-- A 69-year-old U.S. Navy veteran from Georgia has passed away peacefully after recently fulfilling his wish to go fishing one last time.
Connie Willhite's last outdoor adventure was made possible by the hospice staff at the Carl Vison VA Medical Center in Dublin, Georgia, according to Dr. Frank Jordan Jr., the center's chief of communications and stakeholder relations.
Though he was bedridden, staff were determined to make sure Willhite, who was quite an outdoor enthusiast, experienced one final fishing adventure, Jordan told ABC News today.
"Here at the VA, our hospice staff tries to identify what's most important to a vet as they contemplate the end of their lives," he said. "We want to make them feel respected and nurtured and that they have highest possible quality of life during those last days."
VA social worker Greg Senters, along with other hospice staff members, pushed Willhite's hospital bed from the VA medical center to Lake Leisure, a nearby pond.
Senters told ABC affiliate WGXA in Georgia he was concerned that Willhite might not be able to catch fish, but said, "His response to me was, 'Well, it really doesn’t matter because just being out here and doing this is just as good.'"
He added, "All of a sudden, the cancer and everything else goes away and then what you see is that precious few moments of somebody really enjoying life [and] enjoying what they love to do."
Willhite's cousin, Lisa Kittrill, accompanied him on the trip and told WGXA that the "moments when he was smiling and glad he wasn’t in pain" made "the difficult situation better."
The vet fished for about four hours and even caught several fish, according to Jordan.
"The most amazing part was the effect that trip had on him after," he said. "His spirits immediately lifted and he was able to reconnect with family and friends before peacefully passing away three days later."