CRESTVIEW — Earlier in life, Masuko Gartman created hundreds of paintings that appear in private and public collections in the U.S. and abroad, particularly Japan, Canada and France.
These days, the 82-year-old, who can barely speak, lives at Carrington Manor in Crestview, where she uses a wheelchair and receives care for her declining health.
Masuko is one of 15 patients whom Sara Tyler, a registered nurse and Covenant Hospice case manager, visits per week. Tyler gives a head-to-toe assessment of each patient, verifies medication amounts, informs patients and their families about illnesses, and coordinates with physicians and pharmacies.
Covenant Hospice, celebrating its 30th anniversary this year, continues its tradition of comforting some 6,000 terminally ill patients and their families in Florida and south Alabama.
"Our mission is to ensure our patients live as fully and comfortably as possible, accepting all patients, regardless of the ability to pay," its website states.
"We go to wherever the patients are; that includes nursing homes, homes and hospitals," Tyler said.
It's a mission that the Gartman family appreciates, having received Covenant's care before.
"They did a great deal for us before our son passed away," Billy Gartman, Masuko's husband, said. "Anything we needed, they were there for us — anytime.
"We didn't have to ask for anything ... It couldn't have gone any better.
Eddie, the couple's son, died from pancreatic cancer in 2005 at age 48.
"No words can express how I felt. It was like the end of the world," Billy, 81, said.
Masuko took the loss of their son the hardest.
"To be honest, I don't think she ever got over it," he said. "It could be part of the reason she is in here."
Earlier in life, Masuko honored Eddie's 20-plus years in the U.S. Navy with "Night Fighter," a painting displayed in the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory in Mississippi.
"She did some portraits, but seascapes seemed to be more of her liking," Billy said.
Generosity and philanthropy accompanied her artistry.
She donated a painting of waves crashing on a sand dune beach to Carrington Manor.
In addition, she frequently donated her artwork to the annual Cox Cablethon, which auctions items donated from local businesses to benefit Covenant Hospice.
"She would set up during the show and paint," Tyler said. "It would be marvelous just to see her sit there and create a masterpiece."
Masuko has been Tyler's patient for the past two weeks. In that time, the two have grown close.
"She always has a smile when I come to visit," Tyler said.
"It's very rewarding for me to help people in the community," she said. "It makes you feel good."
Contact News Bulletin Staff Writer Matthew Brown at 850-682-6524 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @cnbMatthew.