Nancy found Sakura in her heart and wonders if you will too?

May is Leave a Legacy month! We are sharing Nancy’s story to spread the word about this special way to give back to VON Sakura House – through a gift in your Will.

If it weren’t for her courage, perseverance, tenacity, and her serious attention to detail, Sakura House might not be standing as it is today. Every cheque that paid an invoice to build Sakura House was written and recorded by Nancy Howse and signed by Nancy and Grace Breen. You see at the time, Nancy was the Treasurer of the Victorian Order of Nurses, Oxford Community Corporation Board of Directors. This group of non-profit directors were instrumental in making Sakura House a reality – including raising funds and obtaining a critical low-interest and flexible loan from Oxford County.

Nancy remembers how nerve-wracking it was in those times. “We were terrified. We didn’t know what it was going to cost to operate the Hospice and we had already borrowed $1 million for the construction costs. And, on top of that, picture two women being responsible for trying to understand the workings of the heating and cooling and mechanical systems?!” Nancy’s journey to join the Board wasn’t an accidental one. “I knew how important hospice care had been for friends I had worked with in Phoenix, Arizona and I couldn’t believe we didn’t have a hospice here in Oxford County. Being an accountant, I thought I could help..” She felt so passionate about the cause, she wrote an opinion piece in the local newspaper. Then, she put her name forward to the Board.

Nancy’s first experience with a hospice was in Phoenix when her friend’s Dad was in a hospice. “I remember there were conflicts within the family and she was so pleased to be able to visit with her Dad at the hospice, rather than at the family home. Then I learned more about it when one of my colleagues also had to go into a hospice. It never crossed my mind that hospices weren’t available in Ontario.” Nancy has had her fair-share of travels. From working in the Bahamas with her first husband for over four years, to spending 12 years in Phoenix, Arizona, Nancy says she has had “so many great experiences” in her life. Nancy’s time in Arizona would also become a big part of her mother’s life too. For seven years, her Mom would pack up her cat each year in December and spend four months in Arizona with Nancy and her two cats. Eventually in 2002 after it had become too difficult for her mother to travel, Nancy returned to Canada to look after her during the winter months. Nancy said “It was difficult for Mom to get around in the winter and I was worried about her driving her car in the snow.” Nancy moved back to Canada when her Mom was 87 years old.

When Nancy walked into Sakura House in September of 2009, she said it felt “amazing, and gratifying. I had such relief that it was finally open. But, it was scary too. Apart from Toyota, there wasn’t very much community support for the hospice at the beginning. We didn’t know for how long we could afford to keep it open. It was a real leap of faith.” After 11 years, Nancy says she is “so proud of Sakura House and also of the way our community now supports it. The Hospice has helped so many people. I believe it’s the best accomplishment of my life. I’m just sorry my Mom wasn’t able to be out there in her final days.”

Nancy continues to serve on the Board and her passion has driven her to leave a gift in her Will to VON Sakura House. She said it “made sense to me. I don’t have many close family members and I want to see the Hospice continue. I hope it is something that will be there for a long time.” What does Nancy want to say to other donors? “I hope that they find it in their hearts to consider it, knowing that it will benefit many individuals for years to come. It’s got to make you feel good. I hope they can see the importance of continuing to operate the hospice by helping to pay for the ongoing expenses. If they see the value, hopefully they can see leaving a legacy gift in their future too.” Sakura House is so lucky to benefit from Nancy’s leadership all these years and for this most generous gift in her Will.

If you are interested in learning more about leaving a gift in your Will to VON Sakura House, please visit this web page. Contact Trish Gergich, Manager, Fund Development if you have any questions at 519-476-8848 or

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