SISTER FRANCINE GRIES / 1921-2007
Hospice movement leader aided the terminally ill
Sister Francine Gries, who directed Hawaii's first and largest hospice program for 25 years, is remembered as a combination of compassionate nurse and hardheaded businesswoman.
Gries, 85, lived her last three days in St. Francis Hospice in Nuuanu, surrounded by professional and volunteer caregivers whom she had trained to ease the end of life experience for terminally ill patients.
She died Wednesday. She was a member of the Sisters of St. Francis for 70 years and served as a nurse in Hawaii for nearly 40 years.
As chief executive of the hospice organization, she trained thousands of staff and volunteers. "She would interview and train every volunteer so they would get the right spirit of compassion and caring," said Sister Beatrice Tom, former chief executive of the St. Francis Healthcare System of Hawaii. Gries traveled to Japan, Korea and other countries to educate medical professionals about the hospice concept. She organized state and national conferences on the hospice movement. Her volunteer training curriculum is used worldwide.
"She was a leader in hospice care," said Ken Zeri, president of Hospice Hawaii. "She was a wonderful woman who really cared about people. She was also a businesswoman; to keep a business running for 20-plus years takes dedication and perseverance. You've got to run the business, but what is driving you is to care for these people whose families have entrusted them to your care. Sister shared that value with the rest of us" in the Hawaii Island Hospice Network, he said.
"Everyone would say she ran a tight ship," said Tom. "She was feisty, making demands of her staff, but also very loving."
Gries was honored in October at a St. Francis Healthcare Foundation banquet. She received recognition awards from the St. Francis Medical Center, the statewide hospice organization and other agencies. In a last tribute, St. Francis Hospice staff and volunteers gathered at her bedside Tuesday to sing the St. Francis Peace Prayer and some of her favorite Hawaiian songs.
Gries was born in Lorain, Ohio. She earned a nursing degree from Boston College and a master's degree in nursing service administration from Syracuse University. She came to Hawaii in 1955 and served at St. Joseph High School in Hilo and St. Francis Hospital. She was assigned to Kalaupapa for seven years as nursing supervisor, overseeing the health program for Hansen's disease patients. After several years of work at Mercy Hospital in Auburn, N.Y., she returned to Hawaii in 1978 to start the first hospice program.
She is survived by nephews on the mainland.
Funeral services are pending. Memorial contributions may be made to the St. Francis Hospice or to the Sisters of St. Francis Retirement Fund, in care of St. Francis Healthcare Foundation, 2228 Liliha St., Suite 205, Honolulu 96817.