Bleier delivers holiday cheers to Canonsburg patient
One by one, legendary Steelers running back Rocky Bleier dropped his four Super Bowl rings Wednesday into the unsteady right hand of 89-year-old Peter Bobick.
"I wear this one all the time," Bleier told Bobick about his triple-diamond Super Bowl XIII ring. "Primarily because it's the largest and gaudiest of all four of them. It's got more diamonds and bling in it than the rest," he said with a laugh.
Bleier visited Bobick at TownView Health & Rehabilitation Center in Canonsburg as part of Presents for Patients, a program started by St. Barnabas Charities in 1984 that will provide Christmas gifts and visits by volunteers to 27,012 nursing home patients living in 315 facilities in five states.
The idea is to bring some holiday cheer to patients whose physical problems often are compounded by loneliness brought on by the loss of a spouse, relatives and lifelong friends.
"A lot of these people don't get any visitors, and I think that's terrible," Bobick told Bleier, who spent 25 minutes chatting with Bobick, the former owner of Hearex, a company that provided medical equipment and testing.
Bobick, an Air Force veteran of WWII and Korea, has had a difficult year.
His wife, Betty, died in February. In June, he suffered a debilitating stroke that confined him to a wheelchair and weakened the right side of his body. His nurses and son, Bob, and daughter, Paula Sims, both of Eighty Four, said he needed some cheering up amid the grind of physical therapy.
"Rehabilitation is the hardest thing he's had to do in his life," Bob Bobick said about his father. "This really made his day."
Bobick didn't waste his visit with Bleier on small talk. Wearing a black-and-gold Steelers ball cap, the lifelong Steelers fan had serious questions and some jokes to share.
"Are you going to go for tryouts again?" Bobick jokingly asked Bleier, 63, who retired from professional football at age 35.
"I'm thinking about it. I think I could possibly get them to negotiate a contract where I could play one game and make more than when I was playing," Belier said, prompting laughs from a room full of nurses, patients and others eager to meet Bleier.
"I wonder what's wrong (with the Steelers) now?" Bobick asked, noting the team's four consecutive losses and disappointing 6-6 season so far.
Bleier said the biggest problem is the team's inability to "finish games" and prevent opponents from taking the lead in the final minutes.
Kathy Brenneman, a spokeswoman for St. Barnabas Charities, said Bleier has volunteered to visit nursing home patients for five years.
He's the "flashiest" visitor the foundation has arranged. The nonprofit is seeking volunteers to visit with patients and donate gifts such as oft-requested sweaters, candy and pajamas. Nursing home residents are given cards with space for three wishes.
"For me it has fulfilled a niche, but more importantly, it's a chance to spread the word and get more people involved in Presents for Patients," Bleier said.
Most gifts cost $5 to $25. To donate or volunteer next year, call (724) 443-0011 or visit www.presentsforpatients.com.