John Mudry and his family sat around the $10 blackjack table at Bally’s Atlantic City on Tuesday afternoon. The cocktail waitress brought over a cold Coors Light, while Mudry called to stand on 19. Getting dealt a few hands at one of his favorite Atlantic City casinos was one of Mudry’s last wishes.
“It’s my last hurrah” Mudry, 71, of Monroe Township in Middlesex County, said between hands.
“He’d always be taking the bus to Atlantic City,” said niece Kelly Smentkowski, of Manalapan Township, Monmouth County. “Blackjack and poker are his games. He’s always been good with numbers — he’ll remember your license plate or phone number, then place a bet with it.”
With cooperating help from his hospice caretakers at the Visiting Nurse Association of Central Jersey and health care provider RWJBarnabus Health, Mudry was transported from Compete Care at Green Acres in Toms River to his favorite Atlantic City casino. The VNA health group has a “Final Wish Program” to fulfill the special requests of patients before their end-of-life care.
Mudry, a career Teamster transferring plumbing supplies and a dockworker, suffered a stroke about 17 years ago, which kept him from driving but not from coming to Atlantic City. He would take the bus from Monroe and spend his day at the casinos.
“I liked coming to Bally’s, they treated me good here,” Mudry said Tuesday.
Two years ago, Mudry’s health declined. He first suffered a series of organ failures and heart complications, according to Smentkowski. Mudry was diagnosed with a rare form of non-treatable bladder cancer. His heart condition ruled out surgery. The cancer eventually spread, limiting his time and treatment options.
“He didn’t want to stay in the hospital anymore,” Smentkowski said.
Mudry had a few last wishes, including enjoying his favorite snacks of Vienna vanilla cookies and Dr. Brown’s Cream Soda, but the big excursion was one last day at the casino.
Even when riding in his medical transport, Mudry knew the city like the back of his hand, telling the drivers which roads they had to take.
“John got the orders to be released to hospice, but he wanted one last outing. The administrator promised him they’d get him to Atlantic City,” said Mudry’s hospice nurse, Michelle Engroff.
Before heading out for his road trip Tuesday morning, the Green Acres staff said Mudry lit up. ”He was ready to hit the blackjack table,” Engroff said.
Mundy sat next to his great-niece Ryan Smentkowski, 25, who was helping him place his bets. Knowing he wouldn’t be able to make Ryan’s upcoming wedding, Mudry was hoping to hit a big jackpot as a gift.
“I always had a hard time knowing when to walk away,” said Mudry, though he did end up winning a few hundred dollars Tuesday.
After about an hour at the blackjack table and many more calls for ‘just one more hand,’ Caesar’s Entertainment offered Mudry’s family had a complimentary lunch at Buca di Beppo.
“We partner with many community groups,” said Noel Stevenson, director of public relations for Caesars Entertainment. “If you had one wish like this, to spend the day and enjoy yourself, we’re happy to help.”