Navigating the Home Stretch

Course Title:  Navigating the Home Stretch:

Dates:  Mondays, May 3, 10, 17, 24

Time:  10:00 – 11:30 AM

Location:  Zoom

Fee: $20

Objectives:  To support and help students make informed end-of-life decisions

Course structure:  The course will be given in _4__ sessions, each _90__ minutes long, covering the following topics:

Session 1: Watch and discuss video, “What Really Matters at the End of Life with panel, Rev. Erv Teichmiller, Chad McGrath, psychologist, Dr. Gordon Pierpont, retired physician, Martha Pierpont, retired nurse practitioner.

Session 2: Discuss the book, Being Mortal, by Atul Gawande, on navigating the health care system, led by the panel.

Session 3: Attorney Ryan Long and paralegal Jennifer Rye will present options in the area for assisted care and documents like living wills and healthcare powers of attorney. Representatives from Avanti Home Health Care Services and Midwest Regional Hospice will discuss what their organizations offer.

Session 4: End of life celebrations and burial options. Andrew Smithson from McKevitt Patrick Funeral Home will funeral options and traditional burial, and other burial options will be discussed.

Requirements: It is recommended that students read the book, Being Mortal, by Atul Gawande. Copies are available at the Mercer Library and on Amazon.


Reverend Erv Teichmiller is a graduate of University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh and Garrett Theological Seminary. In addition to serving a number of churches in Wisconsin over the years, he directed the Northwoods Guidance and Community Mental Health Center in Oneida, Vilas and Forest counties. He is currently ministering at the Mercer United Methodist Church, is chair of the Oneida Vilas Transit Commission and a member of the Greater Wisconsin Agency on Aging Resources State Board. Erv is married to Nancy, has three sons and seven grandchildren.

Chad McGrath has a bachelor’s degree from Carthage College in Kenosha WI and a master’s in psychology from Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, IL. He has worked as a psychologist at Elgin State Hospital and as an administrator at mental health centers in Marshfield and Wausau. He spent five years working part-time as a psychotherapist for Community Health Services in Rhinelander and ran the Dr. Kate Newcomb Nursing Home and the Koller Behavioral Health center. He is currently on the adjunct faculty at Northcentral Technical College in Wausau and has taught at Lac Courte Oreilles College out of Hayward. He now runs a nursery in Springstead, WI, and has authored several books. He has previously taught psychology, landscaping and cross-country skiing courses for Fe University.

Dr. Gordon Pierpont grew up in Montreal, WI, and graduated from Hurley High School. He earned a PhD at the University of Wisconsin in 1970. After completing a post-doctoral fellow in research at the University of Washington in Seattle, WA, he obtained an MD from the University of Miami where he met his wife Mary Ella. Gordon and Mary Ella moved to the Twin Cities where he specialized in cardiology. He chose the VA Hospital in Minneapolis for his career’s work where he taught, carried out research and provided care to VA patients for thirty years. His work with aging veterans has given him a unique perspective into caring for the geriatric population.

Ryan Long is an attorney with Sturgul and Long, S.C. where he practices primarily in the area of elder law, which includes estate planning, nursing home planning and Medicaid planning. He focuses on asset protection and recently taught a course for Fe University on that subject. He graduated with a BS degree in business management and philosophy from Hamline University and earned his juris doctor from Hamline University School of Law in 2012. He serves on the Board of Directors for the Minnesota Chapter of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys and the Wisconsin Elder Law and Special Needs Section. Ryan and his wife, Kim, live in Ashland, WI with their twin children, Luke and Elizabeth. Ryan enjoys biking, skiing, tennis and backpacking in his free time. He began working with Attorney Paul A. Sturgul in 2014.

Jennifer Rye, LBSW, is a medicaid paralegal with Sturgul and Long, S.C. She is a licensed social worker in both Michigan and Wisconsin. At Sturgul and Long, S.C., she assists clients with Medicaid eligibility, prepares and files Medicaid applications, coordinates benefits of all kinds, finds placement for clients in long-term care facilities and helps families navigate the complex long-term care process. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin Superior with a bachelor’s degree in social work. She has worked for Upper Peninsula Commission for Area Progress, Villa Maria Health and Rehabilitation Center, Sky View Nursing Center and Regional Hospice Services as a social worker. Jen and her husband have raised their family in Iron County and spend their leisure time enjoying the Northwoods.