Obici’s gift keeps on giving

Published 11:48 pm Saturday, November 12, 2011

It’s hard to imagine an individual who has meant more to Suffolk than Amedeo Obici.

As the founder of Planters Peanuts, Obici and his wife, Louise, were much loved by the people of Suffolk for their generosity, their graciousness and their vision. At least two of the city’s icons, Mr. Peanut and the newly renovated historic Obici House, owe their existence to Mr. Obici, who immigrated to Suffolk from Italy.

Even more lasting, however, was the health care legacy left by Mr. Obici upon his death, when he left 99 percent of his substantial estate to a foundation that was charged with building a hospital in memory of his beloved wife. Louise Obici Memorial Hospital became an icon of Suffolk in its own right, holding a place of prominence along North Main Street until it was replaced by a new, state-of-the-art structure on Godwin Boulevard in 2002.

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Even — and perhaps especially — after the hospital was sold to Sentara Healthcare in 2006, Obici’s great generosity has continued to benefit the people of Suffolk. Today, the Obici Healthcare Foundation uses profits from the investment of proceeds from that sale to fund important health care programs in Suffolk and surrounding communities in Western Tidewater and Northeast North Carolina.

Just last week, officials from the Foundation announced that a new round of grant applications would be accepted following the award of more than $2.6 million to a variety of agencies working to improve the health of people who live in the area. With a particular focus this round on addressing the causes and effects of chronic diseases and conditions, the Foundation clearly continues the work that Amedeo Obici envisioned when he decided to use his fortune to fund a hospital for the city he and his wife had adopted.

Suffolk is blessed to have an organization like the Obici Healthcare Foundation, whose work not only helps extend the lives of people who live here, but also helps make those lives far richer than they otherwise might be. Its work is a fitting tribute to the man for whom it was named.