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Tom and George

An Enduring Friendship

Volunteer Tom Ciha began visiting an Ohio’s Hospice LifeCare patient named George at a local nursing home about six months ago. George was 96 years old and was diagnosed with end-stage heart disease. He also had Alzheimer’s disease, but his cognitive decline had not progressed to the point where it impeded his social abilities. George and Tom immediately gravitated to one another. They had wonderful conversations. On his first visit, and every visit thereafter, George told Tom the story of his relationship with a young financial advisor named Walter.

Decades earlier, Walter had assisted George in setting up part of his retirement income to benefit an orphanage in India. The process was complicated and took quite a bit of time and effort. George and Walter became fast friends. Every week when Tom visited George, George would say, “I sure wish I could talk to Walter one more time.” It turned out that the Walter in question was Walter Bettinger, the CEO of Charles Schwab Financial Services. 

Tom felt he needed to try to contact Walter to see if he would be willing to give George a call. He didn’t want to tell George what he was planning, because Tom was afraid that he wouldn’t actually be able to reach the man, or that the memory of their association would not be as important to Walter as it was to George. But Tom felt he needed to try, so he wrote a letter.

Tom put the letter in the mail on a Tuesday. It reached Walter at Charles Schwab headquarters in San Francisco on a Thursday. On Friday, Walter flew from San Francisco to Cleveland, rented a car, and drove to Wooster to see George. Walter probably had a few other things on his calendar that Friday. But it seems none were as important as seeing George again.

George and Walter spent the day together. They talked for hours. George told Tom that Walter knelt at his bedside and prayed with him. 

When George died, Tom texted Walter to tell him of George’s passing. Walter texted back, “This morning, God welcomed into his arms one of his most deserving servants.”

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