MURRAY — In explaining why he and his brother, James, along with their families, had chosen to make a significant donation to the Anna Mae Owen Residential Hospice House Saturday, Vernon Gantt went back several years.
He talked of the 50th wedding anniversary of parents Wilson and Virginia and how Virginia was strongly advising her sons to not make a big deal of the occasion. However, through careful planning, as well as getting Wilson on board with the idea, the Gantt brothers managed to acknowledge the occasion in their own way.
“We talked about establishing a scholarship (which did happen through Murray State University) and (friends of the family) have donated to that for years. That’s the evidence of why we did that because that was something he would agree to, because he thought that was something that would honor him but do good for others,” Vernon said. “So that’s why when this opportunity came up, it rang a bell for me. Here is a chance to help the hospice house and to honor them too.”
The result is the Wilson and Virginia Collie Gantt Foyer near the front entrance of the Owen House that was officially dedicated in a ceremony Saturday afternoon. The facility cares for patients who are in their final days of life and opened in November 2016. The facility has now cared for more than 200 patients.
Both Wilson and Virginia received care through the hospice program of Murray-Calloway County Hospital, which oversees the operations of the Owen House. Vernon said he was contacted last year by former MCCH Senior Philanthropic Officer Tracy Lawrence and, through that talk, the subject of the Owen House was broached.
“Immediately, my mind clicked into how Daddy had received care from hospice and from within the hospital and Momma did so too. I thought that might be something where James and I could get together and maybe do something that we could contribute to and handle. This was a wonderful opportunity to do that,” Vernon said. “Everybody here knew Momma or Daddy too.”
Virginia died just before the Owen House accepted its first patient in ’16, while Wilson died several years earlier. MCCH Hospice Coordinator Sherrie Boyd said she still remembers Virginia’s time as a patient in the program.
“Just the fact that you have honored us by being willing to let us care for her is very special, and the fact that you have chosen to donate to this is special too,” Boyd said, directing her comments to the family. “We still serve in homes and at our nursing home (Spring Creek Health Care and Rehabilitation Center) and throughout the county, but the ones who have come here have been a little bit special too. This facility would not be possible without people willing to donate and keep it going.
“The hospital board’s trustees knew this wouldn’t make a lot of money for the hospital, but it is a service that makes the community unique and very special and I am privileged and blessed to be part of it.”
Hospital CEO Jerry Penner said that when he arrived in 2011 and began getting familiar with the Owen House project, he said he knew it would not be a financial windfall for the hospital. However, he said that did not matter.
“We have to do the right thing for this community. Sometimes, those things might not seem right for the hospital, but you do it,” Penner said, like Boyd, speaking directly to the Gantt brothers. “Your mom or your dad at some point told you to do the right thing. I know they did because they’re boys! But it resonates when you want to try to help your community by giving to us and making sure we do the same thing for our ministry at the hospital.”