Leakey honored at Hospital Gala

Jean Leakey (center) shares one of many stories she collected during her time in the healthcare industry, cracking up Jonathan Cornell (left) and Steve Hentgen (right) as well as audience members at the 23rd annual Parkview Wabash Hospital Gala Saturday night, Nov. 11. Photo by Emma Rausch

By Emma Rausch

With more than 60 years in the healthcare industry, Jean Leakey had more than a few stories to share at the 23rd annual Parkview Wabash Hospital Gala Saturday night, Nov. 11.

Described as a pioneer in Wabash County healthcare, Leakey, 91, is known for starting up the Friendly Nursing Home with her husband Dale in the 1960s, serving as a medical assistant for Dr. Robert Rauh and Dr. Stephen Fassino for 23 years, and for volunteering at Parkview Wabash and Wabash County Hospital as a chaplain for 18 years.

At the nursing home, “there were two sisters,” Leakey told Steve Hentgen, Foundation Board of Directors chair, and an audience of nearly 300. “One sister was a patient and (the other) came every day to visit her. Well, when the sister passed away, (the other) asked me to do something for her.

“I’m sure you’ve never had this happen,” she said to Hentgen, “but she was at North Manchester at their funeral home and she brought two different robes and she wanted to know if I’d try them on and lay in the casket.

“And I did,” she admitted as an uproar of laughs broke out from the crowd.

On Saturday night, the Parkview Wabash Foundation honored Leakey as the 2017 Healthcare Hero.

“I’m very humbled believe me,” Leakey told The Paper of Wabash County, “and it’s just a great honor to know that people had enough trust in me for me to take care of their loved ones, come in and pray with them, and to know that we live in a wonderful community.”

In addition, veterans were also honored in recognition of Veterans Day. Funding raised at the gala will go toward the education of pregnant women and their families to celebrate the opening of a OB unit at the new hospital “come June,” according to Howard Halderman, co-emcee.

“For Parkview, it’s been an exciting almost-three years in partnership with the former Wabash County Hospital,” Halderman said. “We are so excited about the completion of the new hospital. I know it’s on target and will probably be completed sometime late spring, and the grand opening, the big move, which will be an astronomical undertaking, will be in June. So we’re a few short months away from that, and I know the staff and everyone else in in the community is very excited about what that will bring to our community.”

After asking for a round of applause for those that served in the healthcare industry and armed forces, Halderman said, “True heroes are those who sacrifice for the greater common good, and when you think about those who serve in healthcare, those who serve in the military, those who serve in our police, fire, first responders, those are definitions, in my opinion, of true hero with the work that they do.”

Leakey said she was encouraged to take care of Wabash thanks to receiving “a good healthy background” from her parents.

“They told me the path to go and I followed it,” she explained. “So I just praise the Lord that I was able to follow the path that He laid out for me.”

While giving the invocation, Leakey prayed in thanks for “the great honor that was bestowed” upon her.

“And we thank the people in Wabash who voted for me and had confidence in me and everything I’ve done in the last 91 years, I guess,” she continued. “We ask you now, Lord, to bless each one here … and Lord we are thankful we are getting a new hospital here. We know we need it and are so glad for an OB coming here.”

She also prayed in thanks for the City of Wabash mayor, the first responders, doctors, nurses and employees of the hospital.

“We thank them for following in the footsteps for being caring for each one of us,” Leakey said.

Before accepting her award, Leakey shared some of her favorite memories in the healthcare industry, and received more than a few laughs from the audience and co-emcee Jonathan Cornell.

“Well my sister (Gwen Dixon) also was a beautician for 30 years and when we had the nursing home, she would come over and fix the ladies’ hair once a week,” Leakey said. “We had a lady by the name of Mama Bradley and she was 100-years-old and the minute Gwen would start doing her hair, just touching it, Mama would go ‘Ugh ow!’

“Mama passed away and I asked Gwen to come to the funeral home … to do her hair and Gwen said, ‘Oh I don’t think I can.’ I said, ‘I’ll go with you. You’ll be fine.’ Well we did and we got in there and we went back and Gwen said, ‘Oh I don’t know.’ And I said, ‘You’re fine.’

“Any ways, she got her just ready to wash her hair. Gwen just touched her and as she touched her, I went ‘Ugh!’”

Even Dixon chimed in with story suggestions for the healthcare hero to share.

“Tell them about the time I wanted to give a patient water,” Dixon shouted from the audience.

“Oh,” Leakey chuckled. “This is another story about my sister, Gwen, and I’m sorry I wasn’t smart enough back in the ‘60s to write a book. Well this lady, this patient, well you know how they are. Well, I’m 91(-years-old) and I know how I am part of the time. … So this lady kept saying, ‘I’m thirsty. I want water.’ And I knew she was like that and I told Gwen, ‘Now don’t give her a drink of water.’ Well, we walked on to another patient’s room and of course (Gwen) lagged behind and gave this patient some water.

“Then she came in drenched. She said, ‘Why didn’t you tell me?’ I said, ‘I didn’t have to tell you. I said don’t give her any water.’ Well (the patient) took a sip of water … and then threw it on (Gwen). You know, these are just facts of life.

“Take the good. Take the bad,” Cornell said.

“It’s just like a llama,” Leakey continued. “You know a llama, they don’t like something, they’ll spit on you. So I guess the thing with this here, if you’re around somebody and you don’t know about them, they might be a llama to you. So watch out.”

Hentgen, Foundation Board of Directors chair, presented Leakey with a crystal plaque.

“Jean, on behalf of the Wabash Parkview Hospital and all of its employees and for everybody that has worked for Parkview Wabash and Wabash County Hospital prior to that, and all the people that you worked with, this is an honor that’s well deserved,” Hentgen said. “I am honored and, more so than that, privileged to present this award to you.”

By becoming the 2017 Healthcare Hero, Leakey told The Paper that she “absolutely” hopes to inspire others “and not only that.”

Leakey presented gala attendees with a call-to-action.

“Since I do the chaplaincy at the hospital, I’m really in need of at least two or three more volunteers to come and say that they’d like to do it,” she explained, adding, “because we need it. It’s not only the patients that need it, but it’s the people that care for the patients that are there that help too.

“It’s really great to be able to do this for the community.”

Posted on 2017 Nov 14