Saturday, May 29, 2004

On memorial Day

Outside the Diagnostic Center (in front of the Admitting Office window) is a dogwood tree, identified by a small plaque that honors the memory of Lt. Patrick Kelly Connor, USN, who died in the Gulf War in 1991. Marsha Connor, an OR nurse who retired from Community General Hospital last year, is Patrick’s mother.

I noted the plaque on rounds this morning, especially because this is the Memorial Day weekend. As a national holiday, Memorial Day is celebrated on Monday, May 31, but the traditional date is May 30.

Memorial Day reportedly has its roots in 1863, when the Civil War was being fought. Women in Columbus, Mississippi, decorated with flowers the graves of Confederate war solders, then showed the same respect to the nearby graves of Union soldiers. In 1866, following the War, a drugstore owner in Waterloo, NY, closed his store on May 30 as a sign of respect for the war dead, and the tradition of Decoration Day – later Memorial Day – began. By 1882 Memorial Day was observed for the first time as a national day of remembrance for those who died in the nation’s wars.

Continuing on rounds, I observed other memorial plaques honoring those who have worked and volunteered at Community General Hospital.

In the lobby next to the flower display is a plaque that commemorates the 1982 dedication of the flagpole. “The flag displayed in front of Community General Hospital,” it reads, “honors the memory of all deceased hospital employees.” The pole was erected by Radiology Department employees who had lost one of their co-workers, Vera Snyder, that year. I recall from that dedication that the first flag to fly at Community had previously flown above the nation’s Capitol.

There is a plaque on Four North honoring the memory of Ann Gibbs with the statement, “Through these halls have walked the best.” A sign honors the memory of the Rev. Kevin Joseph Murphy on Six East, and 20-year volunteer Gordon Ketchum is also remembered with a plaque recently placed on Six. There is a bench in honor of volunteer Pat Berical outside the Diagnostic Center, and next month the Auxiliary will dedicate a bench to honor long-time volunteer Carolyn Boshea, who recently passed away.

The main lobby displays the plague remembering John L. Brown, our “first administrator, first employee.” Numerous memorial gifts are commemorated in displays throughout the hospital, many dating from the original construction. Family and friends have made donations to our hospital from the very start to honor their loved ones. All we have to do is look - all around us are tributes to those who came before.

We truly honor the memory of the nation’s war dead, and the memories of Community founders and colleagues, in the work we do for our patients today, on Memorial Day, and every day.

This text was originally sent to the employees of Community General Hospital, Syracuse, NY, as one of a series of letters from the CEO. The text was subsequently posted on the CEO's blog, More than Medicine, started in June 2007.