Santa Paula Times

Sigrid Wong: Career of retiring SCVH-HSG Executive Coordinator lauded

June 07, 2017
Santa Paula News

Although initially a part-time employee, Sigrid Wong wouldn’t go home until the job was done and as executive coordinator of the Santa Clara Valley Hospice-Home Support Group (SCVH-HSG) there were plenty of times the board suspected she was working many more hours than she admitted to.

But it was giving of her heart and soul that was also celebrated at a May 25 party recognizing Wong’s service to SCVH-HSG, which offers an array of always-free services for those experiencing a life-limiting illness and their families. Hospice also has a medical appointment transportation service, respite care and counseling as well as loaning out sickroom equipment ranging from hospital beds and walkers to wheelchairs.

“Sigrid is one of those people you know is spiritually advanced and wise,” attributes that serve her well personally and professionally said Elias Valdes, who noted that Wong’s daughter Lisa and granddaughter Susi were at the luncheon as well as Santa Paula Mayor Jenny Crosswhite.

Flight 126 Café was filled with well wishers who said they admired Wong for her work ethic and dedication to Hospice duty.

“She’s a bit serious on occasion but she’s not a solemn person,” Valdes said of Wong, whom he noted fulfilled a popular SCVH-HSG belief.

“Hospice has always been a can do group and Cathy Barringer,” a Hospice co-founder and former longtime board president, “used to say when we need something Angels come down and bless us.”

Sure enough, Hospice found itself needing someone like Wong who spent a decade with the organization. 

In that time, said Valdes, “I can’t imagine how many people you helped…at first, you were supposed to be just part-time,” but soon it became apparent Wong was spending extra hours at the Hospice office.

“But,” he added, “you didn’t just give us time but your heart and soul,” in fulfilling Hospice duties and goals bringing comfort not only to those seeking services but to board members who were comfortable with Wong being in charge.

“Sigrid has been keeping me on the right path,” said SCVH-HSG Board President Rachel Bustillos who noted the help Wong offered her over the years. 

Wong had her own way of doing things: “She is very proper,” and organized, noted Bustillos, and “She really helped me be a good part of this organization.”

Barringer spoke of Hospice from the time it was founded by a dozen people in 1980, challenges it faced and the success and support it enjoyed that continues  today.

A high point was hosting a presentation by Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, whom wrote a book based on more than 500 interviews with dying patients. On Death and Dying, published in 1969, identifies the five stages through which many terminally ill patients progress. The book becomes an internationally known best seller and Kubler-Ross’ plea for home care and her argument that patients should have a choice and the ability to participate in the decisions that affect their destiny are widely recognized in the growing Hospice community.

When Kubler-Ross appeared at Santa Paula High School, Barringer said they weren’t sure anyone would come: she drew a standing room only crowd. 

“She came out in her wool pants and lumberman’s jacket,” and spoke about Hospice, and said Barringer, “by the time she finished if we hadn’t been committed before we were then!” 

As the SCVH-HSG grew and transformed “It didn’t take us long to latch on to Sigrid,” and she was hired in 2001. 

But, said Barringer, it was more than that: “The best thing Hospice ever did was adopt Sigrid,” as one of the family.

And bidding her farewell would be time consuming: “My first thought was people will speak about Sigrid, how she touched their lives, I knew that could go on for very long…the admiration and love in this room, well, that’s what it is all about.”

Wong was presented with certificates of appreciation and several gifts including a check for a “jump start” on a European tour that likely will include Wong’s Ulm, Germany birthplace. 

“We know Hospice is a special place and Sigrid helped make it so,” said Crosswhite who presented Wong with a proclamation “Thanking you for everything you’ve done for families during sacred times and difficult times.”

Said Wong, “I’m overwhelmed! I could have had no better years than being with Hospice, it made my working career a source of pride, as well as working with wonderful, helpful people. I thank you for your support, loyalty and appreciation — I thank those that have done this for 30, 40 years!”