By STACY MILLBERG - email@example.com
HARPERSFIELD TOWNSHIP —
Community members, dignitaries, co-workers and friends all came together Wednesday evening to honor a true legend in Ashtabula County.
Mary Pepperney, who was the director of Hospice of the Western Reserve of Ashtabula County, retired after 35 years with the organization. She was honored with a celebration at Spire Institute.
One of the original founders of the county organization, Pepperney has spent a lifetime helping local families through a very difficult time in their lives.
Pepperney got her start with Hospice as a volunteer with Hospice of Ashtabula County. She then took a position with Hospice of Lake County, which later became Hospice of the Western Reserve. She came back to Ashtabula County to develop the program in the county and have it be a full Hospice. In 2003, Hospice of Ashtabula County merged with Hospice of the Western Reserve and has since been a part of it for close to 10 years.
Marlene Sartini, of the Hospice Advisory Board, said Pepperney has been a driving force in Ashtabula County Hospice care.
“Along with her team, she has comforted many families in our county,” she said. “She is a remarkable person.”
Sartini said the people in attendance were truly from all walks of life and Pepperney has touched each of their lives in some way.
“She’s everywhere, she’s been everywhere and she’s touched every heart,” she said. “There is probably not a single person in this room this evening who does not feel a connection to Mary.”
A full line-up of community members spoke at the event, sharing their experiences with Pepperney. Among those speaking were J.P. Ducro, of Ducro Funeral Services; Ashtabula County Commissioner Peggy Carlo; Susan Stocker, dean of Kent State University Ashtabula Campus; Judge Charles Hague; Barb Klingensmith, of Country Neighbor; the Rev. Neroy Carter; Tom Fleming, of Fleming Funeral Home; Sue Druschel, Hospice volunteer; David Simpson, past Hospice CEO; and Bill Finn, current Hospice CEO.
Ducro said Hospice of Ashtabula County was born from humble beginnings. His father, with Pepperney helped get the organization off the ground.
“Mary Pepperney has been Hospice in this community, mind, body and spirit,” he said. “There will be a future for Hospice in Ashtabula County because of (Mary).”
Carlo worked with Pepperney for many years at ACMC.
“We had tears, we had laughs, we had a lot of things,” she said. “Mary is the face of Hospice and always will be. This is a happy, but sad night.”
Carlo presented Pepperney with a proclamation on behalf of the Ashtabula County Commissioners.
“We wish you health and happiness as you enter the next chapter of your life,” she said. “Thank you, Mary, from the bottom of our hearts.”
Stocker, said she has spent a lot of time in college and holds many degrees, but coming up with a few words to say at the event was by far the most difficult assignment she has had.
“I wanted to get it right,” she said. “No one has left more of a legacy in Ashtabula County than Mary Pepperney.”
Kerry Gerken, of Ashtabula Regional Home Health, said she worked with Pepperney for more than 30 years.
“It’s great to see such community support,” she said. “I’m glad we have a chance to honor her. She has brought so much to the community.”
Pepperney said she was grateful for the support of the community and so grateful for the support of Hospice care in the community over the years.
“This evening is really a celebration of everyone involved in bringing end of life care to Ashtabula County,” she said.
Pepperney said she hasn’t quite figured out her retirement plans just yet, but said she will spend time with family and continue to advocate for end of life care.