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Surprise $25K donation highlights a poignant luncheon

Telegraph photo by DEAN SHALHOUP Terry Romano, a Nashua resident who pledged $25,000 to Home Health & Hospice Care at Sunday's annual Champagne Luncheon, speaks briefly after making the surprise announcement. Tina Andrade, HHHC director of development, and Joseph McQuaid, the guest speaker at the luncheon, listen to Romano.

NASHUA – Toward the end of Home Health & Hospice Care’s 21st annual Champagne Luncheon on Sunday, Tina Andrade, the agency’s director of development, announced it was time to begin the unique, on-the-spot pledge drive known as “Hospice Angels.”

“We hope to raise $100,000 this year,” Andrade said of the Hospice Angels segment. “Is there anyone in the room who would like to pledge $50,000?” she began.

No response. “Is there anyone who would like to pledge $25,000?” she asked.

Glancing to her right, Andrade saw a hand go up and gasped. “Terry Romano,” she said as the sellout crowd applauded.

Indeed, Romano, who has served on the agency’s board of directors “and been involved in many causes,” Andrade said, delighted everyone associated with the agency and its highly-regarded Community Hospice House with her announcement.

Called to the front of the room, Romano spoke briefly, in turn thanking “everyone in this room for your support” of the agency’s programs.

At the hospice house, “you are surrounded by people who really care,” she added.

A clear majority of this year’s attendees donned tiaras of various shapes and styles in celebration of this year’s theme, “Awaken Your Inner Princess,” while a handful took it a step further and came outfitted in full princess dress.

This year’s live auction was handled by Tom Weitbrecht, an auctioneer associated with Strategic Auction Alliance, a Braintree, Mass.-based firm.

The Champagne Luncheon is one of three major HHHC fundraisers, along with its annual Wine Dinner and golf tournament.

The proceeds “directly support compassionate patient care for those who need it the most,” according to the agency. Its programs serve residents of Nashua, Manchester, Merrimack and the Derry-Salem area, along with several smaller communities in southern New Hampshire.

This year’s guest speaker was Joseph W. McQuaid, whose wife, Signe Anderson McQuaid, was cared for by HHHC and spent her final days at the Community Hospice House.

McQuaid said the family learned about the agency through a member of their church, where Signe McQuaid served as a eucharistic minister and was deeply involved in the church community.

“From the moment my family and I came into the Hospice House … you just get such an extraordinary feeling of the warmth, the sincerity,” McQuaid said, his voice breaking with emotion.

McQuaid, the publisher of the New Hampshire Union Leader and Sunday News in Manchester, said his wife lived her final five days at the Hospice House. “The staff explained everything they were doing,” he said.

McQuaid praised the nurses and doctors associated with the Hospice House, noting that nurses and doctors are typically “in the business of healing and nursing people back to health.

“But this is a specialty way beyond that … and they do it very well,” he said.

Also impressive, McQuaid said, is that the agency “doesn’t say goodbye, good riddance, when your loved one dies.

“They stay in touch, they want to know how you’re doing,” he said, adding that they also recommend support groups and other resources for survivors.

Dean Shalhoup may be reached at 594-1256 or dshalhoup@nashuatelegraph.com.