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Claxton-Hepburn dedicates renovated auditorium to George and Rita Hess

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Claxton-Hepburn Medical Center dedicated its newly renovated auditorium to the late George and Rita Hess Friday afternoon in a ceremony well attended by friends and family.

Renovations to the nearly century-old auditorium were made possible by donations from the Hess family and the Claxton-Hepburn Medical Center Auxiliary.

“What an honor all this is for my parents,” Barbara Hess-Boyer, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Hess, said. “It just reinforces to me how special my parents were.”

George and Rita Hess were Ogdensburg residents with a larger-than-life impact on the community.

Mrs. Hess graduated the A. Barton Hepburn Hospital School of Nursing in 1953 and was active in the community until her death on July 20, 2004.

Mr. Hess was an Army veteran who served during the Korean War and worked at the Northern New York Publishing Company for 47 years. Mr. Hess died on July 20, 2011.

“They were both kind, generous and they loved people, and that’s what made them the two most special people,” Mrs. Hess-Boyer said.

Christopher Hess, the couple’s son, said his parents worked together as a team, especially when it came to community involvement.

“The only way that Mom could do what she did, which was as much as anyone could do in one day, was because Dad was there for her,” Mr. Christopher Hess said.

Mary LaCombe, Claxton-Hepburn Auxiliary president, said the auditorium will get “near-constant” use.

“All of us using this facility will do so fondly remembering George and Rita Hess,” she said.

Claxton-Hepburn President and CEO Mark A. Webster said the space is going to play home to CPR classes, medical training, the AARP safe driving course, baby-sitter training, weight-loss clinics, a dance class and an aerobics class, and that list is going to grow.

“I think George and Rita would feel very good about the legacy they are leaving here,” Mr. Webster said.

M. Sandra Lyons, member of the hospital’s Board of Directors, said she worked with Mrs. Hess for 20 years.

“Rita and I both graduated from Hepburn School of Nursing and so, for us, this auditorium was a memorable place,” Mrs. Lyons said, adding that the auditorium, throughout the years, has held graduations, mixers and dances.

“[Mrs. Hess] loved to laugh and tell stories and jokes,” Mrs. Lyons said. “I believe that Rita knew that laughter was the best medicine.”

The memory of Mr. and Mrs. Hess is one of community service, said Dr. Patricia Mahoney, a member of the Claxton-Hepburn Medical Center Foundation Board and the Claxton-Hepburn Health System Board.

“The Hess family and friends have set the bar high and inspired others to give back to their community,” Dr. Mahoney said. “Their dedication helps Claxton-Hepburn Medical Center continue its quest for excellence.”

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