Luther Woods resident forecasts sunshine, meets local weatherman
John Kennard, 92, keeps an eye on the weather all the time. It’s in his blood—he served as a meteorologist for most of his adult life.
At his home at Luther Woods Nursing and Rehabilitation, in Hatboro, Pennsylvania, his friends call him John John, and they recently got together to give him the day of his life: Getting to meet his local on-screen TV hero, Philadelphia’s WPVI Channel 6 meteorologist Adam Joseph.
Every morning, Director of Activities and Volunteers Randie Duretz, ADC/HCC/EDU/MC/CDP/CRT/AP-BC/CCCI, takes Kennard to the office, where he broadcasts the announcements to the senior living community: “Good morning, this is John John, the Luther Woods weatherman with today’s weather.” Kennard always delivers the weather with acumen, acquired from spending much of his life serving as a meteorologist for the U.S. Navy and Coast Guard.
Duretz came up with the idea of taking Kennard to the city TV station when she saw him one day in his room, wistfully turning the pages of a photo album. Snapshot after snapshot showed him in his prime, when he was a weather forecaster for the military and taught his service buddies about the weather. “If I’m lucky and the weather is on my side, I’ll have all the memories I’ll need, just sitting here at my window,” Kennard quietly said to her.
But, Duretz knew she could make something special happen. She wrote to The Twilight Wish Foundation in Doylestown, Pennsylvania and asked for a wish fulfillment day for her special resident. A few weeks later, the answer arrived—YES!
When the big day arrived, the entire community joined in the celebration. Duretz arrived extra early to arrange 100 balloons, specially made T-shirts, congratulatory posters and a red carpet in the hallway. Two representatives from the Twilight Wish Foundation came to help with the send-off as Kennard, his daughter, Duretz and other staffers drove nearly an hour to the WPVI Channel 6 studio in downtown Philadelphia.
WPVI’s Adam Joseph gave John a handshake and a big hug. “It brought tears to all those standing around,” Duretz says. “Adam and John started talking like they were friends, buddies from the past. They spoke about the weather, fishing, canning vegetables, and much more.”
Kennard took several photos with his role model to add to his photo album, and even got to watch a live broadcast from the sidelines. Joking with those around him, Kennard delivered his own weather report with his usual comical twist: “It will be 82 degrees, sunny with a breeze. You can open the windows, but don't jump out.”
When they returned to Luther Woods, Duretz asked Kennard what the day had meant for him. “Wow, I'll wake up tomorrow think it was a dream. It really was my dream, and so many people made it happen."
Later, WPVI’s Joseph posted on his Facebook page: “What an honor. Thank you, Commander John!!! A feel good story!!! Every day is a gift! Every morning we wake up we should think to ourselves ‘how can I make a difference in just one person’s life today.’ Yesterday Commander John who is 92 years young, served in the Navy and Coast Guards where he taught Meteorology and was a certified Meteorologist and still to this day gives his forecast and report over the loud speaker at Luther Woods Nursing and Rehabilitation Center. I found out yesterday there is something called Twilight Wish Foundation, basically a make a wish foundation for seniors!
I found out John's only wish in life was to meet me. I am tearing up again even thinking about this! He has watched me for years and never misses one of my forecasts.”
Taking the time and effort to make special things happen for residents is what resident-centered care is all about, Duretz says. "Life doesn't stop when you move into Luther Woods Nursing Home. I try to bring residents’ past, present and future to and for them while they’re living at our facility. Once I found out about John’s past, I had him continue it into the present by having him announce the weather over the intercom on a daily basis." Commander John won't be giving up his weather forecasting any time soon, Duretz added: “We also plan to have John run weather classes for the rest of the residents starting in September.”
All photos provided by Randie Duretz, Luther Woods.
Pamela Tabar was editor-in-chief of I Advance Senior Care from 2013-2018. She has worked as a writer and editor for healthcare business media since 1998, including as News Editor of Healthcare Informatics. She has a master’s degree in journalism from Kent State University and a master’s degree in English from the University of York, England.