Obici legacy more than bricks mortar

Published 12:00 am Sunday, February 23, 2003

Literally thousands of people have spent all or part of their working life at the former Louise Obici Memorial Hospital building over the past half-century. God knows how many Suffolk residents today were born there. Darn near every one of us, I imagine, has been treated there. So it’s natural that so many people were heartbroken last week when the hospital’s board of directors voted to nuke every building on the site.

My heart goes out to them.

Having been accused on more than one occasion over the course of my 41 years of being insensitive to people’s feelings, I generally try to tread carefully around such matters.


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However, I think it needs be stated that the decision was a no-brainer.

With a maintenance cost of $60,000 a month to sit there empty, as it has now for nearly a year, the building was a drain.

With small rooms, the building has limited uses. About all it was suited for was a nursing home, mental hospital or prison, and those things, while perhaps needed, could go virtually anywhere – preferably tucked out of sight somewhere. They don’t need to be located on 22 acres of prime riverfront, commercial property, which likely will be far more valuable without the buildings on it.

Suffolkians would be far better served by increased shopping and employment opportunities that acreage could produce. And that, after all, is what I think Amedeo Obici had in mind when he endowed the hospital – making life better for residents of his adopted home, which he so loved.

His philanthropy aside, Obici was first and foremost an astute businessman. As such, I think he would take pride in the decision of the board.

Obici’s legacy is not a pile of bricks and mortar on North Main Street. It’s his love for and concern for his adopted community. That legacy lives on in a financially sound, beautiful and functional healthcare facility on Godwin Boulevard. And it will survive long after we are gone, helping our children and grandchildren, only if those charged with maintaining it make sound business decisions, which is exactly what they did in this case.

The bricks and mortar, however, can still serve a useful purpose. Once the main hospital building and nursing school are razed, the bricks could be sold as mementos to raise money for the hospital auxiliary, the fountain project, the cultural arts center or to pay for indigent care.

I think the Obicis would be pleased.

Andy Prutsok is editor and publisher of the News-Herald.