A Legacy of Caring

Hartford HealthCare has played a vital role in many of our lives, from the professionals who cared for us as infants to the first responders there for us when emergency strikes.

Sometimes those personal and professional relationships can be mutually interdependent. Here is the story of a physician who had devoted his professional career to caring for children, and on his final journey home, received the same high standard of care from one of his former patients.

Born in the Bronx in the depths of the Great Depression, Bill Henry graduated from Columbia University and Albany Medical College, where he met and fell in love with Elaine Slivonik, who was a nurse at Albany Medical.

They were married one week after Bill received his medical degree in 1963 and started his rotating internship at Hartford Hospital.

Although his work in Albany inadvertently exposed him to tuberculosis, he persevered, completed his pediatric residency at Mass General, served as a major in the U.S. Army in Vietnam, and returned to Connecticut to join the Hartford Hospital Staff in 1969.

Described by contemporaries as a “gentle giant,” Bill Henry engaged with the world around him in an exemplary fashion throughout his life. As recalled by a fellow member of the “Old Guard,” Bill’s deep, soothing voice was an essential feature of their barbershop trio.

Modeling the Rotary ethos “Service above Self,” Bill advised all the students he mentored to “balance career responsibilities with those of your family and to get involved in your community.” In addition to his involvement with the Glastonbury Rotary Club, Bill served on the boards of many local organizations, such as the YMCA, the VNA, the Welles-Turner Memorial Library, and, of course, Hartford Hospital.

During his 42 years as a private practice pediatrician in Glastonbury, Bill formed and nurtured strong long-term relationships with his patients and their families. Dr. Henry made it his custom to take a photo with each patient at their first office visit.

To distract and entertain those young patients during subsequent visits, he started wearing a yellow smiley face button. Over decades of interactions, his lab coat became festooned with other buttons—many of which were gifts.

When the COVID19 pandemic struck, Bill was already dealing with pre-existing health conditions—a vestige of his past tuberculosis and exposure to Agent Orange in Vietnam. In late March 2020, COVID-19 hit Bill hard, and he was admitted to the Bliss Wing on April 4. On April 9, he made it home only to return to Hartford Hospital yet again on April 22.

Nearly six weeks after exhibiting his first symptoms, Bill decided it was time to return home to be with his family where he could transition to the caring arms of Hartford Hospital Home Health and Hospice.

That final ambulance ride home was an especially painful one for Bill, but accompanying him on that ride was a young EMT named Shane. Recognizing Bill’s name, Shane realized that this was the same doctor with the smiley face button who had long ago cared for him as a child.

Throughout that final journey home, Shane provided his former pediatrician the same compassionate and loving care that his deep-voiced doctor had once given to him and his parents. Arriving at Bill’s home at last, Shane procured a photo from their first office visit together—and for a brief, poignant moment—the Henry family witnessed Bill’s pain subside.

Unfortunately, Bill lost his battle with COVID-19 on May 8, 2020, and the loss is still sorely felt by his family and friends, former patients and colleagues alike.

But the enduring example Bill set for a life well-lived will remain as an enduring gift to all those he served and loved.

In 2004, Bill and Elaine had decided to make a charitable gift to Hartford Hospital that would be to their benefit for the rest of their lives and ultimately to the hospital. At that time, they chose to defer the starting date for the income payments from their Deferred Charitable Gift Annuity to receive a higher annuity rate beginning upon their retirement. In 2017, they made another supplementary gift in exchange for a Charitable Gift Annuity with an immediate annuity payment.

Now that Bill has passed away, the charitable plans he made are still in place, and his gifts—both the continuing payments to Elaine for the rest of her life and the planned final distribution to Hartford Hospital—will continue for the benefit of all.

At this critical moment in history, perhaps now is a good time to talk with your advisor about the many opportunities to make charitable gifts that can work not only to your advantage but to a better future for our fellow citizens and our communities.

For more detailed information, please visit our Planned Gifts section, where you can find a variety of gift planning strategies and tactical suggestions.

We do not provide legal or tax advice, but we welcome the opportunity to have a conversation with you about your intentions and discuss where your generosity could have the greatest immediate and lasting impact, similar to Elaine and Bill Henry’s.