Hospital mural memorializes ‘Alpaca Dennis’
One year after the passing of Dennis Kruzicki, the nurses on the seventh floor Inpatient Oncology unit at ThedaCare Regional Medical Center-Appleton still talk about the man who left a lasting impact on their team.
“He always learned something personal about each one of us,” said Leigh McNamara, inpatient oncology patient care manager.
Dennis Kruzicki died on Nov. 10, 2017, following a 20-year battle with several forms of cancer. He received much of his care from the ThedaCare oncology team in Appleton. During his time on the unit, he formed lasting relationships with many team members, including McNamara.
“Dennis impacted the team with his witty, honest and humorous personality,” said McNamara. “It was a privilege and honor to be part of his care team.”
Knowing how much the team meant to Dennis, his wife, Josie, wanted to do something special to mark the one-year anniversary of his passing. And Josie had the perfect way to honor her husband and show the family’s appreciation for ThedaCare staff – a hand-painted mural, featuring Dennis and all of his wonderful qualities.
On Nov. 9, 2018, Josie unveiled the mural the family donated to the floor.
The mural features many parts of Dennis Kruzicki’s life, including his love for alpacas. During his many treatments, Dennis, along with his wife, started Kruzicki’s Kemo Kritters in Bear Creek. His hobby led to his nickname of “Alpaca Dennis.”
“Alpacas allowed him get back out in the public,” Josie said. “They gave him something to look forward to and gave him an outlet, and now they have been my saving grace.”
The painting was done by Dennis’s cousin and took nearly 110 hours to complete. Besides Dennis and his alpacas, the mural also features ribbons signifying all cancers and the ThedaCare Regional Medical Center-Appleton building.
“Everyone asks how I can give the painting away,” Josie said. “It was never meant for me, it was meant for this floor. The nursing staff, housekeeping, every department. They’ve been my family these past years.”
The painting is now on display outside of room 707. Josie said she has fond memories of that room, times where Dennis felt well.
Josie hopes by donating the mural, it can brighten the day of others receiving care on the seventh floor. She also hopes it will bring a smile to the faces of staff that cared for Dennis, so they know “Alpaca Dennis” will always be here.