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Gardner: Remembering Frank Green, a true friend of the hospital

POSTED: February 7, 2008 5:03 a.m.

Upon receiving the news of Frank Green's passing last week, I felt compelled to express my appreciation for the generous man who helped provide the funding to save countless lives in our community.

Many in town knew him as the friendly neighborhood grocer who never met a stranger and always had that special twinkle in his eye, but I also came to know him as the compassionate and selfless man dedicated to the health and wellbeing of the community he lived in and loved for most of his adult life.

In December 2001, Frank and Lillie Mae Green donated $4 million, the largest gift to date to The Medical Center Foundation, from their son Ronnie's estate to benefit Northeast Georgia Medical Center's new open-heart surgery program.

The unprecedented donation resulted in naming the unit the Ronnie Green Heart Center, a fitting tribute to memorialize their beloved son who suffered a heart attack and died suddenly in March 2001. The new unit made possible an expansion of NGMC's inpatient cardiology unit and provided for new services including angioplasty, stent placement and open-heart surgery.

The Greens' intent was to continue the legacy of their son, who genuinely loved the community in which he lived and whose life was spent helping others, but their gift has done so much more. Since the opening of the Heart Center in August 2002, its physicians and staff have seen more than 144,000 cases and performed more than 2,500 cardiac surgeries and more than 4,000 angioplasties and stent placements. The Greens' gift helped bring these state-of-the-art, high quality services close to home and more importantly, has made a life-changing impact on countless families throughout Northeast Georgia.

Over the years, the Greens have received hundreds of letters from the people whose lives have been touched expressing how grateful they are for the Heart Center. Holding them dear, Mrs. Green has kept many of the letters in a scrapbook so she can reflect on heartfelt words such as, "because of Ronnie and your generosity, you have made it possible for me to have a second chance at life;" "I have been in some of the best hospitals in the country, yet I have never been in a unit as well-equipped and nice as the Ronnie Green Heart Center;" and "the Ronnie Green Heart Center is such a generous and loving gift, and far more persons will be able to live more healthy and fulfilling lives because of this gift."

Mr. and Mrs. Green came to personally know and love the staff of the Ronnie Green Heart Center as family, often visiting with them and thanking them for a job well done. In fact, one of Mr. Green's last outings was a trip to the Heart Center to see again the place and people he held dear and the memorial near the entrance that stands as a lasting tribute to the son that he and Mrs. Green treasured.

I wish to express my gratitude for this man who touched the lives and hearts of so many in our community. He gave generously of his wealth, friendship and laughter. Who, among us, could hope to leave a more honorable legacy?

Jim Gardner is president and chief executive officer of Northeast Georgia Medical Center. First published Jan. 27, 2008.


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