Beloved Volunteer Leaves $1 Million Gift to Morris Hospital Foundation
December 27, 2022, Morris, IL – Gretchen Johnson had already left a legacy at Morris Hospital by serving as the organization’s first and only volunteer historian for more than 20 years where she preserved the hospital’s history dating all the way back to its 1906 founding.
Now the dedicated volunteer, who passed away in July 2021 at the age of 90, has become part of history herself by leaving a $1 million gift to Morris Hospital through her estate. It’s the largest gift the Morris Hospital Foundation has ever received from a single donor.
“Gretchen had always disclosed that she was going to make a gift to Morris Hospital, but we don’t discuss the amount with our legacy donors,” said Hannah Wehrle, Morris Hospital Auxiliary & Foundation Officer. “As shocked as I was by the size of the gift, it’s not surprising that even after she’s gone, Gretchen is still finding a way to support Morris Hospital.”
A lifelong resident of Morris, Johnson started volunteering at Morris Hospital in 1998. A few years later when the hospital was preparing for its centennial celebration, she was asked if she was interested in researching the hospital’s history. Johnson graciously accepted the assignment, which evolved into a permanent volunteer historian role where she dedicated her volunteer hours to researching and preserving the hospital’s history, spending countless hours reading archived newspaper articles at the Morris Public Library and putting together scrapbooks and typewritten reports. She had a total of 8,591 documented volunteer hours with Morris Hospital.
Prior to becoming a Morris Hospital volunteer, Johnson worked as a clerical secretary for the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Grundy County Home. She also worked in the accounting and administrative department for Northern Petro Chemical Company. She and her husband Samuel R. Johnson, who died in 1981, did not have children.
“Even though Gretchen wasn’t an employee of Morris Hospital, this is where she spent the majority of her hours. Morris Hospital was home for her,” said Wehrle. “She was valued and appreciated, and she loved the interactions she had with employees, patients and community members.”
Wehrle said that Johnson left her gift unrestricted, meaning the Morris Hospital Foundation can apply the gift to the areas of greatest need.
“Unrestricted gifts are very important to the Morris Hospital Foundation because they allow us to provide funding for new services and programs and updated equipment and technology that are really important to the community but might not otherwise have been possible,” Wehrle explained. “Leaving a gift of this size and allowing us to decide what to do with the money demonstrates that Gretchen loved Morris Hospital and trusted us enough to know that however we use the money, it will be in good hands.”
Despite the magnitude of the gift, Wehrle said Johnson’s dedicated volunteerism at Morris Hospital will always be her greatest legacy.
“What’s most special is how many hours she gave of herself,” said Wehrle, noting that even in the height of the pandemic during Johnson’s final years of life, she continued to do her volunteer work from home.
“She was an incredibly patient, very thoughtful person, and so incredibly kind. She truly was like a little angel on earth.”
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