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Dr. Jeff Kepple and daughters Kelsey, center, Natalie, right, and Claire, not pictured, will perform this Saturday, Nov. 5, at 7 p.m. at the Town Hall Theatre to raise funds for Plumas Community Hospice. Photo submitted

Kepple family reunites for Hospice Benefit Concert this Saturday

By Debra Moore

[email protected]

When the Kepple Family takes the stage Saturday night for this year’s Hospice Benefit Concert, it will mark 23 years since the very first event was held. A lot has changed — for example the three Kepple girls have grown up; but the most important aspect of the concert has not — it’s for such an important cause.

A portion of the program for the original benefit concert held back in 1999 (note the age of the girls). Photo submitted

Plumas Community Hospice is a volunteer organization that provides compassionate care services for patients who are nearing the end of their lives and their families. Dr. Jeff Kepple served as medical director for hospice for many years and played at that first concert back in 1999. His daughters joined him: Kelsey was 8 at the time; Natalie, 6; and little Claire; just 3. That first concert proved too much for Claire who ran off the stage.

That won’t be a problem this time. All three girls are now seasoned performers — singing as part of the Kepple Band, but also with their own bands and projects. However this year, Claire will be performing virtually. The youngest of the three sisters is earning her master’s degree in Oregon and will be unable to appear in person. She has prerecorded two songs and will be talking live with her dad and her siblings during the performance.

When asked if performing at the hospice concert holds special meaning for her, Claire said, “It definitely stands out.” She added, “It’s a cause that there’s no dispute over, and to see the support of the community is so special.”

While her two sisters perform in bands, Claire is focusing on musical theater and will be playing the role of Maria in The Sound of Music in December.

Meanwhile sister Natalie, who lives in Sacramento, is full-time into music. She teaches it by day, while evenings and weekends find her playing with Dear Darling, and a seven-piece band Solabel. The latter released its first single last week.

But she looks forward to performing with her family, which occurs more infrequently now than when all the girls lived at home. She remembers the hospice concert as one of their first group performances. “I was very nervous in those first years, but things like the hospice benefit were pivotal as a performer.”

In years past, the Kepple Family was joined on stage by other groups and performers, including Natalie’s husband, Garrett Hagwood. He will be unable to attend this year as he will be out of the area due to medical school rotations.

Kelsey, who works at Plumas District Hospital and plays in local ensembles, also looks forward to the concert. She and her dad have been able to play together more regularly since she lives locally.

Dr. Jeff Kepple said that this concert will feature some old favorites, some new songs, and some covers. “It will be a walk down memory lane,” he said of part of the performance. But even the old songs will have a new flair — the young voices have matured since they originally sang some of the songs.

Natalie is in awe of the amount of music her dad has written. She recently uploaded seven of his albums — each with 13 to 19 tracks on them. He estimates that he has another 25 songs that he would like to record.

When asked about his participation in the hospice event, which went into a five-year hiatus partially — do to his tenure as CEO of Plumas District Hospital, but also because of COVID. He is looking forward to performing and raising funds that benefit Plumas Community Hospice once again.

“It’s extra special because having been the medical director, I know where these funds are going,” he said. He describes it as a “privilege” to be with patients and their families as they transition out of this life. One of the songs that Kepple sings is called “Stars in Your Eyes” and is based on a poem written by Robert Muir in honor of his wife. Muir’s wife had Alzheimer’s and Muir wanted Kepple to know what his wife was like before the disease took hold. Later, Kepple also cared for Muir when he was near the end of his life. Kepple said there is an inclination for people to move away when someone is dying, but he said there “are glorious moments in the final days, final weeks. It’s a privilege.”

Shelley Morrison, who has been involved with Plumas Community Hospice for 22 years and is now a co-director with Sheila Vargas, describes it the same way. “When I’m with a family I feel really honored,” she said.

She said it’s her job to keep patients comfortable, peaceful and as pain free as possible, and likens the work to “being a midwife, but at the other end of life.” Morrison said it’s important for people to plan a bit in advance for that time. What does the patient want to eat? What kind of music do they want to listen to? Where do they want their hospital bed set up? Morrison said she cared for a man who wanted to watch John Wayne movies nonstop until he passed, while another only wanted to listen to Elvis Presley.

When hospice is called in at the very last stages of life, the family is usually flustered. “They don’t know what to do with their family member dies – do they call the sheriff? Do they call the mortuary?” Morrison said. “We walk them through all of that and provide a lot of guidance on end-of-life care.”

Plumas Community Hospice has about 10 volunteers who each spend a few hours a week providing care. Trainings are usually held in the spring and are now done in conjunction with Sierra Hospice. The local hospice organizations include Sierra Hospice, serving Chester and the Almanor Basin; Honey Lake, Susanville; Plumas Community, Greenville to Quincy; and the areas from Spring Garden to Portola, including Graeagle, are served by Truckee Meadows.

The only funding for Plumas Community Hospice comes through donations, and the benefit concert raises about $8,000. Ticket sales raise a good portion of the money, but so do the raffle tickets, which always includes the chance to win at least one quilt. Carolyn Kinney generously donates one of her quilts to benefit hospice. There are other prizes to be had as well.

The concert will be held at the Quincy Town Hall Theatre on Saturday, Nov. 5. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. and the music begins at 7 p.dm. Tickets are $20 each and are being sold at Plumas Arts, Quincy Provisions (Carey’s), Quincy Food Coop and on line at Plumasarts.org.

For more information about the concert or becoming a hospice volunteer, please call (530) 394-7228.

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