Even in his final moments, Dr. Jim Harrell Sr. thought of ways to continue serving his beloved community even after his death.
Announcing the availability of Harrell’s book, “A Love Story and Memories From the Foothills of NC,” Dr. Bill H. Davis Jr., chairman of the Hugh Chatham Memorial Hospital Foundation Board, said, “He wanted to finish this book and give it to the hospital as a motivating factor to encourage other people to give to the hospital.”
Known for his giving spirit, as well as many other kind attributes, Harrell presented funds in a variety of ways to Hugh Chatham Memorial Hospital throughout his life and had a hand in raising more than $11 million as his time as chairman of the foundation board from 1997-2014, according to Davis.
“When this last renovation and expansion was done, the foundation took on the task of raising $5 million,” said Davis. “He served as the chairman of that. He even says in his book of all the pledges four million eight hundred and some thousand dollars in gifts and pledges had been paid.”
That was still not enough as technology and staff changes. Harrell knew there would be continued need for funds and wanted to help provide for that after he was gone.
“Stephen, his youngest son, was talking about how on Friday night he had the book finished and he wanted it to be given to the hospital foundation,” said Davis of the doctor’s last days. “He wanted them to be able to use it to motivate people to give to hospital foundation.”
Those who make a gift of $50 or more to the HCMHF Scholarship Fund will receive a copy of “A Love Story and Memories From the Foothills of NC.”
“This year our goal is to raise a minimum of $100,000 with a long-term goal of at least $1 million,” said Davis.
“Beginning in the spring of 2018, $25,000 will be used to give scholarships to encourage students to go into the healthcare profession,” he said, “and also a minimum of $20,000 we can give to the hospital to encourage employees to upgrade themselves and also to get other training.”
This scholarship fund is important not only to HCMH, but to the community as well. “As good as our little hospital is, it has a great challenge when it competes with a hospital in a larger metropolitan area because they have more amenities in the larger cities,” said Davis. “Many people prefer to live there as opposed to here.
“We felt like there was such great talent that lives here in our rural area and if we could encourage them to become health care professionals, they would more than likely want to come back home and live here and work here,” said Davis. “This certainly would be a benefit to our hospital and having more professional people here available to work in the healthcare industry would help us benefit as citizens.“
As a former commissioner and mayor of Elkin, Harrell’s passion for HCMH is just one focus of his affection for the community. “In his book he talks about the many accomplishments and things that took place here in Elkin,” said Davis. “He’s very quick to say that he was a part of it, but that there were certainly others who contributed to what he was able to do.”
Known to be a storyteller of significant skill, Davis, who is the only person known to have read the book, reported that it read like many of the conversations he himself had enjoyed with Harrell.
“He could tell you things that took place and it was just like he went there yesterday,” said Davis, who compared reading Harrell’s book to listing to Harrell speak.
“He really, really admired and thought so highly of John Wesley. He speaks about going to England and going to the places [Wesley] went and seeing all the things, as he described it to me it was just like I had been there with him and seen all of that,” he said.
Other stories told in the book include a hint of the extensive family history the Harrells have with HCMH.
“His dad, Dr. Roy Harrell, was very instrumental in the beginning of this hospital which started in 1931,” said Davis. “He grew up having an interest in Elkin and followed the example of his dad.”
Church as well as family played significant roles both in Harrell’s life and in his book. “He says in his book that he was very fortunate to be a product of loving parents,” said Davis, “and especially Christian parents who lived what they professed to be.”
As a local dentist from 1946 until 2015, Harrell has known many local citizens, making it difficult for the family to withhold the anticipated memoir.
“There are many, many people that are their friends that they wanted to give a book to,” said Davis, “but they felt like that with how well-connected Dr. Harrell was, if they started giving the book out to friends that they would hurt somebody’s feelings. So they chose not to give any.”
Instead 275 copies of “A Love Story and Memories From the Foothills of NC” are available through the Hugh Chatham Memorial Foundation office with a donation of at least $50.
“He talks about meeting Isabel in college,” said Davis about the book that left an overwhelmingly positive reaction. “He talks about their love affair and what a wonderful person she was and how lucky he thought he was when he married her. He said he never had a doubt.”
Davis also has no doubt that the book will influence even more giving.
“People are anxious to get it,” said Davis of the cellophane-wrapped books which have been accumulating a waiting list.
To make a donation in order to receive a copy, call 336-527-7457 or visit hughchatham.org/about/foundation/.
Beanie Taylor can be reached at 336-258-4058 or on Twitter @TBeanieTaylor.