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Heartland Hospice Patient Awarded Honorary Degree

A student, a veteran, a farmer and more…

When Heartland Hospice serving Southeastern Wisconsin learned about the life of 86 year-old patient, Willy Holmes, they wanted to do something special to honor this remarkable man.

Members of Willy’s Heartland Hospice care team, Marcy Penfield, Social Worker and Emilee High, Volunteer Coordinator learned from his family members that in his younger years Willy attended the University of Nebraska pursuing a degree in Agriculture.  He had to leave school early to help his father on the farm. Willy was then drafted into the army during World War II and never returned to college to complete his degree. Upon his return from the war, Willy became a cattle farmer and raised four children with his wife of 64 years, Jossie. A man of many talents, Willy was also skilled in carpentry and enjoyed photography. 

“We wanted to honor Willy’s life by formally recognizing his hard work in the farming industry and his sacrifice for our country,” commented Marcy. Together, Marcy and Emilee contacted the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources at the University of Nebraska sharing Willy’s story then requesting an honorary degree. They worked directly with the Dean of the school who was delighted to assist and make it an even greater gift. He went above and beyond by sending:

  • A certificate recognizing Willy as a distinguished member of the alumni association and an honorary Husker
  • A copy of his original transcript for his years completed at the University
  • Nebraska University items including a t-shirt, cup and blanket (which Willy used immediately)

The entire Heartland team was in attendance to share this special moment as the package was opened and presented to Willy. “It was an emotional moment for all who attended, there wasn’t a dry eye in the room,” stated Emilee.

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