Villa Marie Claire

Wesley Grove - Villa was his port in the storm

Wesley and Zsusza Grove had a storm raging around them and they needed some type of mooring. Wesley was dying from bladder cancer and they needed a respite from all the treatments and antiseptic environment of the hospital. Their home, in France, was too far for Wesley to make the trip back.

They knew he needed hospice care but staff members in the New York hospital where Wesley, 65, stopped treatment, were pushing a hospice center that just didn't feel right, said Zsusza.

They were not only dealing with the emotional anguish of stopping medical treatment and searching for hospice care, but had to cope with Superstorm Sandy, which hit at the same time. They felt battered and adrift.

And then they found Villa Marie Claire in Saddle River.

"It was so gorgeous and comforting," Zsusza said. "We knew as soon as we pulled into the parking lot. It was our port in the storm, in so many ways. It was such a hard, emotional time but things started getting better and better once we were there. And they looked out for me as much as they did Wesley - they would ask me if I ate because they didn't see me in the dining room."

But Zsuzsa was taking her meals with Wesley whenever possible. One of the deciding factors of moving to the Villa was the ability to stay with Wesley. That was non-negotiable for Zsuzsa.

"They offered me a room upstairs - all the families are able to stay in a room if they prefer - but I wanted to be with Wesley, in his room," Zsuzsu said. "These were our last days together. We were married for 37 years and I wanted to be with him as much as possible."

Wesley, born in Massachusetts, had been an international banker with the company that became JP Morgan Chase Bank. He had built a comfortable life for his family, which included his Hungarian-born wife, Zsusza and their daughter, Orsolya. They had traveled the world and lived in Vietnam, Hong Kong, Japan, and Texas. Twelve years earlier, he retired and the couple purchased a small winery in the Bordeaux region of France.

Life was good, had been for a while. But when he was 60, Wesley developed what was initially diagnosed as a kidney stone. When he didn't improve, they flew to New York for further testing and learned he had bladder cancer. Three years of commuting from France to New York for treatment didn't wear him down emotionally, though it failed to wipe out the disease.

"He was such a strong man," Zsuzsu said. "I'm not happy with the treatment he received in the hospital but at the Villa, it was the best experience you could have under the most horrendous circumstances. It was the last days of my husband's life and I can't tell you how important it is for patients and their families to have a place to anchor your sinking boat in the storm."