Blessed by the generosity

Published 7:46 pm Tuesday, October 6, 2015

It would be hard to overstate the significance of what Amedeo Obici did for Suffolk and Western Tidewater, both during his life and — perhaps even more importantly — after his passing in 1947.

His founding of Planters Peanuts and subsequent construction of the new company’s headquarters and production facility here in Suffolk would have been enough to seal his legacy, as the company has provided work and good wages for generations of folks from the area, along with being a ready and steady customer for the peanut sellers to whom farmers from all around Southeast Virginia have sold peanuts for many years.

But Obici’s greatest legacy is very likely to be found in what he did for health care in Suffolk and the rest of Western Tidewater. After his wife’s death in 1938, Obici decided to build a hospital in her name. He did not live to see the 1951 opening of Louise Obici Memorial Hospital — which was said to have been the most technologically advanced hospital in the nation when it opened — but his vision for the facility ensured that lives would be improved and saved there for decades.

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It could be argued that even the hospital that once stood alongside North Main Street was not the Italian immigrant’s greatest legacy. It’s very likely, instead, that the greatest thing Amedeo Obici left Suffolk was the trust that helped fund that hospital’s construction and that became the recipient of the money that was earned when Sentara bought Obici and moved the hospital to Godwin Boulevard.

The money that came from that sale accounted for much of the funding that was used to launch the Obici Healthcare Foundation, and that nonprofit, philanthropic organization has the potential to be the very best part of Amedeo Obici’s legacy.

The Foundation was created in 2006 and has awarded more than $36 million in health care grant funding since that year, including about $2 million disbursed recently to a total of 18 nonprofit organizations devoted to improving the health of people in Hampton Roads.

Organizations from the American Diabetes Association to Eastern Virginia Medical School to ForKids Inc. to the Suffolk Partnership for a Healthy Community benefited from the most recent round of grants — the 17th since Obici Healthcare started awarding them.

Those grants will be used for smoking-cessation programs, to promote diabetes awareness and treatment, to promote running among young girls, to establish a new health center in Franklin and for many other health care-related programs and efforts.

Amedeo Obici surely never could have imagined the lasting difference he would make in the lives of people from Suffolk and the surrounding area or that his desire to honor his wife would have such long-lasting effects. His actions, however, continue to change lives. Suffolk continues to be blessed by this generous man.