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Home Away From Home

Men playing cards at a tableEugenio Cepero led his family out of Cuba in 1967, fleeing religious persecution under Fidel Castro. In the middle of winter, wearing only t-shirts and shorts, they got off a plane in Newark, New Jersey. “We came here penniless” remembers son, Jesus, who now serves as Vice President, Chief Operating Officer, and Chief Nursing Officer at Meritas Health, “foreign country, foreign language, no one that we knew; and tried to make our lives in this new world.”

Eugenio worked hard to support his family in their new country. Since he did not speak English, he became a laborer, cleaning barrels in factories. Despite having little, Eugenio’s philosophy was always to care for others. “He would give you anything,” Jesus recalls proudly, “anything he could share he would…My father was my hero.”

Eugenio’s health began to fail last autumn. Looking back, Jesus wishes they had contacted Hospice of Frederick County sooner. “Having been now in healthcare for 35 years, it wasn’t until I was actually going through it that I really understood,” he says; “I wish we had made that decision earlier… the care he got at Hospice is ultimately what we should have done more for him.”

At Kline House, Eugenio’s wife was able to spend all day beside her husband, and Jesus was even able to bring their dog to visit him there. “They really take care of patients – and families – at their most difficult times,” Jesus says; “It was just the perfect place for him to go. It felt like home.” It with gratitude that he shares his father’s story, not only of his time at Kline House, but of him, his life; the hero he was. It is Jesus’ hope to scatter Eugenio’s ashes in Cuba, the home from which he was driven. “One day,” says Jesus, “I will bring him back.”