Joe Doak devoted the final years of his own life to the final days of others'.
The retired electrical engineer didn't want patients at the HopeWest hospice in Grand Junction to die alone. So he became a vigil volunteer. Doak would sit with people, hold their hands, talk to them, pray with them.
This month, Doak passed away at age 96.
"The irony here is that, as far as we know, my father was alone when he passed," said Roger Doak, one of Joe's six children. "I'd like to think that all those people that my dad had comforted when they died, were actually there with him when he died."
Joe Doak was an electrical engineer, and owned an electronics shop to provide for his family. Volunteering was always important to him. Doak taught computer skills to seniors, English to immigrants and reading to kindergartners. He delivered Meals on Wheels and shared what he grew in his garden with friends and neighbors.Courtesy of Chancey Bush/The Daily Sentinel
"That is the makeup of my dad. He wants to help people, wants to comfort people that may be alone. He is a very religious person, so I think this played into him being a devoted Catholic," Roger Doak said.
His father wasn't a stranger to hospice care when he began volunteering at HopeWest. Joe Doak had dutifully tended to his wife as she struggled with Alzheimer's, visiting her almost everyday over the span of more than four years.
"In doing so, he got to know many of the residents ... And my dad would go back to the nursing home because many of them did not have family, or the family just could not get to them at the nursing home on a frequent basis," Roger Doak said.
But witnessing death was never easy. After seeing his first hospice patient die, Joe Doak broke down sobbing.
"I think that is a very difficult task to be able to sit with somebody and be with them when they are dying. It's extremely emotional," Roger Doak said. "My dad would tell me there is no other feeling like that one. You're holding someone's hand. You are sitting with them when they take their last breath."
In an interview before his death with the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel, Joe Doak shared why he devoted his time as a hospice vigil volunteer.
"I strongly feel that to be loved and your ability to love are one's strongest achievements in life."