Tribute to Francis Racey

by Dennis King

Executive director, Lahari

Francis Racey, the inspiration and energy of the Lahari Hospice and Respite Care Center and Lahari Volunteer Hospice, has passed.

Francis, a long-time Orcas resident, brought compassion, comfort and dignity to islanders and their families facing end of life. Francis’ initial project, started over twenty years ago, has evolved and expanded, and continues to support residents through the challenges of aging on our beautiful island.

The summer of 1996 found a number of islanders facing the impending death of a dear friend who was homeless at the time. In response, Francis Racey opened his home and over the next 5 plus years many hospice/respite patients were attended to by a dedicated group of island volunteers.

Generous donations of land and capital ensued, enabling the construction of a residential facility for short-term hospice care in the Deer Harbor area. Simultaneously, the non-profit, Lahari Volunteer Hospice, was established with the mission of providing compassionate, quality care in the final phase of life, whether at home or at the Lahari facility, helping people to live and die with dignity and hope and to support their families and loved ones.

However, over time, most of those who required hospice care on the island chose to utilize the in-home services of Lahari hospice volunteers and off-island providers. While the usage of the Lahari Hospice Facility may have been disappointing, the fact that Orcas Island residents did obtain hospice services in their own homes better met the needs and wishes of the hospice clients and their families.

After the sale of the facility in 2012, the Board expanded the Lahari Mission to address the wide spectrum of the challenges of aging, including end of life care while a group of hospice volunteers formed an informal network.

Francis’ and Lahari’s contributions to the community went beyond end of life care. In the fall of 2004 Lahari decided to sell its unused land in Deer Harbor to OPAL at an attractive price, which was a key to the creation of OPAL’s Lahari Ridge Development. Also, Lahari launched Hearts and Hands: Neighbors Helping Neighbors (previously Faith in Action), which continues today under the Senior Center to provide volunteer companion care.

Francis planted the seeds and now the community is benefiting from the fruit: island caregivers have access to training and continuing education, residents have benefited from safe home evaluations resulting in installed grab bars and wheelchair ramps and the recently launched Orcas Door to Door program is providing rides for homebound residents.

The living legacy that Francis created has indeed come full circle as Lahari sponsored the training of the full time, live-in caregiver that attended to Francis’ needs for the past two and a half years.

Molly Roberts, Suzi Rose and Don Webster contributed to this tribute.