The Personal Touch: the Sawyers family’s hospice experience

Keith Sawyers

Keith Sawyers was a man of few words, but many skills. He was the kind of neighbor everyone wishes for – the kind who can fix just about anything and is happy to do it. He was the person others turned to for help and when the time came, EveryStep Hospice was there to help him.

Born in rural Winterset in 1929, Keith attended school there and studied agriculture at Iowa State University before he was off to the Korean War. Upon his return to Winterset, Keith went into farming with his father and farmed his entire life. Besides helping neighbors by fixing equipment, welding, and machining parts, he was an accomplished carpenter.

“He built many buildings on the farm with his dad,” remembers Mark Sawyers, Keith’s son. “In his later years of semi-retirement, he was a very accomplished woodworker, building furniture and also becoming very proficient on his wood lathe, turning some very cool projects.”

Mark feels fortunate to have moved back to Winterset with his wife 20 years ago because it enabled him to care for his parents in their later years. Keith became ill and his condition worsened in spring of 2020. Mark says the family had discussed taking care of his father at home, but soon realized the skills needed to care for his father were beyond their capability. “There is no way we could have [taken care of Dad] as well as the EveryStep staff did.”

Keith moved to EveryStep Hospice’s Kavanagh House on 56th Street in Des Moines on Memorial Day, May 25, 2020. “When Dad first entered hospice, I knew it was the right choice; the staff were all very friendly and caring people,” says Mark. “My brothers and I liked the atmosphere; it was clean and seemed more like a home than a hospital.”

That personal touch made all the difference for Mark and his brothers. “They all seemed to genuinely care for dad; they could always get a smile or laugh out of him even in his later days. I always felt at home every time I walked into the facility. The staff was always friendly - doctors, nurses, [spiritual care counselors], everyone. I stopped in over my lunch hour quite often. After talking to Dad and getting stories of the past and having discussions with the staff, I always walked out the door having a better day than when I walked in!”

Mark was impressed that EveryStep’s Kavanagh House staff took time to learn what his father liked to eat. “He was always of fan of pecan pie. The staff bought some just for him so he could have it anytime he wanted. That personal touch is huge.”

Keith Sawyers passed away December 22, 2020.  “My father was a man of few words, but he commented several times that he really liked the staff. He thought they were good people and I agree,” says Mark. “My brothers and I cannot say enough good things about the [EveryStep] staff; I enjoyed every single person I met and have nothing but kind words for all of them. They explained the entire process and the steps of death, and were there with us until the very end, thoughtful and professional.”

To learn more about care options for yourself or a loved one, complete EveryStep’s “Find Care” form at EveryStep staff will then call you to answer your questions and to see if your loved one could benefit from a free hospice referral visit.

To learn more about the services EveryStep Hospice offers, visit