The Tree of Love stands majestically in the courtyard of the Woodside Professional Building, and is now shining brightly once again, a constant reminder of those for whom the tree has been lit each and every year since its inception.
That it is a beacon of light seems only fitting this year since those in whose honor it was dedicated Sunday were two of Sampson County’s greatest lights, themselves — Albert and Ann Thornton.
Albert, who died nearly 20 years ago, and his wife Ann, who died suddenly last January, were bright beacons in this community, often quietly, but always ferociously, involved in making Sampson County and Clinton a better place to live, helping others along the way, true friends to their fellow man.
The crowd that came to Sunday’s dedication is just one more testament to what the couple meant to this community and how brightly their light did shine. Actually, that light continues to shine today, even after their passing because of the roads they helped to pave that gave us such things as Sampson Community College, the Cancer Center, the Center for Health and Wellness … and the list could go on.
Albert and Ann carrier their torch of community responsibility together until he died, then Ann shouldered the responsibility on her own, always mindful of the importance of being an active voice for those around her. She didn’t just talk about service, she served; she didn’t just urge giving, she gave.
Her involvement on the Sampson Regional Medical Center Foundation, which now oversees the Tree of Love, helped inspire others to become involved and to give, making some of the projects that have come to fruition successful.
She loved the tree lighting each year and talked tirelessly about what it symbolized to her. At last year’s event, which honored Wanda Boyette, Thornton reaffirmed how special she believed the Tree of Love was, and how meaningful the funds raised were to the hospital. “The Tree of Love symbolizes so many things. It offers hope, it provides needed funds for different projects each year and it’s a way for people in our community and beyond to offer special love and remembrance to friends, neighbors and acquaintances.”
She spoke those words after last year’s tree lighting, when she served as Foundation president. Sadly, she died just over a month later, a fact still fresh in most everyone’s mind as they sat Sunday listening to others pay tribute to her and her beloved Albert.
Thornton is right, the Tree of Love is special, the money it raises always going to worthy causes. This year, funds raised are being designated for remodeling of the hospital’s Intensive Care Unit waiting area as well as toward the purchase of observation cameras for the hospital’s new Safe Suite, which houses mental health patients awaiting appropriate placement at other facilities.
Both are worthwhile projects and initiatives we are certain Thornton would have approved.
We hope others will follow Ann and Albert Thornton’s tireless lead in helping the community by contributing to the Tree of Love.
By doing so, you help the community and pay special tribute to two people who certainly deserve it.