You've probably seen or heard about this situation before. Someone goes to a convention or meeting. They come back from it with an idea. They share the idea, and the next thing you know, the idea catches on with co-workers or members of the community.

You could say this is something like what took place in Oneonta back in the early 1980s, with an idea that resulted in today's Catskill Area Hospice and Palliative Care Inc. This incredible program got its debut in October 1983.

Twenty years earlier, a British hospice pioneer named Cicely Saunders established the first modern hospice in England. Dr. Saunders believed her work was "to cure sometimes, but to comfort always." The first hospice in the U.S. started in Connecticut in 1974.

Modern medicine has given doctors many ways to fight disease. However, there are times when all the training and forms of treating illness just aren't enough. A doctor or medical team can then turn to an ancient concept of easing the last days for the terminally ill. That's hospice. It can help them live as fully and comfortably as possible, and mostly in their own homes, rather than in an institutional environment.

Back in the early 1980s, Dr. Yoshiro Matsuo was attending medical meetings when he first heard about hospice, and thought about how good this program could be for Oneonta. Matsuo shared his thoughts with the chaplain at A.O. Fox Memorial Hospital, and a few others.

At the same time, others in the area had begun hearing and thinking about hospice and felt Oneonta could use such a program.

"It was all very simultaneous," Matsuo said of the interest and enthusiasm coming together.

Not much later, Matsuo, local clergy and people in the social work and health-care fields met, and by March 1, 1983, Catskill Area Hospice was organized.

Matsuo said A.O. Fox Hospital was very supportive in the beginning. "They provided us with a small office in the basement of the Fox Nursing Home," Matsuo recalled.

Ann Platt served as the first director. In July 1983, a search was under way for the first volunteers to provide home-care assistance to terminal cancer patients and their families. Platt said Catskill Area Hospice was closely modeled after a program at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Binghamton.

It was announced at the end of September that 18 volunteers were completing a month-long training program and the first services would be given in the first week of October.

Volunteers are ready to assist a family in nearly any way needed. They might do laundry, watch children while a caretaker takes a break, cook meals, or just do a lot of listening to a terminally ill person.

Alda Peinkofer, a former coordinator of volunteers, was with Hospice from 1986-93, and later the Hospice Auxiliary. She called it the best position she ever had, "Because there was such a great spirit there. People think of hospice as dealing with death _ and it's true _ but people who are on hospice are dealing with life, and families are dealing with making that life much better for their loved ones as they can."

Lesley Deleski, executive director of Catskill Area Hospice and Palliative Care, said that initially nine families were served on a daily basis. Presently, the daily service can average 160 families in a three-county area.

The organization has long since moved out Fox Nursing Home. Matsuo said in the early years Hospice worked with a limited budget and was strictly a volunteer organization, as the services were not reimbursed by Medicare. Reimbursements changed, but Hospice needed to become a state-certified Medicare hospice to get them. The application process began in 1985, and the certification was granted in early 1988.

Once the certification was completed, Catskill Area Hospice became a paid professional organization in Otsego and northern Delaware counties. In 1990, it moved to 542 Main St., one of two present locations in Oneonta. The second location, administrative offices, opened at 1 Birchwood Drive in 2005.

In 1992, the remainder of Delaware County was included and, in 1994, Schoharie County was added to the coverage area . The offices are in Delhi and Cobleskill.

The Palliative Care name was added in 1998 to reflect an expanding of services to patients outside the Medicare definition of hospice. Palliative care is like hospice care, as it concentrates on comfort care and on quality of life issues. Patients receiving palliative care services do not have to have a limited prognosis and can continue curative therapies.

Catskill Area Hospice and Palliative Care Inc. will be honored as the distinguished business of the year on March 28 at the annual dinner and celebration of business of the Otsego County Chamber.

This weekend: Oneonta's leisure life improved greatly in 1928.

City Historian Mark Simonson's column appears twice weekly. On Saturdays, his column focuses on the area during the Depression and before. His Monday columns address local history after the Depression. If you have feedback or ideas about the column, write to him at The Daily Star, or e-mail him at His website is

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