Remembering Dennis Rezendes, Nation’s First Hospice Administratorby Representative Rosa L. DeLauro
Posted on 2015-12-17
in the house of representatives
Thursday, December 17, 2015
Ms. DeLAURO. Mr. Speaker, earlier this year, our nation lost a giant
in the world of health care. Dennis Rezendes, one of the original
creators of hospice care, passed away in June at his home, surrounded
by family and friends and with care from the program he helped
The son of second-generation immigrant parents, Dennis was born in Fall River, Massachusetts and grew up during the Great Depression. Enlisting in the United States Air Force following his graduation from high school, Dennis served his country with honor and distinction for six years during which time, as a Grand Control Approach operator, he was involved in the U.S. side of the Berlin Airlift. Following his honorable discharge, he attended the University of Maine where he graduated in 1957 with honors and a Bachelor of Science Degree in Public Management. He went on to earn his Master of Government Administration degree from the Wharton School of Business and Finance and the Fels Institute of Local and State government at the University of Pennsylvania.
Among his many professional endeavors, Dennis served former New Haven Mayor Richard Lee as the Director of Administration and Budget Officer. It was during his time with the Lee Administration that I first got to know Dennis. He played an integral role in the rejuvenation of the City of New Haven, helping to initiate innovative programs designed to improve the physical and social state of the city and its residents.
Dennis' true passion was realized in 1974 when he joined a small group of doctors and nurses to create the first program of hospice care in the United States along with the construction of the first American hospice facility located in Branford, Connecticut. Dennis went on to found the National Hospice Organization where he served as its first Executive Director. He played a critical leadership role in the enactment of Medicare and Medicaid legislation and private insurance payment for hospice care as well as the enactment of innovative health legislation in Connecticut related to hospice care that was replicated in many other states.
His pioneering efforts were recognized by Presidents Carter and Reagan, former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Thomas ``Tip'' O'Neill, Senators Edward ``Ted'' Kennedy and Robert Dole as well as many others. Dennis' last effort in the hospice movement was the co- creation of Community Hospice Care in Anaheim Hills, California which grew to become the second largest program of hospice care in the country. Retiring in 1994, it is an understatement to say that Dennis left an indelible mark on our nation's health care system.
Above all else, Dennis was a deeply devoted family man. I extend my deepest sympathies to his wife, Beau; his daughter, Cheryl, and her husband Alan; his son Michael; his two stepsons Shane Hobart, and his wife Heather, and Seth, and his wife Nicole, as well as his six grandchildren August, Brook, Grace, Ethan, Eligh, and Jax.
Dennis Rezendes was an extraordinary man whose compassion and strong desire to make a difference changed the face of how we care for the terminally ill and their families in their last days. I consider myself fortunate to have known him and, like so many others, remain inspired by his vision and leadership. His is a legacy that will continue to touch the lives of those most in need for generations to come.