Of the Baker City Herald

More than 40 people crowded together in the small Pathway Hospice office Monday night to remember loved ones who passed away in the past year.

The Christmas Tree Memorial Service is an annual event that Pathway offers for families. It began in Baker City two years ago.

andquot;It's something that Hospice has done traditionally,andquot; said Sister Kay Marie Duncan of Pathway Hospice.

A four-foot Christmas tree sat in the office window, adorned with ornaments engraved with the names of 48 former Hospice patients.

Sister Kay Marie led the group through several prayers and Christmas songs. Then, midway through the service, Jean Denney and Linda O'Neal called the roll of those who have died since Dec. 1, 2001.

andquot;It's very important for the families, and they appreciate it very much. It's a special celebration and lets them know we acknowledge their loved ones,andquot; Sister Kay Marie said.

After the gathering, family members searched the tree for the ornaments bearing their loved one's name, and were invited to take the keepsake home.

andquot;I can hang this in my home and put stuff with it,andquot; said Judylee Parker, who found the ornament engraved with the name of her husband of 40 years, Brownie Parker. She drove into Baker City from Oxbow to attend the ceremony.

andquot;They (Hospice) started coming in eight days before my husband passed away,andquot; Parker said.

Teresa Jeffords of Baker City said she experienced a sense of closure at the memorial service.

andquot;The memorial service for my father was in Ontario, and I was unable to attend,andquot; she said, and Pathway staff invited her to the Christmas Tree Memorial.

The service also touched another part of Jeffords life she is training to be a Hospice volunteer.

andquot;I became interested when we had Hospice for my dad,andquot; she said.

Sister Kay Marie wasn't surprised at the number of attendees, and said the best part was having the chance to see the families under different circumstances than when they were called in to help.

andquot;They are part of our family,andquot; she said.

Pathway Hospice is part of the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, and follows a common set of standards and regulations, she said. More information is available by calling the office at 523-9430.