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He's a former engineer and military veteran who has volunteered for myriad organizations in his 87 years.

And now, George Turnquist sits with hospice patients at Compassus Hospice, a hospice, palliative care and home health provider.

He spends time with military men and women, as part of the "Veterans Helping Veterans" program.

"I enjoy being with people, enjoy talking with veterans... I just enjoy life," Turnquist said.  

Volunteer coordinator Jill Venden said the history of hospice, is rooted in volunteerism. It began as volunteer sitting with the terminally ill before becoming a medical entity, she said.

 Venden seeks out veterans like Turnquist to sit with clients who served in the military. "As they come to end of life, maybe they've never spoken about their time in the service and maybe they've never wanted to put that on their family, but they would be able to open up to someone who has also been in the service."

Volunteers undergo training and are assigned clients to visit, Venden said. It's up to the volunteer how much they want to volunteer.

The job requires a certain mindset, volunteer Audrey Mueller says. She enjoys talking to people, and "We just hang out together."

A former special education teacher for 34 years in Davenport, Mueller says she wanted to give back after retirement. It's been almost two years since her in-laws died, both in hospice in Wisconsin. "We took our turns running back and forth so they could stay in their home on the farm, so my husband and I would go in every three weeks, spend three days, taking turns with his family," she said, saying that experience helped her realize she'd be comfortable sitting with strangers in their final days, weeks or months of life.

Her experience teaching special education helps her, too. "I had a lot of health issues that I dealt with those kids, and I felt like I was pretty patient, and I cared, and I'm a helpful person," she said. She helps patients with things like getting them a cup of tea or taking them outside. If someone's not responsive, she'll sing or hum.

It takes compassion, patience and being comfortable with yourself to do this work. "You're going to see things... sometimes, they really are at the end of life. You just have to go in and hold their hand, and not to be afraid of holding a hand," she said. 

Every Monday, Turnquist goes to The Good Samaritan Society in Davenport and to visit. He talks about whatever the client wants to talk about.

"If it's an ex-military person, we talk about military stuff. If it's a farmer, we talk about farming. If it's a lady, we talk about whatever she wants to talk about. Usually, it's her husband and it's her family, things like that."

"I'm serving the Lord, and I'm alone," Turnquist said. "Otherwise, what would I do? Sit here in my apartment all day, talking to no one? Four walls, watching the tube. You got to get out, you got to move around, you got to do other things."

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