ORANGE PARK – The legacy of organ donors outlives them long after they die.
Orange Park Medical Center unveiled an interactive memorial wall Aug. 8 in the center of its main hallway. The names of 20 organ donors covered the left side of the memorial. A screen told some of their stories.
The wall honored Vince Alderson, hospital services coordinator at LifeQuest – a company providing support for families through the organ donation process. He died of a heart attack last June.
Families of organ donors, with pictures of the donors on tables, were given a demonstration of how to use the wall by Orange Park Medical Center Injury Prevention Coordinator Sarah Miller.
“We know that your loved one is more than just a name on the wall,” Miller said.
Alderson, of Ponte Vedra, worked with Orange Park Medical Center. It was one of his favorite hospitals.
Larry Cochran, LifeQuest’s assistant executive director, said Alderson threw himself into his work with 12 hospitals in Jacksonville area. He was passionate about organ donation and respecting donors and their families.
“(Alderson) was defined by the adjectives outgoing and gregarious. He was continually searching for shark teeth. He had jars and jars of them,” Cochran said. “He loved his sunglasses, chicken wings and Jack Links jerky and that convertible he drove everywhere. He was crazy about his children.”
Andrew and Addie Alderson, Vince's Alderson's children, came from Pennsylvania for the memorial’s dedication.
Andrew Alderson said he never knew how devoted his father was to his work and the cause of organ donation.
“It’s really cool to see the legacy that he left behind,” Andrew Alderson said. “When he moved out here, I never knew he was so passionate about the things he worked for. It’s an honor.”
“I feel like it’s a nice tribute to people that have given their organs to others,” Addie Alderson. “As his kids, I thought it was a nice way to honor him.”
Clay County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Ben Zirbel was killed in a motorcycle crash almost a year ago. Anna Zirbel said her husband’s donation of five organs was the gift that kept on giving and brought her peace of mind.
“I think it was a great awareness piece, so more people know more about organ donation. It helps families prepare if they have to face that question,” she said. “Hopefully, it will make people stop and read it.”
Wendy Hancock said her son, Zack, saved four people’s lives through his donations. He was struck by a car on Aug. 8, 2017, in Palatka. Two years later, Hancock attended the dedication with his nine-year-old daughter, Ireland.
Hancock said becoming an organ donor was selfless act. A sense of purpose and good can arise from tragedy, she said.
“(Zack) was a hard worker, a great dad. He lived for his kids. He had so many friends and he would give people a place to stay. That’s the kind of person he was,” Hancock said. “I think the wall is a great tribute to what these people did.”
Families interested in submitting stories for the Organ Donor Memorial can call (904) 639-2092.