Joe and Vera Zilber left an indelible legacy all over their beloved city of Milwaukee. Whether it’s the Zilber School of Public Health at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee or the Zilber Neighborhood Initiative; Joe and Vera ’s passion to make Milwaukee better is evident. And at Aurora Zilber Family Hospice, that commitment is literally written in the walls.
It was early 2002 when Joe and Vera first decided they wanted to help bring the hospice to life. In Joe’s book, “How I Built an Empire and Gave it Away,” he shares the hospice experience they had with their own son Jimmy, and Vera’s sister Joanie, had left a lasting impression. Joe was also eager to work with the program, now known as “Aurora at Home” to make it happen.
“(Aurora at Home) was a pioneer organization nationally in the area of hospice care. They go back more than 100 years, caring for the disabled, the elderly and the terminally ill. Both Vera and I were excited about the possibilities of helping out,” Joe wrote.
The Zilbers committed $1 million to create Aurora Zilber Family Hospice. It was the seed money that helped organizers secure the rest that was needed to complete the facility in just six months. Unfortunately, Vera wasn’t able to see the finished project. She passed away suddenly in October 2003 before the facility even broke ground. However, on a “hard hat” tour in 2004, Joe and about 50 other friends and family members– some of them donors as well– got out pencils and each wrote their own special message to Vera on the drywall in an unfinished sunroom of the building.
“Vera, What a tribute to your family in this beautiful setting! May the patients who come here feel your welcome and the eternal blessings of God!” That was the message from Art Wigchers, who was the President of Zilber, Ltd. at the time, and his wife Mary Ann.
“The written messages would be preserved for years and years within the hospice walls. In a way, those messages gave the hospice a soul,” Joe wrote.
And 10 years later, Vera’s warm welcome has been felt by over 5,000 families. Joe himself was even brought to Aurora Zilber in 2010 when his health quickly deteriorated on a plane ride to Wisconsin from Hawaii. Joe’s daughter Marcy Jackson says her parents would be truly proud to see what their gift has become.
“My mother was a graceful, elegant and caring woman who made everyone feel at ease and comfortable. My father was a playful yet practical man. The hint of laughter in his voice and the twinkle in his eye were as much a part of him as his readiness to move on to the
next adventure. My parents’ legacy lives on in what the staff and volunteers at the hospice do so well – bringing grace and comfort to ease the way for people nearing the end of life,” says Marcy.
To make a gift to support Aurora Zilber Family Hospice, contact Judi Strout at (414) 615-5935 or email email@example.com.