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Teddy bear donation brings tears of joy

Imagine the residents’ surprise and joy this past Christmas as more than 300 teddy bears arrived at PHS communities. The adorable, cuddly bears were gifts of love and appreciation from the Diesch family to honor the life of their wife and mother by donating her beloved collection of teddy bears.

"The teddy bears were a lifelong passion of Bob Diesch’s late wife Jackie," Life Enrichment Director Nancy Schwartz explained. "She had her own business called ‘Life Long Friends,’ making customized bears and handcrafting each one with love and personality."

Bob wrote: 
Jackie Diesch was a stay-at-home mom who raised two sons with love and a smile. She volunteered as a substitute at the middle school, worked in the library, and taught disadvantaged adults to read. In short, she was a loving wife, mother, and friend to the community.

Once the boys left an empty nest she began a second career. She became a bear artist and started her own business; Life Long Friends. She had never run a sewing machine nor taken any soft art classes but she had a vision: Teddy bears could be created to reflect her thoughts and values one bear at a time.

Each bear Jackie created came into being in the form of pieces of a hand drawn pattern. From these pattern pieces came the personality and form; from cloth, stuffing, mechanical joints, and eyes, she molded the pieces into the character she had envisioned. Upon completion she completed a report card for the bear that described its personality and quirks.

Her work became accepted as evidenced by the successful sales at bear shows she attended around the Midwest. There was even one client that had purchased 70 of her bears at a cost of $265 each.

Of course, a bear artist must participate in the trade so she started collecting as well as creating. She sometimes splurged but most often collected Boyds bears. They are reasonably priced and there were many to collect; all were well documented in books that showed history and collector values.

Jackie passed away in 2012 and, after eight years, it is this collection along with a few of her original creations that we offer today. May you feel the warmth and caring that Jackie had for life and her Life Long Friends. Merry Christmas! 

Nancy continued, “Bob became tearful when I shared with him how much of a difference his family’s donation could make in the lives of those we serve.”

All of the donated teddy bears have found homes at PHS communities and into the hands, hearts and hugs of residents.

Angela Viere, Life Enrichment Director at Valley Ridge, said, “We had such a range of emotions when the residents received these bears. Many smiles and some tears of joy. One resident stated she had never had a bear before. Thank you for providing something for them to love and squeeze, but most of all thank you for letting them know that they are loved!”

Meanwhile residents at Johanna Shores made grateful comments such as:

  • “I can’t believe how pretty she is and the beautiful outfit – thank you, I LOVE her!”
  • “I honor my Navy Bear as I did serving in the Navy for 28 years, and he’s huggee, too!”
  • “I love my fishing bear as it reminds me of the fun fishing days I had with the family at the lake!”
  • “She’s beautiful, and I still can’t believe she’s mine.”

Nancy shared photos with Bob of the residents receiving their teddy bears. Bob replied that the photos “were the best Christmas gift my family has ever received!”

Here are just some of those photos: 

There are many opportunities for individuals, families, or congregations to get involved in our ministry. For ideas and ways to volunteer, click here or email

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