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Ground broken for Hendershot Memorial Garden

Western Maryland Center to honor advocate for people with disabilities

Western Maryland Center to honor advocate for people with disabilities

October 15, 2009|By HEATHER KEELS

HAGERSTOWN -- As a patient and, later, an employee of Western Maryland Hospital Center, the late N. Linn Hendershot worked to make the long-term care facility a more cheerful place for the patients who call it home.

On Thursday, a group of volunteers who have continued that work broke ground on a memorial garden outside the hospital center that will bear Hendershot's name.

"We thought that this would be the most appropriate way to remember Linn, because Linn was so helpful in getting our gardens off the ground when we initially started putting them in about 10, 12 years ago," Western Maryland Hospital Center CEO Cindy Pellegrino said.

A plaque bearing an image of Hendershot and a passage he quoted before his death about wanting to finish life "thoroughly used up" is already affixed to a rock at the site, which is on the south side of the hospital center at the intersection of Pennsylvania and Northern avenues.

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Eventually, the garden will include four symmetrical flower beds with ornamental trees, as well as benches and a brick pathway wide enough for wheelchair access, said Donna Brightman, who designed the garden. Brightman, a Washington County Board of Education member, works as a landscaper, but she volunteered her work for the memorial garden free of charge.

"This is just a small gesture of our appreciation for what Linn did for our community," she said.

In addition to working as director of communications at Western Maryland Hospital Center, Hendershot served on the Hagerstown City Council from 2001 to 2005 and served as an advocate for people with disabilities. He died May 1, 2008, at the age of 63.

During Hendershot's 14 months as a patient at Western Maryland Hospital Center in 1997 and 1998, he was often in pain, but he found motivation in his ability to help other patients, his sister, Marion Hardin, said.

When a tornado blew through the center's grounds, knocking down trees, Hendershot recruited volunteers to clean up, Hardin said. The volunteers went on to install paths, a pond and several gardens where patients could go to get out of their rooms.

Hendershot, who used a ventilator and a wheelchair, took the lead in raising funds for the gardens and finding volunteers to maintain them.

"He couldn't do the work, but he was full of ideas," Hardin said.

Since Hendershot's death, members of the Washington County Master Gardeners have tried to carry on his work, said Will Godwin, volunteer garden auxiliary chair.

"Our vision as the auxiliary garden committee is to provide a garden for the family of the patients to take the patient out of the hospital, away from the wires and the tubes, to have a place for a visit," Godwin said.

In addition, the gardens serve a therapeutic purpose for some patients who work in them and provide a place for staff to unwind from a stressful job, he said.

Businesses and individuals throughout the community have been eager to contribute to the Hendershot Memorial Garden, Godwin said.

Participants in Thursday's groundbreaking included Randy Finn of Antietam Tree and Turf, which donated evergreen plants for a hedge and provided a skid steer loader; Mark Brezler Jr. of Steffey and Findlay Inc., which gave the project a good deal on masonry supplies; and Justin Fahrney, a teacher with the county school system's job development center, who brings his students to work on the gardens each week.

Members of Leadership Washington County also helped work on the garden during the United Way Day of Caring, Godwin said.

The City of Hagerstown paid for the plaque in the garden, and Rest Haven Cemetery provided it at cost, Godwin said.

"I think it's wonderful that there are so many people who think enough of Linn to put forth all this effort in his honor," Hardin said Thursday.

"I think he is probably smiling ear to ear, just happy that the work is going on," she said. "Not so much that he is being honored, but just that someone is keeping up the work."

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