Shirley Leono, Oakville, unloads goodies in the cardiac staff break room.
Married for 32 years, Shirley and Michael Leono of Oakville were a close-knit couple. They even enjoyed cooking together – sort of.
“Mike would sit and serve as the taster,” Shirley clarified, and chuckled.
When Mike entered St. Anthony’s in the summer of 2012 as a patient in the Cardiovascular Intensive Care Unit, Shirley was impressed by the quality of care he received from the doctors, nurses and other employees.
“The staff was just tremendous,” she recalled. “He got the best care: I can’t say enough about them.”
After Mike died on July 6, 2012, Shirley was overwhelmed by grief. Her friends suggested she take a vacation, but Shirley felt that wasn’t the answer. She thought of the cardiac caregivers, who had become her friends.
“I knew they didn’t get to eat a lot when they were working with Mike,” she recalled. “When I couldn’t sleep at night, I’d go to my recipe book and think of ideas.”
The ideas came in droves. For the last 18 months, Shirley has used every holiday – and invented a few, besides– to treat the cardiac staff to everything from finger foods to full meals with dessert.
The caregivers know her as “Aunt Shirley,” said Brittney Vargas, R.N., B.S.N., Cardiac Medical ICU.
“She’s always so considerate, always thinking about what she can do for others,” Vargas said. “She has probably the biggest heart of anyone I’ve met.”
Shirley delivers each spread to St. Anthony’s in large coolers. She has become friends with the valets, who direct her to park near the entrance while she unloads the goodies in the break room. Each spread she crafts with the utmost care and detail—from coordinating napkins, plates and tablecloths to cheerful decorations.
“It’s been good therapy for me,” she explains.