When Gary Maiers first read about News 8’s “Pay It Forward” contest, his nomination was an easy one.
“Immediately, Donna (Weeda) came to my mind,” says Gary. “She was really an inspiration all during this thing.”
Gary lost his wife, JoAnne, to lung cancer in February. Married for 43 years, Jo was Gary’s best friend who constantly “paid it forward” to others.
“JoAnne was the type of person that always helped everybody else, never selfish,” says Gary. “There wasn’t an evil bone in her body.”
Gary’s $300 is going to someone very similar to Jo and we surprised her at the same place where Jo worked as a nurse for 25 years – Trinity Hospital.
“When JoAnne first went into hospice, Donna was the one who said we need to make sure she has end-of-life medication,” says Gary. “She was with my wife when she actually passed away. She was the glue that held us together.”
Donna met Gary’s family through his daughter, Michelle. Donna and her family even visited them in Florida, where Gary and Jo spent the year together before Jo’s passing. And when that difficult time grew closer, Donna grew Gary’s faith by singing songs with him, reading him bible passages, and doing what she could to take away the sorrow and replace it with a sense of peace.
$300 or $3,000, the money could never match the other surprise Gary had for Donna on the day of our shoot. A beautiful quilt, made from Jo’s clothes and inspired by Donna herself.
“Right after JoAnne died, I was going through trying to get rid of some stuff,” says Gary. “I ddin’t want to have stuff and Donna, all of a sudden, started grabbing some of these clothes.”
“I told him I wanted to make a quilt,” says Donna. “There’s everything from her pajamas to her beach clothes to her swimsuits, so it is a walk through Jo’s life to look at the quilt.”
“Every time I look at something, I see something of her or it reminds me of a joyful time in our life,” says Gary.
Joy… for Jo, who is a reminder to all of us, and this Reporter, that life is meant to be celebrated especially when it’s paid forward itself.
“I guess we are nurses and so that’s our inspiration,” says Donna. “We’re caregivers by heart, but honestly – it’s sort of selfish to say but really – those people change your lives. They leave their hand prints and footprints on your heart and you take them with you the rest of your life.”
Donna is also a runner. She actually just ran a marathon this past weekend with Gary’s daughter. Donna says she’ll probably use her $300 to train for future races.
For more information on how you can “Pay It Forward” with the help of News 8 and Ascentra Credit Union, go to the top of WQAD.com and click on the “Contests” page.