The two-decade, epic effort to upgrade Sonoma Valley Hospital, making it seismically safe, technologically up-to-date, fiscally secure and efficiently managed came to a celebratory close Saturday with a program of speakers, music, barbeque, cake and Champagne.

On hand to celebrate the successful conclusion of an $11 million capital campaign to outfit the $35 million hospital renovation, were Rep. Mike Thompson, D- St. Helena; 1st District Supervisor Susan Gorin; Sonoma Mayor Ken Brown; Bill Boreum, chair of the Sonoma Valley Health Care District board of directors; hospital CEO Kelly Mather and Chief Medical Officer Robbie Cohen.

Thompson, who revealed that he was born in the community hospital in St. Helena, observed that, “If you’re going to be sick, you may as well be sick in a hospital in your own community.”

And he praised the way the members of  “this community came together and worked through their differences” to rebuild the hospital.

Boerum called the hospital renovation effort “a tortured path, a tale which defies fiction,” adding, “Fortunately, the community’s politics finally found its way to what the community could pay.”

He praised previous executive directors Bob Kowal and Carl Gerlach, and gave Mather high marks for “determined, every-day executive decision-making (that) brought us to this day.”

Boerum gave recognition to the late state Sen. Pat Wiggins, who authored legislation passed by the Legislature uniquely allowing Sonoma Valley Hospital to adopt a design-build construction model that saved a significant amount in construction costs.

And he heaped praise on board member Peter Hohorst and volunteer Norman Gilroy who together shepherded the construction process. And he praised the generosity of donors who contributed to a capital campaign that, “in the philanthropic history of the Valley … surpasses all.”

Mayor Brown observed that his wife is a cancer survivor who was treated successfully at Sonoma Valley Hospital, and that his daughter was born there.

“When people think about living in Sonoma and the Sonoma Valley, they check out the hospital first,” he pointed out.

Marcia Nelson told those gathered that it is part of the culture of Sonoma to be sustainable, and to support “a sense of personal responsibility, when we can, to provide for those in need.”

Her husband, Gary, praised “our local people who made this a reality … Today we know that a small community like ours can do this without the support of a government contribution.”

Mather concluded the remarks by telling attendees, briefly in tears, “We would not be standing here without Gary and Marcia Nelson.” And she announced to loud applause, “We can now function without debt.”

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