CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. -- Cherished recollections hang in Tom Hoekstra’s garage. A florescent uniform and hat hang in the corner of his Chesterfield garage.
“It's just a good old memory of the good old days of Motorist Assistance,” said Tom Hoekstra. "The satisfaction lasts a long time.”
It's a colorful reminder of the best job he ever had and friendships made. The 81-year-old spent 17 years as a member of Motorist Assistance.
“It was really something I looked forward to,” said Tom.
Coming to the aid of drivers broken down or out of gas, the retired engineer wasn’t paid a penny.
“Gets inside you and makes you feel good,” said Tom.
When he wasn’t helping people on the side of the road, the Chesterfield man was assisting neighbors on Woodlake’s Board of Directors and volunteering at the polls.
“What is today going to bring. What opportunity will I have today,” said Tom.
He has volunteered more than 8,000 hours in his retirement. Added up that is 333 days dedicated to strangers.
Tom’s efforts aren’t going unnoticed. He was just elected to the Chesterfield County Senior Volunteer Hall of Fame.
“It means a lot when you’re recognized for the volunteering that you do,” said Tom.
But spending his time and energy at every turn has been derailed by illness.
“Ten years ago, in 2010, I was diagnosed with colon cancer,” said Tom.
Recently, the cancer returned to his lungs. Tom had to hang up his uniform which makes him feel blue.
“Oh yeah. It hurt. I loved the job so much,” said Tom. “I was so sorry when I had to give it up last year. My legs couldn’t handle it. I didn’t want to endanger myself or someone else.”
Still, during his bout with his incurable illness, Tom is thinking of others using his pen. His poem Masked Angels is dedicated to the nurses at Sarah Cannon Cancer Institute at Johnston Willis Hospital.
“It just flowed like it was natural,” said Tom. “Their smiles seem endless day to day. They wash our fears away.”
The man hardwired to help others marvels at the nurse’s dedication.
“They lift us up. Help us cope fill our minds with joy and hope,” said Tom. “I’ve been under their care every two weeks for the last three years.”
Tom says his poem is the least he could do.
“They’re amazing. They’re amazing. I can’t say enough about them,” said Tom.
He presented his written gift to the staff during the holidays.
“Everyone going in there has a major problem going on but somehow they make you feel better,” said Tom.
These heroes are allowing this volunteer to carry on his life’s mission of helping others.
“The fill the bill and pass the test our masked angels are the best. And I really mean it,” said Tom.
Tom Hoekstra says giving back might just be the best medicine.
“It keeps me going. I keep looking for ways that I can maybe lift other people a little bit. Make things better for other people,” said Tom.
Amazing heroes, one and all
Our “Mask”---ed angels heed the call
They risk their health to help us live
What more could they be asked to give?
Strong dedication………….matched by few
They love their patients, old and new
They check us in, they check us out
Those IV tubes twist all about
They punch those buttons with great skill
When beepers beep, they can’t sit still
They don those flowing gowns of blue
With such a lively, glowing hue
A hundred latex gloves each day
To hold those nasty germs at bay
Their smiles seem endless, day-to-day
They help us wash our fears away
In recent months, their smiles, unseen
Those Covid masks, help keep us “clean”
But even with their masks in-place
You still can sense a smiling face
Their eyes just glow with joyful beams
Our cares just melt away like dreams
No mask can stop our love for them
These “Mask”---ed ones; each one a gem
They lift us up, they help us cope
They fill our minds with joy and hope
They fill the bill, they pass the test
Our “Mask”---ed angels are the BEST!
Tom Hoekstra December 2020
Greg McQuade features local heroes in a weekly “Heroes Among Us” segment. Watch Greg’s reports Thursdays on CBS News at 6 or here on WTVR.com. If you would like to nominate someone to be featured on “Heroes Among Us,” click here to email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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