Through their support of St. Jude, the Plooy family memorializes a gentle, caring man.
JoAnne Plooy’s late husband, Henry W. Plooy, was deeply committed to helping children who were battling serious illnesses, and she continues his legacy as a dedicated supporter of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
While undergoing treatment for mesothelioma in a Boston hospital, Henry saw children coming for their own cancer treatments. According to his wife, he was touched by their innocence and hated to see them suffering.
“My husband wanted to help the children,” says JoAnne, who lives in Wisconsin. “He thought of St. Jude a lot when he was in the hospital, and I have carried on his wishes.”
Sadly, Henry lost his battle with cancer in 2009 at age 70. As a tribute, JoAnne made a generous gift to dedicate the Activities of Daily Living Kitchen in the Department of Rehabilitation Services to his memory. This special kitchen is used by therapists to help children learn or relearn how to perform everyday activities, when illness or its treatment has affected normal functioning.
The tribute to Henry seemed especially fitting, as the Plooys’ kitchen had always been the heart of their home and a gathering place for their six children and now 15 grandchildren.
JoAnne considers herself fortunate that many of her grandchildren live nearby. She enjoys helping with the children and especially going camping with them. She is proud that her husband’s passion for caring for children has continued within their family: Two of the couple’s teenage grandchildren have chosen each year to donate a portion of the proceeds from the 4-H sale of their animals to St. Jude.
Originally from California, the Plooys moved to Wisconsin 29 years ago, where they purchased a dairy farm. “My husband milked cows until he was 67 years old,” JoAnne says proudly. Two of the couple’s sons worked on the farm alongside their father.
The couple sold their large dairy farm nine years ago, but JoAnne says her husband was not quite ready to retire.
“After we sold the farm, Henry worked part-time delivering cattle, and I used to enjoy traveling with him, all over the state,” she says. She returns to California to visit family every year.
Although she has not yet visited St. Jude, she shares her husband’s commitment to helping the children.
“St. Jude is close to my heart,” Joanne says. “I think it’s a wonderful cause.”
JoAnne finds it especially meaningful that St. Jude covers all the costs associated with a child’s treatment—including travel, housing and meals. She recalls how much she had to spend on a hotel room and meals while she was in Boston with her husband during his treatment. “You don’t think about how quickly the costs add up,” JoAnne says.
“It’s wonderful that St. Jude helps so many children,” she adds. “And they are helping the families, too.”
Abridged from Promise, Winter 2014