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Holmes Mansion converts to hospice

Southern Oregon Friends of Hospice has purchased the stunning Holmes Mansion on Modoc Avenue in Medford, which, after remodeling, will open next year as the valley’s first residential-care facility specializing in care for hospice patients.

The 5,500-square-foot home, built in 1939 by Harry Holmes, co-founder of Harry & David, will serve a dozen residents from its location in the center of Holmes Park, said Susan Hearn, executive director of SOFH.

The colonial revival-style mansion was purchased April 21 for $1.3 million from Jay Beckstead, a Medford pathologist, who is retiring to Portland in October with his wife, Paula. During 18 years at the mansion, he single-handedly refurbished the previously overgrown gardens on the nearly 2-acre lot, he said, reviving them to the point that they became the centerpiece for the spring garden tour organized by Medford’s American Association of University Women.

The Friends of Hospice conducted a long search for the new facility, at first seeking to buy land and build, said Hearn, but they found it would be difficult to acquire an appropriate site and also that it would be more affordable to buy the fenced and gated mansion. Septic issues derailed a site in the country north of Ashland.

“This site is between two major hospitals in a park-like setting where patients and families may have a positive end-of-life experience,” said Hearn. It sits on a knoll in a vast bowl ringed by mountains, she added, much like the SOFH logo of two cupped hands. To the south, Mount Ashland is perched on the horizon above a view of the estate’s swimming pool, where a water therapist has volunteered to work with patients.

A fund drive for the project is raising money from donors, foundations and its Hospice Unique Boutique in Ashland, which, Hearn notes, often nets more than $700 a day. Visiting care providers include Asante Rogue Regional Medical Center, Providence Hospital, Asante Ashland Community Hospital, Lovejoy Hospice in Grants Pass — all nonprofits — and Signature Hospice of Central Point.

The mansion has five bedrooms and 6½ bathrooms. The interior remodeling will be minimal but will add some bathrooms, create more handicapped access and add a two-story patient wing.

The home was designed by Paul R. Williams of Hollywood, an architect who worked for many stars, including Lucille Ball, Frank Sinatra and Lon Chaney, she said. He was a rare African-American architect of the time and designed houses here for State Highway Commissioner Glenn Jackson and businessman E.A. Littrell.

“It has the quality of a hospice house, with lots of access to nature,” said Hearn. “A library sanctuary offers a spot for quiet reflection, alone or with family. The goal is to serve people at the end of their lives in the best way possible. The pool will be lovely for balance and pain control without danger of injury. … We do room, board and day-to-day personal care under the direction of the visiting hospice.”

Hearn said services will be covered by Medicaid long-term care, and SOFH expects half of its patients will be subsidized and half handled by private care. The estimated average stay will be 19 days, she added.

The mansion sits amid Holmes Park, which was a gift to the city of Medford in 1973 by Holmes’ son, John Holmes. The home is about a quarter-mile north of Hoover Elementary School. Walking trails are nearby, and the grounds have a so-called “philosopher’s tunnel” circling the perimeter through many rhododendron bushes.

The opening is expected in mid to late 2017.

Reach Ashland freelance writer John Darling at jdarling@jeffnet.org.

Jay Beckstead walks his dog, Asta, through one of the many gardens he created at the Holmes Mansion in Medford. Mail Tribune / Denise Baratta
The Holmes Mansion in Medford's Holmes Park will become a new hospice-care facility under the ownership of Southern Oregon Friends of Hospice. Mail Tribune / Denise Baratta