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Catching memories at Mill Pond

We share the following story from the Fall 2021 edition of Enriching Lives – a publication of the Presbyterian Homes Foundation

Through creative giving, Ken Agard’s family honors his life at Mill Pond

A family fishing day at Mill Pond with Grandpa Ken
A family fishing day at Mill Pond with Grandpa Ken.
It’s said that fishing isn’t about the fish, it’s about the time spent together catching them. This is certainly true for Don Agard, his father Ken, and the next generations of family anglers.

Ken moved to Mill Pond, a Presbyterian Homes and Services (PHS) community in Ankeny, IA, in 2009. “We lived in Ames, Iowa and Dad ran train stations for the Chicago Northwestern Railroad throughout Iowa. After retiring from trains, he became a letter carrier for the Ames Post Office,” says Don. “Two hip breaks and four cases of pneumonia couldn’t keep him down. Passing on at 102, he saw a lot in his life.”

Don moved to Ankeny in 1972, where he and his wife, Lorna, raised three boys. He taught junior high physical and driver’s education and coached basketball. “This is how I learned about Mill Pond,” notes Don. “I met Rod Lein, Mill Pond’s builder, through basketball circles. It was great for Ankeny that Presbyterian Homes was able to purchase the community and continue quality care,” says Don. PHS purchased Mill Pond from Rod and Dee Lein in 1999, making Mill Pond the first PHS community outside of Minnesota.

Ken was 89 when he moved to independent living. A broken hip the next year resulted in a move to assisted living, but that didn’t break Ken’s can-do spirit. “He eventually was known as the ‘mayor’ of the care center,” says Don. “He kept everyone on their toes!” During his 13 years at Mill Pond, Ken appreciated dressing up for Christmas parties. He loved music, dinners and dancing. Attending chapel services were an important part of his week.

Another special connection for Ken came from nurses in the care center. During the Second World War, Ken served in the Philippines. He was always eager to talk with Filipino employees. “The Filipino nurses showed great compassion for Dad, praying with him, listening to him. They had a special bond due to his time in the Philippines,” says Don. PHS has a partnership with International Nurse Recruitment, a company focused on immigrating Filipino nurses to work in critical healthcare settings, like PHS communities.

‘The ponds were a source of pure joy for Dad’

Mill Pond in Ankeny, Iowa“The ponds were a source of pure joy for Dad,” says Don. “Having a fishing hole in his backyard made enjoying this hobby easy.” Now four generations of Agard fishermen come to cast their lines at Mill Pond. It’s a year-round activity as the pond is deep enough to freeze for safe walk-on ice fishing. “For shore fishing, it’s the best,” notes Don. “You are almost guaranteed to catch a bluegill from every cast.” The Agards practice catch and release to share the thrill of the sinking bobber with other anglers.

“Dad and I often talked about giving back to Mill Pond to help the ponds. After he passed, I decided to direct his memorial money to fund a fish stocking plan for the ponds and to add a bench near the shoreline engraved with his name,” shares Don. “And one other request: that our family is welcome to fish the ponds and continue to make new memories and relish our past memories with Dad.” The staff at Mill Pond enthusiastically accepted the memorial gifts and will continue to welcome the Agard fishers to the ponds.

Tribute gifts of all sizes are welcomed at your PHS community. They are a wonderful way to carry the spirit of your loved one forward to enrich the lives of their neighbors. To learn more about the ways you can honor your loved one, please contact the Presbyterian Homes Foundation at 651-631-6408. Or explore more online.

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