Obici House visit brings back memories

Published 7:49 pm Wednesday, August 29, 2012

By Jolyne Dalzell

On the evening of Aug. 20, it was very nostalgic for me to once more walk through the front door of my Uncle Amedeo’s home, known now as the Obici House. It brought back many happy memories.

The last time I slept in this house was in September 1951, when the Louisa Obici Memorial Hospital was dedicated. My family — grandparents, aunts, uncles and more — were present.

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Everything in the house and out in the barns, chicken coops etc. was still intact, and it all seemed to be the same, except that two important characters were missing: Amedeo and his pet goat, Judy.

Through the years my husband and I often visited the house when we were in the area. Therefore, I have seen this house in excellent condition with all its artifacts, and I have also watched it fall into disrepair.

From 2001 to 2010 it seemed to become more and more frail. I attended many council meetings in Suffolk when its fate was being discussed. It appeared that this house, which is very important to Suffolk, was doomed.

Thankfully the city of Suffolk, through Mayor Linda Johnson’s guidance, saw the advantages of restoring the house to its previous grandeur. Ronnie Rountree was “drafted” to be in charge of the renovations and rose to the occasion.

The renovations and restoration of the Obici House are excellent. I was pleased the windows, moldings, floors, tile, and stained glass remain as they always did.

The first floor is very much in keeping with the original house. The second floor has had several changes, but this is understandable, since open space is needed for functions. Yet the bathrooms are exactly the same as they were built. In the lower level, Rountree reused original doors to enhance the grill room.

This renovation was truly a labor of love and respect.

As I left that Sunday evening, I turned to have one more look at the house. It was overwhelming to see the house lighted and sparkling in the night. And, I thought, this is the way the house was meant to be.

It will never be a home again, but I hope it will host many parties. A bit of the past has been brought to the future.

Then I looked at Mr. Peanut standing in front of the building. Yes, I do believe that Mr. Peanut and Amedeo Obici are nearly one in the same. And there he stands today, watching his house, listening to happy voices, music and laughter.

Jolyne Dalzell is the niece of Amedeo Obici, who founded Planters Peanuts and provided for the founding of Louisa Obici Memorial Hospital, the forerunner of today’s Sentara Obici Hospital and the Obici Healthcare Foundation. She lives in New Jersey; email her at