John Parks Shares Time, Talent, and Music as OLP Volunteer


When clients call John Parks for help, he doesn’t hesitate to answer. As a volunteer with our Highland Block Nurse Program (HBNP), he compassionately shares his time and handyman skills with clients who need him. He also lends his landscaping skills to assist our outdoor care team at the Our Lady of Peace (OLP) Hospice Residence. 

A Star Tribune article on the 80th anniversary of OLP reminded John’s mother of the hospice care her husband received when her five children were young. Reading the story brought John back to the door of OLP in 2021. “I wanted to give back,” he said. “My only memory of my dad is the ambulance taking him away, but I have more memories of my brothers running around OLP 

and being caught by the sisters in the chapel! I love that sisters still care for patients there.” 

As a hospice nurse at St. Joseph’s, John’s mom took her children there to sing Christmas carols for patients and staff. “As a child, I didn’t like being in a hospice setting,” John said. “But I love it now because I know how important hospice and palliative care is for people.” 

John began his work outdoors at OLP, then added the role of patient companion. After a few months, his daughter passed away, making it difficult to sit with patients near end-of-life, so he connected to HBNP. Now, he drives clients to medical appointments, uses his handyman skills when needed, and spends time just hanging out and providing companionship.

One of John’s clients shares his name, and together they sing the blues. “John Lesneau loves music,” said John Parks. “I play guitar and mandolin, and he sings and plays the harmonica.” Transportation to medical appointments, running errands, and installing a hand railing on a steep staircase has also benefited John’s client, along with jumping in to solve problems. John Parks, “John had wasps in his car, and I tried to get them out. They repeatedly chased me through the yard. I’m sure anyone watching got a good laugh!”

John drives an hour from his home, 10 miles east of River Falls, WI, to see John Lesneau. He typically rolls it in with visits with his “daughters who have daughters,” and playing music with friends, in addition to John. After retiring from teaching in Cottage Grove, John Parks purchased 60 acres of Wisconsin land. “I always wanted to be a forest ranger,” he says. “I planted over 18,000 trees across 18 acres of my property.” John also looks forward to getting back outside at OLP this spring. He said, “I’m ready to tackle the buckthorn!”

“John Parks volunteers with HBNP because he wants people to remain in their homes for as long as possible. He said, “I live by myself as well, and I feel isolated. Visiting John gets me out of the house, so it’s good for me as well. The people are very appreciative, and that’s a good feeling, especially after years of teaching.”

April is Volunteer Appreciation Month. We are grateful for John Parks, and all our OLP volunteers.