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Gaston vets, Caromont Health reach compromise

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GASTONIA The Gaston County Veterans Council and Caromont Health have reached a compromise over the recent name change of Gaston Memorial Hospital to Caromont Regional Medical Center.

In April, about 20 veterans showed up at the Gaston County commissioners meeting to protest the change. They said veterans weren’t consulted and that the new name didn’t reflect the hospital’s history as a living memorial to those who died in World War II.

After several meetings involving veterans, hospital officials, and County Commissioners Vice Chairman Tracy Philbeck, the parties agreed the hospital name will remain Caromont Regional Medical Center. But the campus and grounds will be named Gaston Memorial Medical Park with appropriate signs.

Also, streets will have such names as Gaston Memorial Drive and Veterans Lane. And there will be an eternal flame built into a monument recognizing veterans.

“It seemed like hospital officials went out of their way to communicate and meet with us and to mend the ill feelings some people harbored,” said Tony Sherrill, chairman of the veterans council. “They really reached out to us. It will take a while to do all these things, but the hospital wants us to be a part of the planning.”

Stand-alone, lighted signs will be placed at hospital entrances on Cox and North New Hope roads.

The eternal flame feature of the proposed monument in a prominent location “sounded good to everybody,” Sherrill said.

Following World War II, American Legion Post 23 in Gastonia speared a fundraising drive to expand and upgrade Gastonia City Hospital. The name was changed to Gaston Memorial in honor of local veterans who died in World War II. The controversial name change of Gaston Memorial was followed by the firing of Caromont president and chief executive officer Randall Kelley amid criticism of his management style. He was dismissed April 16 on the heels of the hospital adopting a marketing slogan “Cheat Death,” which was later dropped.

With nearly 4,000 employees Caromont Health is Gaston County’s largest employer.

Caromont Interim CEO Doug Luckett said that he, along with Alex Mullineaux, Caromont’s director of governmental relations, met a second time with Sherrill and a veterans delegation on May 17 and called it an “uplifting meeting with highly motivated people.

“We look forward to working together to create ways that keep the tribute to our fallen veterans alive and relevant,” Luckett said.

DePriest: 704-868-7745
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