Porter Bids Farewell with 73 Years of Memories

The hallway just outside the administrative offices at Porter Hospital is reverent as staff and community members alike reminiscence about the impact of the hospital in their lives over the past 73 years. Porter has dedicated the hallway as the Farewell Wall, for people to share their memories and gratitude for the many years of service provided in the downtown Valparaiso location.

Stories of happy moments, births, and lives saved grace the wall amidst the tales of loss. “Some people are pretty comical…some are melancholy,” shared Ken Sliger, Environmental Services. “Most of my family was born here, my sister’s kids were all born here, my dad passed away here…Porter was always a place that has a long history of people in Porter County…it’s a mainstay.

Many community members have also shared appreciation for the hospital staff that has served for over 7 decades, including the woman who was the first baby girl born at Porter. The thankful sentiments are intermixed between well wishes for the future. “So much has occurred here, a lot of patients have signed the wall…offering sincere thanks and appreciation for what the staff has done,” stated Porter CEO Jonathan Nalli. “Every day I come out and read the new ones, new statements come up that just touch the heart.

Porter employees have added their own wealth of memories to the wall. “I’m loving the fact a lot of our physicians have signed it,” Nalli said. Many have left their mark as a team, such as the Cardiology department, while others have shared individual recollections and gratitude, words of sadness at losing a part of their life but appreciative of the time spent in that building and hopeful thoughts for the future. “I’ve spent more hours in this building than in my own home,” shared Director of Women and Children’s Services Elaine Merkel. “When they emptied out my office, I just closed the door and sobbed.”

While the wall has helped ease the end of an era, Porter employees and the community are eagerly anticipating the move to the new location. “We are taking all of the good stuff with us: the people…the building is just a frame,” said Merkel. “It will be interesting to see how the area changes.”

I’m smiling when I go to the new hospital,” stated Sliger. “It’s such a fantastic place.

The old location will eventually be demolished, along with it will go the Farewell Wall, but the sentiments will not be lost. “We are going to take photos of this [wall] and try to replicate it…it will become a piece of the hospital, much like {valpo}the beam {/valpo}{portage}the beam{/portage}{laporte}the beam {/laporte},” stated Nalli.

For those interested in leaving their own sentiments, the wall is available to the public until August 18.