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Three Gainesville Magnolias honored at history center fundraiser
Women praised for 'empathy, spirit and service'
0804Nell Weigand

Three Gainesville women — Rosemary Dodd, Mary Hart Wilheit and the late Nell Wiegand — were honored Thursday as “Magnolias Among Us” at the Northeast Georgia History Center’s annual Taste of History fundraiser.

“Empathy, spirit and service are some of the things that these ladies exude … and they’ve taught us those things, too,” said Glen Kyle, director of the museum at Brenau University in Gainesville.

“That’s why we’re here today. People like (the women) have helped us grow into this amazing thing that we call home.”

Wiegand, who died in May 2011, spent more than six decades as a volunteer leader at Northeast Georgia Medical Center.

As a founding member of The Medical Center Auxiliary, she made sandwiches and cakes for the staff in preparation for the opening of Hall County Hospital in 1951. She served as president of the auxiliary, and in 2001 the auxiliary’s Patient Friend Award was named in her honor.

“Nell had that unique ability to embrace each of us as if we were her very best friend,” longtime friend LeTrell Simpson said.

Dodd, wife of the late Ed Dodd, creator of the “Mark Trail” comic series, is a noted local artist herself, receiving the Women in the Arts Recognition Award at the state conference of the Daughters of the American Revolution in spring 2016.

Over the years, she has had a particular fascination with angels, collecting thousands of them and selling them at Christmas on Green Street, an annual Historical Society of Hall County event allowing people to peek inside historic buildings along Green Street.

“I’m a happy person because I live in Gainesville,” she told the large crowd gathered in the banquet hall at the First Baptist Church on Green Street. “I’m a creative person because I live in Gainesville.”

Wilheit, who was seated next to Gov. Nathan Deal and his wife Sandra, served as executive director of Gainesville/Hall ’96 and its efforts to bring the Olympics to Gainesville. She also is a life member of the Medical Center Auxiliary and past chairwoman of the auxiliary’s annual fundraiser, Marketplace.

In 2010, she and husband Philip donated $700,000 to the Medical Center Foundation for an entrance garden at Northeast Georgia Medical Center in Gainesville.

She talked about the “dash” between a person’s birth and death on a tombstone and how “that’s the most important part.”

“We have no say in the beginning and probably not the ending, but we do have a say in what’s in that dash,” Wilheit said. “It should be our goal to have a good dash — that we have made a point and done something in our lives.”

The history center has been open at its Brenau location since 2004 and features the Freedom Garden, a display of military monuments and granite panels describing America’s involvement in military conflicts.

Taste of History, also featuring an auction, is the center’s biggest fundraiser, Kyle said.

“We honor some aspect of our community, whether it’s an individual or group of individuals,” Kyle said.

This year’s goal is $50,000.