Family, Faith, and the Friday Night Fish Fry
It doesn’t feel like it’s been ten years since Peg Hans-Kotkin lost her dad Kenneth “Ken”. In some ways, it feels almost like yesterday.
Back in 2011, Ken had spent two weeks at St. Mary’s Hospital in Madison with a deteriorating heart condition. He wasn’t a candidate for surgery due to his age and memory issues, and the hospital staff didn’t recommend that he return home since he lived by himself. A social worker at St. Mary’s told the family about a new inpatient facility in Johnson Creek.
“Before that, we hadn’t been thinking about hospice at all,” said Kotkin. “We had never heard of Rainbow before. The social worker recommended it and said it was a really great place.”
Rainbow Hospice Care Inpatient Center in Johnson Creek
Ken was transported to the Rainbow Hospice Care Inpatient Center (IPC) during the late afternoon on Friday, March 11, with his children and other family members there to meet him. The IPC had just opened its doors the week before, making Ken one of the first patients at the facility.
“When we arrived at Rainbow, we were very impressed with the facility and staff,” Kotkin said.
It was an emotional time for Peg and her family, who had to help their father come to grips with the fact that he wouldn’t be going back to his home in Lake Mills where he had lived for over 50 years. Ken still wanted to be able to drive and visit his buddies, two or three times a week, to play cards.
“We told him if he had problems breathing, there would be no one there to help him at home,” Kotkin said. “He wanted the keys to his car and wanted the car there. I think he thought he was going there for a short time for rehabilitation, and then he could go back home. My father didn’t appreciate how sick he was. I don’t think he thought he was going there to die.”
Ken also had a strong Catholic faith and attended church every Sunday, so not having the freedom to come and go as he pleased was a big adjustment for him.
“Maybe he was wondering how he would get to church on Sundays?” Kotkin said. “He was a very good Catholic and very religious man. Not that he wore it on his sleeve, but he was very involved in his church.”
In the midst of a stressful day, the ten members of the Hans family who had come to the IPC, including Peg’s two brothers, Ron and James, decided to gather at the inpatient center with Ken for dinner. The kitchen wasn’t set up at the IPC at the time, so the family asked if they could bring in food and use the dining area and the staff agreed.
“We thought we’re all here, we might as well eat,” Kotkin said. “It was a Friday night, and during Lent, so we were thinking…fish fry.”
They picked up some fish from The Pine Cone Restaurant nearby and then went to a gas station for soda and beer before sitting down together for dinner as a family.
“That was the last meal we had together with my father,” Kotkin said. “It was very nice, and we are grateful to Rainbow for allowing us to have that time with our dad even though we were a bit noisy.”
After dinner, the rest of the Hans family left for the night while Peg stayed with her dad in his room to watch the Badgers-Penn State basketball game on television.
“He was a fan of all Wisconsin teams and also loved the Cubs,” Kotkin said. “We had a really nice night together, and he said, ‘I can’t believe Wisconsin is losing this game to Penn State, really?’ He wasn’t happy about that.”
The Badgers only scored 33 points that night in a loss to Penn State, a series they had dominated, winning 13 out of the previous 14 meetings until that game. When the game ended, Peg said goodbye to her dad and left for the night.
Ken Hans passed away the next morning at the Rainbow Hospice Care Inpatient Center at age 85.
“We thought he would be there a lot longer,” Kotkin said. “I always joke that it was that game that killed him.”
Peg is thankful for the care and compassion that the inpatient center staff showed her dad and family, even in that short time.
“Although he was only at Rainbow for less than 24 hours, we were very impressed with the staff and facility,” Kotkin said. “It was just beautiful, and it was a very nice choice.”
Ken Hans as a young man in the U.S. Navy
Ken had been through a lot in his life. He enlisted in the U.S. Navy when he was 19 and was immediately thrown into World War II, serving aboard the U.S.S. LC-53 during the Asian Pacific Campaign in Okinawa. He was also awarded the Bronze Star for valor during the Invasion of Iwo Jima.
“I’m sure he saw some really awful things,” Kotkin said. “He didn’t talk about it, but he was proud of his service to his country and the medal that he received. Dad wanted to make sure when he passed away that his Star was in the casket with him.”
For Peg and the rest of her family, even though it has been a decade since Ken’s death, he is never far from their minds.
“We all miss him tremendously,” Kotkin said. “My dad had a really good sense of humor and was just a sweet man and nice person. The ten years since his death have gone by quickly. He would have been so happy seeing his great-grandchildren. He loved his family very much and that love was reciprocated.”