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January 5, 2014

Good Deeds: Volunteer also speaks about caregiving

Four days out of the month, Duane Smith reads children’s books to preschoolers and first-graders at Wichita elementary schools.

Four days out of the month, Duane Smith reads children’s books to preschoolers and first-graders at Wichita elementary schools.

The books once belonged to his wife, Pat, who ran a preschool in the family’s basement. Since her death last February from Alzheimer’s disease, Smith has continued caring for others.

“It doesn’t occur to me to not do it,” he said of his volunteer work.

Smith, 82, said he volunteers about 24 days out of the month with various organizations, including Meals on Wheels, Ronald McDonald House, the Alzheimer’s Association and others.

Fourteen years ago, Smith said, he became a full-time caregiver for his wife as the Alzheimer’s took over. In the final years of her life, his wife stayed in a nursing home, where Smith fed her lunch, cleaned her teeth and kept her company.

His devotion to his wife was recognized by several organizations, and he now speaks about caregiving to various groups.

Smith said he once heard the phrase, “Leave the woodpile higher than you found it.”

“People like to add wood to the pile of life,” he said. “You’ve got to feel good about your life.

“I’ve learned over the years that I feel better doing those things.”

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