, then assembled the baskets herself. To quote a mutual friend, Joan's a one-woman love machine spreading goodwill and caring for many on the front lines!
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