PORT ANGELES — Rose Crumb, a registered nurse who founded Volunteer Hospice of Clallam County at the dawn of the hospice movement, died Wednesday at her Port Angeles home of complications of congestive heart disease.
Crumb, 92, was assisted over the past several days by members of the organization she created in 1978.
“Of course, it was fitting, given the history of the organization,” her son, Patrick Crumb of Seattle, said Wednesday.
“She’s just a very unique and wonderful lady and she touched many lives,” he said a few hours after her death.
She died at her home at 6:20 a.m. surrounded by many of her 10 children.
The Wauseca, Minn., native and mother of 10 children, including one foster child, was inspired to care for the terminally ill in their own homes after she cared for her father at his home in his dying days, he said.
In 1998, Crumb — volunteer director of Volunteer Hospice of Clallam County (VHOCC) from 1978-2009 — won a National Jefferson Award for Public Service bestowed by the American Institute for Public Service.
She then won a Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Award at a banquet presided over by then-Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor.
In 2005, she took home a 2005 Clallam County Community Service Award.
She always insisted on offering free hospice care.
Refusing to take federal funds, she successfully fought in 1992 to have a state law passed allowing volunteer hospices to remain unlicensed.
That put her at David vs. Goliath odds with the for-profit hospice industry, according to her son.
Her efforts resulted in an exemption approved by state lawmakers that few, if any, hospices other than VHOCC have taken advantage of to this day, Patrick Crumb said.
Patrick, a former corporate lawyer who took up the legal fight for his mother, said she penned her own half-page obituary.
She said in the piece she was a practicing nurse in Port Angeles and directed VHOCC, and nothing about her accolades.
And she specified that no eulogies would be given at her memorial service.
“She didn’t want people going on and on about her,” Patrick said.
“She was embarrassed by the attention, because that’s not why she did what she did.”
Rev. Randy Hurlbut, volunteer board president, said Rose Crumb was honored recently at the annual Christmas party and at the organization’s 40 anniversary celebration this year.
“She said, ‘We saw what needed to be done and figured out how to do it,’ ” he said.
“She was just pragmatic.”
Crumb, a devout Catholic who attended daily mass, instructed that a memorial mass be held at Queen of Angeles Catholic Church in Port Angeles.
The service, which will be scheduled for after the holidays, likely will be followed by a reception, her son said.
Crumb would have been 93 the day after Christmas.
Crumb was born in 1926 to Stuart and Cecelia Murphy Root in a Minnesota farming community during the Great Depression.
Crumb, who as a child cared for a sister who was disabled, once told her son that without government services, families were only as strong as their neighbors “because at any given time, they had to take care of each other,” he recalled.
Crumb graduated with a nursing degree from the College of St. Catherine, now St. Catherine University, a Catholic liberal arts school in St. Paul, Minn., before marrying T.L. “Red” Crumb, who died of leukemia in 1984.
She and T.L. grew up in adjoining farms. He served in the South Pacific in World War II.
After the war, the couple visited a Minnesota friend who settled in Port Angeles, fell in love with the place and moved to the city in 1948.
Patrick, 56, a 1981 Port Angeles High School graduate, said his grandfather was still living on a farm in Minnesota when he was diagnosed with cancer.
“Her father asked if she could come home and take care of him so he could die in his own home,” he said.
Crumb, then in her 30s, was very moved by the idea “of someone dying in their own home surrounded by family and not being in the hospital,” he said.
She cared for him in the mid-1950s until his death. She also took care of her husband as a hospice patient until his death.
In 1978, when she founded VHOCC, what was known as the hospice movement was gaining traction.
That same year, 1978, a U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare task force declared hospice “a viable concept and one which holds out a means of providing more humane care for Americans dying of terminal illness while possibly reducing costs.”
Crumb initially ran the organization out of a rental house next to the family home in Port Angeles, which would become the organization’s office, and would visit patients at their homes with help from other volunteers.
She was the only nurse, her son said.
“She would get calls in the middle of the night to attend to some dying patient,” he said.
Today, Volunteer Hospice is headquartered at 540 E. Eighth St. and has a service area stretching from Diamond Point to Joyce.
“There is always someone from Hospice just a phone call away,” according to the website at www.vhocc.org.
Crumb is survived not only by her 10 children, but also by her 20 grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.
“Over the course of the last few days, she’s been talking to each of her children and grandchildren,” Patrick said.
“Yesterday and the day before, she was having animated conversations and cracking jokes and being herself.”
Patrick and his mother talked about his 15 -year-old daughter and an 18-year-old son, and said they loved each other.
And they talked about dying.
“Her entire life, even up to the end, she was talking to all of us about how to deal with death and dying,” he said.
“Her motive was to make it easier for us.
“I think anyone who knows my mom knows she is more a teacher by example, more than by preaching.”
Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at [email protected].