Your Stories: Local Man Granted Final Wish Day Before He Dies

By: Tim Elliott Email
By: Tim Elliott Email

Posted Sunday, November 14, 2010 --- 5:00 p.m.

A Columbia county man diagnosed with terminal cancer has one wish before he dies: to see his son graduate college.

Doctors told him he wouldn't make it that long but thanks to the help of some special people, his wish came true.

Back in March, doctors told 60-year-old George Salzwedel that cancer had spread all over his body.

His son Eric was set to graduate from UW-Oshkosh in December. But the school decided to push up Eric's graduation so a proud father could be there for his son.

21-year-old Eric Salzwedel had a close relationship with his father George.

“He was my hero, he was my pops,” said Eric.

Earlier this year, George was diagnosed with terminal cancer.

“That was horrible, that was a complete shock, it was like this can't be happening,”said George's widow Kay.

“I didn't want to believe it,” added Eric.

George's condition got progressively worse although you wouldn't be able to tell just by talking to him.

“He knew how to enjoy life and he knew how to just have fun.” said Eric.

But eventually George accepted: he was going to die.

“He says 'I'm not afraid to die, I'm not but what hurts is that I love you so much and I don't want to leave you and I don't want to leave the kids,” said Kay.

But before he did, George had one last request.

“We knew that his final wish was to see me graduate and that's what he got see,” said Eric.

And Gretchen Lambert helped make it happen.

“I thought to myself 'we're talking less than eight weeks away and this is a pretty incredible student here...why wouldn't they do this?” said Lambert.

Lambert works for SouthernCare hospice.

“This really epitomizes what we really want to do for patients and families,” said Lambert.

She called UW-Oshkosh on Thursday, October 28th. Just 5 days later, on Tuesday November 2nd, the school held a private ceremony in the Salzwedel's living room.

“It's hard to describe, you had to be here, I mean you just felt it. You just felt how proud he was,” said Kay.

“To do this for me, I can't tell you how thankful I am,” added Eric.

The morning after the ceremony on November 3rd, George passed away.

“I think he felt it was OK to go,” said Kay.

George may be gone, but the legacy he leaves behind, lives on with his family.

“It's too bad the whole world didn't know him because he was just one very, very special person, he really was,” said Kay.

Eric will officially graduate from UW-Oshkosh next month. He will receive a Bachelor of Science degree in Human Services. He says one day, he'd like to start his own non-profit organization.

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