In her seven years at the Arundel Hospice, Beverly Bassford believesshe's seen just about everything.
"I've seen young parents lose infants, young mothers lose young husbands. But regardless of age, I've seen families pull together," she said.
Bassford, 56, the only executive director the hospice has known, will retire in July. While she will be staying on as a volunteer, Bassford looks forward to the joys of retirement -- including the opportunity to spend more time sailing with her husband of 33 years, Robert.
"What I'll miss the most is working with all of these wonderful people," she says. "The hospice has taught me how to live, because ithas helped me learn what's really important in life."
Sitting in the hospice's community room, Bassford recalls how a friend piqued her interest about the concept of providing physical, emotional and psychological care for the terminally ill.
The hospice has grown considerably during her tenure. In 1989, she helped establish a bereavement center, providing support groups and counseling to help patients deal with death. Bassford also started an auxiliary, to raise money for the care of hospice patients, and got the facility approved for Medicare patients.
Betty Asplund, director of the hospice's Bereavement Center, has mixed feelings about her boss's leaving.
"I knew she was going to retire once her husband retired," Asplund said. "It will be difficult to break up our family at the hospice, but it will also be exciting to have a new executive director."
This spring, thehospice conducted a nationwide search for a new director. Lars Egede-Nissen, who lives in Norwalk, Conn., was chosen form a field of 50 applicants.
"He's eminently qualified, and he handled himself very well during the interview process," said board member John Williamson, who chaired the search committee.
Egede-Nissen, 50, has been involved with hospice care for 12 years. Bassford will guide him throughseveral orientations until he is comfortable with the new job.
"I'm very happy about it; it's a wonderful opportunity, and I look forward to learning from Beverly," he said from his office at the Mid-Fairfield Hospice in Norwalk, where he's served as executive director for 4 1/2 years.
A graduate of Columbia University with a master's degree in public administration, Egede-Nissen became interested in hospice care when his uncle became very ill.
"Our family became a sort of hospice support team," Egede-Nissen recalls, "and not long afterI became more involved in hospice care.
"I've had a lot of experience," he adds, "and I've done every kind of fund raising . . . including marathons and bowl-a-thons."
Asplund believes the new director's biggest concern will be getting to know Anne Arundel County.
"Coming out of state, he'll need to learn about the community," she said, "and as in any new job, he'll need to become familiar with the staff."
Egede-Nissen plans to do just that.
"You have to talk to a lot of people, become known around the community and get the word out about the hospice services," he said, "and I'm going to do whatever it takes to achieve their goals and objectives."
Bassford's advice? Learn to roll with the punches.
"Every day is a new experience," she says, "and no two days are ever alike."