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Living on in others helps hearts heal

Kenneth Fogelsonger of Bay City (pictured in orange) gave the best bear hugs, according to his niece, Janet Auer, the manager of the Masin SOS branch office.  He was only 59 when he died suddenly in February 2015 from a stroke. “He had the kindest heart, the best smile and brightened our lives,” Janet said. 

Now Kenneth lives on in others through bone, skin and cornea donation.  

Kenneth was not on the donor registry because he didn’t think he would be able to help anyone. In fact, his gifts have helped up to 50 people. Kenneth’s wife – with input from his daughter and four siblings – made the decision for him to become a donor because they recognized his inherent generosity. 

After his donation, Janet’s aunt received a letter from Gift of Life Michigan informing her that a man from Fulton, Michigan, received Kenneth’s corneas. “It was such a shock to lose him so fast,” Janet said, “but knowing that a part of him lives on in someone else helps to heal the heart.”  

Janet still misses her uncle every day and has an overwhelming sense of pride in her family. “I still can’t believe that he is gone and wish I could have one more of his bear hugs,” she said. Because of her family’s experience with Gift of Life, she feels they better understand how one person can impact so many others.  An organ, tissue and cornea donor can save and heal over 50 lives.  

Everyone can join the donor registry, regardless of age or medical history. Like Kenneth, many people mistakenly assume they can’t donate and never sign up. That’s why Janet and her clerks ask every customer to consider joining the donor registry on every transaction.  

Pictured: Kenneth Fogelsonger (in orange) and his siblings. Janet Auer (not pictured) has been with the Michigan Department of State for 14 years.