Karen Nelson was devastated early last year when her husband of 37 years died.
Not only was she faced with a huge emotional loss, she was worried about having to sell the home they had lived in since 1973 because she could no longer maintain it.
“Gordy was a great guy who took care of everything around the house,” said Nelson, a registered nurse at Spokane Valley Ear, Nose and Throat. “I don’t think I could have stayed in my home if Todd and Suzie Standish were not across the street watching over me.”
The Standish family and the Nelsons became neighbors more than a decade earlier when They moved into a rancher in 1997, when their son, Shawn, now 12, was barely a toddler, and daughter, Ashley, now 18, was pondering her new elementary school.
“Karen and Gordon watched our kids grow up. They were like grandparents” said Suzie Standish, 39.
“Gordy and I never had children,” Karen Nelson said, “so Todd and Suzie have been such a blessing.”
When Gordon Nelson’s heart condition began to deteriorate in mid-2006, the Standish family stepped up to the plate.
“My husband was very ill before he died,” Nelson said, “and Todd was a big part of our Hospice support team.”
Todd Standish’s early shift at Eastern Washington University allowed him to be home by noon. Each day he would take that short walk across the street to visit Gordon Nelson when Karen was working.
“We mostly just sat and talked,” said Todd, 41. “We were close anyway, but that was a wonderful time getting to know him better. Sometimes we would just laugh until our sides hurt.”
Part of their special bond was forged over tools and a workbench – both men loved to tinker.
Gordon, a professional sign painter, had a large basement workshop, and during good weather he frequently worked in his garage with the door open.
“We were always going back and forth to each other’s shops,” Todd Standish recalled. “He was extremely helpful and I learned a lot from him.”
Since Gordon Nelson’s death in January 2007, Todd Standish has helped with repairs around the Nelson house. Shawn, Ashley and Suzie lend a hand with yard work and snow removal.
One day last winter, when Karen Nelson came home from work, she discovered that Todd and Shawn Standish had hung her outdoor Christmas lights. Recently they helped assemble her new barbecue grill.
“We certainly don’t want Karen to move because she feels she can’t take care of the house,” Suzie Standish said. “There are plenty of us to help, and we wouldn’t have it any other way.”
Nelson said she doesn’t know how to repay the Standishes for all their help.
“They don’t want money,” she said, “so I bake lots and lots of cookies and zucchini bread.”
“I swear she brings over the most delicious things a couple of times a week,” Suzie Standish said. “It is wonderful.”