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Long-Time Hospital Volunteer Bud ‘The Candy Man’ Wesley Remembered by Friends of Strong

Bud (Leonard) Wesley, husband, grandpa, friend and longtime Strong Memorial Hospital volunteer, died peacefully Oct. 31 at the age 77 surrounded by family and friends.

Bud Wesley cheesing it up for the camera at the Friends of Strong office, circa 1996.A giant among his peers, Bud was well known throughout the Friends of Strong (FOS) volunteer program and the hospital’s adult Intensive Care Units, serving in the program for more than 24 years, driving twice weekly from his home in Bristol to provide an open ear to patients and families who just needed someone to talk with, as well as passing out fresh hot coffee, tea, snacks and other comfort items. In total, he’s given nearly 16,000 documented hours and countless memories of his beaming smile, compassion, and exemplary dedication to our patients, families and staff.

Bud’s interest in volunteering began when, only a few weeks shy of an early retirement, he found himself in an ICU waiting room with no one to talk to. His mother was a patient and he found comradery with the families of other patients—many of which shared the sentiment that they wished there were hospital staff that could be there to help them pass the time. 

It was then that Bud decided to fulfill those very wishes. Not having any firm plans of what to do with his newly earned time, he soon became a Friends of Strong Memorial Hospital volunteer, offering just the services he and those other families had wished were available while they were sitting in the waiting room. 

Bud Wesley giving it his all on the Neuromedicine ICU, Feb. 2019.Bud understood the patient perspective and sought to provide an unparalleled level of reassurance to those he’d meet. “It’s a real blessing to be able to make things a little easier for families who are especially under stress or facing hard things. I guess I maybe have that grandfatherly thing. Sometimes it’s just to listen, sometimes it’s a shoulder to cry on, and sometimes it’s to break up family feuds,” he’d say with a smile.

Until just weeks ago, he’d volunteer in Patient Discharge in the morning, after which he’d bring his coffee, candy and snack cart up to families in the Intensive Care units. He took his “job” very seriously, with dedication that earned him the nicknames “the Candy Man” and "the Coffee Guy."

Bud with his family at the 2019 Rochester Business Journal Health Care Achievement Awards reception, March 2019.Bud exemplified patient- and family-centered care, as well as Strong Memorial Hospital’s ICARE values, earning quite a few ICARE Stars recognizing his commitment to providing exceptional service to patients and their families, as well as the Health Care Achievement Award for Volunteerism from the Rochester Business Journal (2019), and the Dove (2000) and Elizabeth Crozier (2017) awards for courteous, respectful and long-term service to patients, families, staff and fellow Friends of Strong volunteers. He frequently served alongside high school and college student volunteers in Patient Discharge and was gifted at leading by example for volunteers of all ages.

“With his beaming smile and compassionate heart, Bud made everyone's day brighter when he came to volunteer on Wednesdays and Thursdays each and every week,” said Sandy Arbasak, director of Friends of Strong Memorial Hospital. “He’d push his coffee cart from unit to unit bringing peace and strength to those in need."

Mike Apostolakos, M.D., chief medical officer and vice president of the University of Rochester Medical Center, met Bud as Director of Strong’s Adult Critical Care program in 1997, and describes Bud as a fixture within the adult Intensive Care Units. “I’ve witnessed his caring and comforting support to our patients and their families first-hand on countless occasions and, without a doubt, Bud’s regular visits with coffee and treats to the families of our most critically ill patients was invaluable,” he said. “Bud was kind, gentle and calming just with his presence.

Whenever questions of uncertainty were brought to him, he provided additional comfort while also guiding families to the appropriate nurses or staff to answer their concerns. It was common to hear families refer to him as their friend and an advocate for their loved one.”

Bud, and wife Kay, at a celebratory reception in honor of his Health Care Achievement Award for Volunteerism, March 2019.“Words cannot express how much we loved and appreciated Bud—his kindness, loyalty and commitment to our community was unwavering,” added Arbasak. “I can only imagine how many lives he’s touched over the years. He will be greatly missed by all who knew him.”
Bud also served as a firefighter, volunteering with his hometown fire department, and frequently supported community events, especially the church benefit dinners, which he made a point to invite friends and family to attend.

Bud is survived by his wife, Kay, daughter Deborah (Bobbie) Ott, son Gregory (Stacy) Wesley, six grandchildren and three great grandchildren. Bud was predeceased by his daughter Lisa Fox.

A memorial service will be held on Tuesday, Nov. 5 at 7 p.m. at the United Church of Bristol, 7177 County Rd. 2, in Bloomfield.

An obituary is published on the Fuller Funeral Home website.

Pictured, from the top: Bud at the FOS office sometime in the 1990s; Bud with his coffee cart of goodies in Feb. 2019; Bud at the 2019 RBJ Health Care Achievement Award Ceremony (from left: son Greg, Bud, wife Kay, daughter Deborah, son-in-law Bobbie, and a family friend); Bud with wife Kay at a hospital reception celebrating Bud's award in March 2019.


Matt Ulakovic | 11/4/2019

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