Ronnie Green’s Gift

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A few days ago, I went by the hospital to visit with a close friend, whose mother was ailing something terrible.

That particular hospital has grown into quite a monstrosity since I was born there when it was a small three-story square hospital. I cost $96 and still have the receipt — paid in full — and the little identification band from my tiny wrist.

That was costly to Mama and Daddy when you consider the price of their births in the mountains. Doctors were a long distance away on a mule and, with no telephones, they couldn’t be called.

Both were delivered by self-taught midwives and paid with what the folks had. Mama cost a sack of freshly dug potatoes. Daddy’s midwife received two jars of blackberry jelly.

In hospitals today, naming rights — for a great deal of money — are emblazoned across cancer units, libraries, chapels, auditoriums and anything that can be named.

That day, I stopped at a nurses’ station in the center of a floor to ask direction. Five nurses were busy, checking charting, typing into computers and making calls. I asked for the room number and as the nice woman clicked the keys on her device, I looked over to the wall and saw the names of two men whom I knew for years before they died about 10 years apart. Nice men who had given a lot to their community and, apparently, had been generous to the hospital. For this particular story, I will change the name to prevent any feelings from being hurt.

“George Garrison,” I said, reading off the name. “Wonderful man. Do you know who he was?”

The young woman shook her head. The other staff stopped to listen. “Do y’all?”

Not one did.

“He made a lot of money as an attorney then used it to help others.” I then told the story — because Southerners can never stop with one remark — that Tink and I were in Baton Rouge, LA where he was filming a television series when I read that George had died. Just all a’sudden. I called the newspaper and asked, “What happened to George Garrison?”

The sweet reporter, who had written the front-page story, said shyly, “I don’t know. When I talked to the family, I didn’t want to intrude.”

Seriously. But she was genuinely kind about it.

I called my beauty shop and asked Sandy, “What happened to George Garrison?”

“His heart,” she replied, giving a summary of his final days.

I called the writer back with my detailed report. “If you need to know anything else, call the beauty shop.”

Now, I stood at the nurses’ station where they looked at his name every day but no one had questioned who he was and why a wing was named after him.

Here’s another person — real name — who I hope is never forgotten. Ronnie Green, an only child who never married, worked for his parents’ tiny grocery story. Short, bald-headed and kind, he always wore a butcher’s apron because he worked the meat counter. He doubled as the delivery guy and, many times, I passed the store as he was taking a woman’s groceries to the car as he chatted merrily.

In his early 50s, the much-loved Ronnie succumbed to a heart attack. In the aftermath of grief and shock, his parents discovered that Ronnie played the stock market and had amassed a few million dollars. This was about 30 years ago.

They donated it to the hospital to build a much-needed cardiac unit. They wanted to spare others a similar profound loss. Some of the finest cardiac specialists were engaged. Countless lives have been saved at the Ronnie Green Heart Center.

May Ronnie Green never be forgotten. A butcher who doubled as a bag boy is responsible for thousands of lives saved and many more made better.

From a simple, humble man came life-changing moments for masses. Isn’t that wonderful?

[Ronda Rich is the best-selling author of “St. Simons Island: A Stella Bankwell Mystery.” Visit www.rondarich.com to sign up for her free newsletter.]