Niagara Gazette

Columns

May 15, 2013

DELUCA: New Hospice unit named for special guy

Niagara Gazette — I heard that Joe Ruffolo was just 16, working his first job in the hospital kitchen, when he met the man that he honored the other day.

That intrigued me. I imagined someone walking up to Ruffolo in the medical center hallway back then and saying “Kid, someday you’re going to be running this place ...”

That in itself might have been quite a revelation to young Joe, who went on to lead some pretty important hospitals in Buffalo before he returned about 10 years ago to take the reigns at Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center.  

But, to carry this imaginative exercise a little further, that person might have added “ ... and you see that guy over there — the one pushing the cart full of canned goods?  Well one day you’re going to name an entire wing of this place in his honor.”

That’s exactly what happened. 

Just the other day Ruffolo, CEO of Memorial, named the new hospice wing at Schoelkopf Health Center in honor of David Winker, an employee who worked at the hospital for 47 years until his death a couple of weeks ago.

Winker was special. He was the type of human around whom others revealed their character by the way they responded to him. To put it delicately, if it’s possible to do such a thing, he was intellectually challenged, but not handicapped. He had trouble reading and writing, but his did his job quite capably.

David biked to work every single day from his home in a trailer park near the expressway.

He would arrive three hours early so that he wouldn’t be late and then sit in the lobby until the cafeteria opened when he’d move near the kitchen until it was time to start work, shelving and storing all the food that came into the hospital.

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