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Medical Center Foundation dedicates peace garden
4th constructed at hospital
John Prien Jr., left, of the Northeast Georgia Medical Center board, talks Monday with John Ferguson, the retired CEO of the Northeast Georgia Health System, during a dedication reception of the Wilheit-Keys Peace Garden at the Northeast Georgia Medical Center’s North Patient Tower. - photo by SARA GUEVARA

Patients of the Northeast Georgia Medical Center now have a quiet place to escape the anxiety of the hospital.

The Medical Center Foundation held an event Monday to dedicate the new Wilheit-Keys Peace Garden, located near the north entrance of the complex.

Steve Sanchez, who was heavily involved in designing the garden, said it was made to mimic driving through the North Georgia mountains.

The garden consists of a dark stone walkway winding between high banks of flowerbeds and boulders, broken up only its five water fountains and many benches.

"We wanted something that was inviting, lush, peaceful and sustainable," said Mark Fockele of Fockele Garden Co. "We're all very pleased with it and apparently visitors have also been very positive about their experience in the garden."

The construction was made possible through a $700,000 donation from Philip Wilheit Sr. and his wife Mary Hart Wilheit; and their family, Jeff and Hart Payne; and Philip Wilheit Jr. and Addie Wilheit.

It was built in memory of their parents and grandparents Tom and Jane Eve Wilheit and Jack and Mildred Keys.

"(The NGMC) has always been a place near and dear to our hearts," Philip Wilheit Sr. said. "We wanted to do something to honor our parents and we thought what a better way to do it because both her parents and my parents loved gardens and outdoors. It just seemed like it was a perfect fit."

The Wilheits worked with the designers, incorporating some of the plants their parents enjoyed in their own gardens.

Sanchez said other plants, including several maple trees, were chosen for their fall colors.

While the garden has already begun attracting attention, Fockele said it is only going to get better.

"We're looking forward to experiencing the next three, four or five years during which the garden will mature," he said. "That's the fun part."

But the garden is meant to do more then just make the hospital grounds more attractive.

Woody Stewart, chairman of The Medical Center Foundation Board of Trustees, quoted Ruth Stout when he said it is meant to be a "friend you can visit anytime."

"When you come to the hospital, usually it's with apprehension and anxiety," he said. "So anytime you can visually see something that is beautiful and uplifting, it takes away a little bit of the anxiety. ... I think it's been proven, the tranquility of a garden has a healing element in addition to the work that the hospital does."

This is the fourth garden constructed on the hospital grounds, and the facility has plans for two more.

Stewart said donors must come forward before those projects can get underway.


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