A Life of Love and Service to the End

A portrait of ARTZ participants Nora and Bill smiling
Nora and Bill, Photo Credit: Raymond W. Holman Jr.

“Dementia is terrible, terrible… But you got it? You gotta do something with it.” – Bill D.

When Bill and Nora Dougherty first joined our ARTZ @ Jefferson program in the Spring of 2017, Bill had recently retired from serving as a Thomas Jefferson University Hospital pharmacist for over 30 years, He had also been diagnosed with dementia. Bill and Nora had learned about us through his doctor, and as Nora would say in an interview after that first semester with the program, they decided that they had nothing to lose by giving it a try. In Bill’s three years of “giving it a try,” he served as a mentor and as a figure of kindness, generosity, dignity and humanity to five students, most of whom were themselves studying to become pharmacists and felt particularly privileged to learn from him. By the time Bill “retired” from ARTZ @ Jefferson, the whole family had gotten involved – Bill and Nora’s son Derek had also served as a mentor in the program. Such was the impact his father’s joy at connecting with the students had had on him.

Occupational therapy doctoral student Sonny M and Bill
Occupational therapy doctoral student Sonny M and Bill, Photo Credit: Raymond W. Holman Jr.

Over the years, Bill and Nora, Derek and Bill’s brother Hugh also participated regularly in many other ARTZ Philadelphia programs. Bill was always a source of inspired insights about the works of art at which we all looked together; and he was also always a source of good-natured playfulness and humor – even when he hadn’t been feeling quite like himself when he’d first walked through the doors into the museum gallery.

Pharmacy student Elma T. with Bill
Pharmacy student Elma T. with Bill

The Dougherty family was a cherished part of the ARTZ Philadelphia family. Even as Bill transitioned from living at home to living in a continuing care community, he kept his place in our hearts and minds as Nora continued to hold his and her seats in our community. The outbreak of COVID-19 separated Bill and Nora physically for nearly six months; but she and the rest of the family were with Bill in his final days, easing his journey to eternal rest. Nora reflected on his passing in the early morning hours of August 14, 2020: “He is in Paradise now.”

Pharmacy student Renata S. with Bill
Pharmacy student Renata S. with Bill

This fall, nearly four years since Nora and Bill first learned about our ARTZ @ Jefferson program, Nora will take her place with the other mentors, as she has done almost every semester since Spring 2017. And Bill will be there too, still mentoring and changing the lives of young health professionals through his legacy. Learn more about Bill and Nora’s experience as mentors in the ARTZ @ Jefferson program: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MajWjPl2jGE