Berry's husband died from cancer

Anticipated death through illness or one that comes unexpectedly does not lessen the pain and suffering of loved ones.

Joann Berry knows the anguish of losing her husband Joe to cancer.

“This was just watching and knowing, taking each day and each second,” she said.

Joann and Joe did find comfort in his final days at home through Craven County Hospice and its chaplain, aptly named Angel Lorton.

Hospice provides a variety of services for patients nearing the end of their lives as well as family members, including nursing, respite aide, volunteers, social workers and bereavement support.

Joe, best remembered for being a jack-of-all-trades with his hands, had also been a drag racer in his younger days and still had a 1941 Chevy Coup he had custom restored in his garage and workshop behind their Havelock home at the time of his death in late October.

“What kept him going was working on his car,” his wife said. “That is what kept his mind occupied. He would go out to the garage and that was his alone time that he needed.”

The toll the disease took on the once vibrant man did not go unnoticed by his wife.

“When he couldn’t do things physically anymore, that just frustrated him so badly because he was never a person to sit still. Watching him go down day by day, sometimes I would think to myself and get angry and say ‘why, why?’” Joan said.

They did find home help and support through Hospice, along with little extras.

“Angel would call at just the right time,” Joann said. “Somehow she would know. I would have never been able to get through the day-by-day things without them, because you can’t dump on your family all the time. They have their lives to live. They (Hospice) talk about what is happening in a way that is not taboo, that doesn’t make you feel like you have green hair. They give you the support to know that each day is precious.”

One of the extra things Lorton did was travel to Charlotte for a major drag race to gather personally autographed photos from the drivers, along with a stadium cushion filled with signatures.

“Joe was just tickled pink to have that. He just adored it,” Joann recalled. “It warmed my heart beyond compare. That is what kept him going.”

Joe had served in the Army for three years and was a member of the VFW Post No. 7315 in Havelock. He was a former senior vice president of the John Billington VFW Post No. 6485 of Levitttown, Pa. He was a master mechanic, a master carpenter and retired from the city of Burlington, N.J.

Joann continues to deal with Joe’s passing, comforted that one of four children – a daughter – lives across the street in a house that Joe basically remodeled.

But the reminders of him are everywhere, with all the building and handiwork he did on the house – from the custom cabinets to the spacious front porch where he spent many of his last days.

“It’s hard. My mornings and my nights are real hard. You feel like you are going to go crazy,” she said. “You can be in a room full of people and still feel alone. I have to find a new normal. It will never be the same. My life is forever changed.”

Lorton said her role with Joann did not end with Joe’s death. She will remain in contact to provide support for his widow.

Lorton stressed that Hospice is a year-round free service.

“So many people think we come in only in the final hours of someone’s life,” she said. “We don’t. We want to help a patient live each day to the best of their ability. We want to give them joy in the time they have left. Our nurses will do things like bringing a patient McDonald’s, simply because it will make them happy.

“Our medical director has taken a patient and nurse out on his boat because the patient missed being on the water. Our aides do a patient’s personal care with the utmost dignity and compassion and yet can make a patient laugh. Sometimes we sit and hold a family member’s hand in silence because there are no words. Whatever it takes, is what we do.”

For more information on Craven County Hospice, call 636-4930 or go online to