Submitted by Sharon Davidson, CVA
Senior Director of Community Engagement

On October 16th, any person driving past the Big Bend Hospice (BBH) offices would not have been able to ignore the abundance of vehicles in the parking lot – the variety of which was reflective of those gathered inside to share memories of Elaine Bartelt. 

Elaine spent her life dedicated to what she valued most: using her knowledge and experience to benefit others. Described as both loving and “a very driven person” by her daughter, Sallie Bartelt Dixon, Elaine seemed destined to positively impact the people around her. 

Whether it was the annual weekend-long Christmas cookie-baking fiesta with her children or the frequent heartfelt chats with friends over coffee at the kitchen table, Elaine lived what she believed – being available for those she loved and who loved her.

That included the people of the Big Bend. Once she and her husband Carl made their way to Tallahassee in 1974, they embraced our little portion of the Sunshine State. Carl went to work at the former Department of Health & Rehabilitative Services (HRS), and Elaine worked at the Apalachee Center. During that time, Elaine also became a Seminole and earned both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in social work and counseling, respectively. 

After more than a decade of helping others at Apalachee Center Elaine was asked to serve as Director of BBH. Board members explained that BBH needed a strong and steady hand to guide the organization into what everyone dreamed it could be. So began Elaine’s 16 years of directing the growth and health of BBH.

In those early days, it was all hands on deck no matter the task. This included Elaine, who was known to pick up a broom if required, hold many a hand, work with and around the medical community, and advocate for those who needed it. One of her proudest accomplishments was bringing and building a strong Music Therapy program to BBH. A Music Therapist was part of her memorial service.

Bill Wertman, CEO of Big Bend Hospice said it best. “We are so thankful for the leadership and the vision that Elaine Bartelt had for this organization. Those qualities inspired and motivated all who have cared for our patients and families in their most personal time.”  

Big Bend Hospice has come a long way since those early years, and we are grateful for Elaine’s leadership. She and those who toiled alongside her have blessed BBH with a strong foundation on which to continue to grow and serve.