HarbisonCare’s Role with Dr Peter Spitzer

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It was with great sadness last week that we learnt of the passing of Dr Peter Spitzer (aka Dr Fruit-Loop). I first met Peter back in 1996 when I first started working at HarbisonCare and Peter would come in to see his patients, at that time he was a local GP who his patients spoke very highly of…I had no idea of his many other talents. It wasn’t until the 8th May 2004 that I truly discovered the amazing person he was…on that day he ran his second ever Laughter Boss training workshop at HarbisonCare (if my memory serves me correctly I believe the first workshop was held in Hobart). I was converted! After that we ‘played’ around a bit with some small scale studies looking at humour interventions and depression, all the time Peter and others were working hard to get some funding to undertake some serious research…they succeeded and so the SMILE research project took off.Peter during that time was always giving me updates and sending me information or interesting new articles, we crossed paths both at work and at conferences. He was the most entertaining and interesting speaker, he was passionate, committed and curious. At work he would engage with residents (not just his patients), he brought a smile to everyone’s faces including the staff. We continued to keep in touch and just about every year we would run some kind of fundraising event to support the work of The Humour Foundation that Peter and his wife Judy were involved in founding.

Last year I was getting withdrawal symptoms and felt the need for another Peter workshop (didn’t help that I was the only staff member left in the organisation who had completed the original workshop, so I was operating on my own a lot of the time and getting some strange looks and comments!! – this didn’t deter me, I had learnt the value of humour). The second HarbisonCare Laughter Boss workshop was held on the 23rd August 2013 and this time we had the CEO and DoN at the training, getting them on board meant there was more likely to be support and acceptance of what we were doing – it worked! The workshop was amazing (again!) and I am more than ever committed to the value of humour and the need to bring smiles and laughter to all.
Peter passed away on the 8th August 2014, his Memorial Service was held on the 14th August – it was standing room only, there were tears shed, smiles and laughter. Peter touched the lives of so many, he was an inspiration, he was encouraging, he was compassionate – he will be missed. But his work will live on…thank you Peter.

Submitted by Josie Peacock

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