Profile of Tim Carpenter:
Longest Serving Hospice Volunteer

Tim Carpenter, owner and operator of Klingel-Carpenter Mortuary, is one of the kindest and most considerate people you’ll ever meet. He has a way of quickly putting people at ease and connecting with them. Maybe it’s because he’s a third-generation funeral home director, having grown up in a business that’s based on discretion, diplomacy and sensitivity to grieving families. Or maybe it’s because he is a lifelong Huntingtonian who cares deeply about the area and has spent his life supporting causes he believes in.

Beyond operating a well-respected business, Carpenter’s leadership has impacted the region in numerous ways. He has served in all positions of the West Virginia Funeral Directors Association (including the top post of president) and was awarded the WVFDA President’s Award for outstanding contribution and achievement. He also spent decades serving on boards and as an officer for many civic organizations. In fact, in 2010, Carpenter was inducted into the Greater Huntington Wall of Fame for his many years of community involvement.

An organization particularly near and dear to Tim Carpenter’s heart is Hospice of Huntington. He was asked to join the Board of Trustees in – wait for it – 1983, and he has been affiliated with Hospice ever since.

Carpenter admits that in his time as a Hospice volunteer he has served in every capacity at least six or seven times, from chair, vice chair, treasurer and secretary on the Board of Trustees to leading a committee or subcommittee. “It’s gone by fast,” he said. “We’ve accomplished a lot and Hospice has done so much for this community.”

Carpenter describes the Hospice of 1983 (one year after it launched) as “a two-person operation, along with a few volunteers.” He said at that time the organization relied solely on United Way funds and charitable donations. The biggest priority was to educate the public as well as the medical community on what Hospice was and what it did. “It was new, and people had misconceptions,” he said.

Another critical step was pursuing Medicare and Medicaid approval, he explained. When the federal programs became a payor source, Hospice of Huntington became self-sufficient and no longer needed United Way funding. This enabled the organization to hire more staff and expand services.

Carpenter also spoke about the Emogene Dolin Jones Hospice House (which opened in 2006) as an outstanding accomplishment during his tenure with Hospice. “We recognized we needed a location where people could go when family could no longer care for them 24/7 in their home. It was a huge undertaking, with intense fundraising efforts. But the community responded strongly. It’s a wonderful place that has helped so many.”

He added that the Hospice House is not just for people at the very end of life, but it also serves as a respite care facility. In this capacity, patients can receive the attention that they need while giving caregivers up to five days of break.

“Many people don’t realize this option is available,” he said. “Most insurance covers it. My family has taken advantage of this service, and it’s fantastic.”

A dog-lover, Carpenter talked about the therapy dogs that regularly visit the Hospice House. “We’ve had the dogs for about seven or eight years now. They visit the families and patients who want to see them, and it really puts them at ease. The dogs are comforting and give a feeling of home and normalcy.”

The most recent advancement for Hospice is the new Tri-State LifeCare program. “LifeCare is a home-based service that helps fill the gap for patients who have serious illness but aren’t enrolled in Hospice care,” he said. “It helps manage symptoms and reduces complications to improve quality of life. LifeCare can serve as a stepping stone to Hospice. Again, it’s an educational thing – we’re trying to inform the community about what it is and what it does.”

Carpenter said his grandmother and his father-in-law were Hospice patients. His grandmother received Hospice care in her home for five months in 1992. “The care was outstanding.” He said Hospice staff members kept a diary of conversations, verses they read to her from the Bible, visitors, meals and activities, and gave it to the family after her death. “She was my first family member to use Hospice services,” he said.

“In 2016, my father-in-law was in Hospice House for the last three weeks of his life, after he had received Hospice services in his home for several months. He died there. It was emotional when they put an American flag over his stretcher and saluted him as he was carried down the hallway. It’s part of the WE HONOR VETERANS program of Hospice. It’s very dignified. The family receives the flag afterwards.

“It gives you a new perspective when your family receives care from Hospice,” he said. “I’ve been on both sides of the fence now, as a funeral director, a Hospice volunteer, and as a family member. I can honestly say to a family – ‘I not only empathize with you, but I also sympathize with you, because I’ve been there.’ ”

Carpenter praised the Board and volunteers associated with Hospice of Huntington. “The Board of Trustees is set up so you have two successive terms of three years for a total of six years, and then you rotate off for a year. But that’s not the end of the story. We remain active on committees and subcommittees.

“There isn’t one board member who hasn’t been a superstar,” he asserted. “Hospice has incredible board members. They ask good questions, examine things carefully and make sound decisions. The committee members do most of the work and submit reports to the board. The committees are very active. The chairs take on activities that have special interest to them and they commit fully to seeing things through. After 37 years with Hospice, I can honestly say that it is a smooth, clean running operation.”