Congratulations to Nancy Duesterhaus, one of our unsung heroes, who is retiring from the Pleasanton Nursing & Rehabilitation Center, where she has worked for four decades.

"In all her years of nursing, Nancy put our patients first," said Linda DeGennaro, who worked for 16 years with Duesterhaus and served as the master of ceremonies at her retirement luncheon earlier this month. "She didn't just arrive on time to work; she arrived early to make her rounds."

Duesterhaus began her career at the nursing facility as a licensed nurse, working her way up to director of nursing and eventually administering quality assurance, where she worked with the nursing staff to provide excellent service to the long-term care patients and to those visiting for short-term rehabilitation.

Attending the retirement luncheon along with the center's staff were former nurses and staff members who had worked with Duesterhaus over the years. Heartfelt remarks and a slideshow were among the festivities, and the gifts included a vintage bottle of wine from 1974, the year Duesterhaus was hired.

"She has seen many changes in health care over the years," said Lisa Foster, director of admissions. "She is a wonderful person, a competent nurse, and a never-ending patient advocate. We at the facility are very sad to see her go."

music to our ears: In my last column, I noted that Pleasanton's Thomas Hart Middle School jazz band will playing the national anthem at a White Sox game in Chicago in April.


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Not to be outdone, the school's symphonic band also has bragging rights because it is the only middle school band in the nation to be selected to play at the New York International Music Festival at Carnegie Hall in April 2015.

AND, while Hart is the only middle school selected, the Foothill High School Wind Symphony has also been accepted to perform at the same prestigious festival.

Students will be treated to a tour of New York City, including sightseeing at Rockefeller Center and the 9/11 Memorial. Imagine these students years from now at a dinner party casually asking, "Did I ever tell you how I played at Carnegie Hall?" Kudos to all our talented musicians!

life is short: And finally, here's a quirky story. I was recently given a human skull by a professor at Las Positas College, where I teach.

He gave me the skull because he is retiring and he noticed that I've been displaying on a bookshelf a somewhat realistic (but plastic) skull in the Renaissance tradition that reminds us of life's brevity. The professor told me the skull, which belonged to his grandfather, is female and at least 100 years old.

Then, just a few days ago, an anatomy professor who happened to be walking by my office suddenly stopped at my open door. I invited her to inspect the skull, and after a few moments she showed me the telltale signs that indicate the skull had been that of a young Asian woman, age 16 or 17.

Nameless, she sits wide-eyed as I write these words, keeping me company, silently reminding me, and now you, to live life to the fullest.

Contact Jim Ott at jimott@sbcglobal.net.