One reason for posting now is that Thursday I spoke at the groundbreaking for the David Walsh Cancer Center and I wanted to get some thoughts "on paper". I was honored to be asked to speak, since Dave was a classmate of mine. Dave suffered from metastatic esophageal cancer, first diagnosed on 1996 and fatal in 1998. He left behind two sons and a wife. One of the sons was about the same age as the Son and the other was a bit older.
Dave's parents, Frank and Gloria Walsh, have been great benefactors to the community. In fact, they have made my three terms as mayor a real joy. They donated an outdoor water park and pool at the city recreation center. They donated a new park across the street from the water park so families could spend all day together there. They donated a major part of the $3.2 million expansion of the city library. They donated a new dorm to the local community college. Last year, Frank told me over coffee that he and Gloria were going to make sure the cancer center got built at the regional medical center here in town as a memorial to Dave. And so they donated $8.8 million to get the cancer center built. People like Frank and Gloria are what makes putting up with the hassles of being a mayor worthwhile.
There were four of us that spoke at the groundbreaking (me; Dr. Thomas Soper, Hospital Chief of Staff; Jim Ferando, Hospital Chain Western Region President; and Carlin Walsh, Dave's oldest son). There was a big crowd in attendance (estimated at 150 to 300 people) along with Frank, Gloria, the family of their other son Bill, and Dave's family.
I was the lead speaker, so the written version of my speech went like this (I often write out my speeches and then intentionally don't take the copy to the event - that way one never becomes a zombie reading a speech to bored audience.):
We are here today to celebrate with the Walsh family as we break ground on this wonderful memorial to David Walsh. I thank them on behalf of the community they have so generously gifted and on behalf of those future patients whose treatment will be so much easier and closer to home. I know that when my father was battling cancer, it was hard that he had to commute a 100 miles each way for treatment while suffering the after-effects of the treatment. This center will ease that burden for those in this entire region in the future.
As an aside, I find it hard to refer to Dave as David. He was always Dave to me in all the years I knew him. Dave was a classmate of mine; many of you already knew that. But I suspect that most of you didn't know or remember that Dave was my opponent the very first time I ran for an elective office - that of treasurer of the student council at SHS some 40 years ago. Dave won the election by a landslide and yet the thing I remember most after all these years is that once the results were known, Dave sought me out to console me for losing. I suspect he felt worse about winning than I did about losing. That was the Dave Walsh I knew - caring, concerned, and involved. And that is why the David Walsh Cancer Center is such a perfect way to honor him.
Once again, thanks to the Walsh family for this wonderful gift. It is the perfect memorial to the Dave Walsh I remember!
I followed my own rule - keep it short and to the point. So did the other speakers leading up to Carlin's speech. Carlin did a spectacular job. There wasn't a single dry eye anywhere, including Frank and Gloria as he honored his grandparents for honoring his father. A truly heartfelt speech that inspired us all.
All in all the best groundbreaking I have ever been to. A number of classmates were in attendance and I don't think any of us had a dry eye during Carlin's speech - it was that heartfelt and moving.
Time to get on with real things - later.