NCH unveils ‘Wall of Honor’ memorializing fallen community heroes

NCH unveiled its “Wall of Honor” on Wednesday, acknowledging the contributions of 200 employees who served and people who dedicated their lives to serving the community.

Naples Firefighter Tony Christensen lost his battle with COVID-19 in August. His wife, Diane, takes life a day at a time, as another sad reminder nears.

“July Fourth is the day he was admitted into the hospital, so that’s kind of – it’s gonna be a different feeling for me, I think from now on,” Diane Phillips said. “It’s a struggle, but you just get up every day, and I’m grateful for the 20-some years I had with Tony, and that’s what I focus on.”

She can focus on Tony and his legacy as she walks into work every day at NCH.

“It’s just going to be an honor,” Diane said. “It’s a warm feeling in my heart.”

Tony’s fire helmet is now part of the “Wall of Honor,” recognizing Tony and other local first responders and veterans. Around 200 NCH employees have served in the U.S. military.

“We wanted to honor those people as heroes and then all the first responders especially through COVID who did so much, so selflessly,” said Paul Hiltz, the president and CEO of NCH. “We want to honor those folks too.”

Police and military uniforms, soda cans from Afghanistan, and photographs are among other items at the wall. The display case is framed by monitors showing the faces and names of local fallen heroes.

Hiltz said the display will change and evolve over time as they get more military and first responder memorabilia from the community.

Winslow Taylor, an NCH phlebotomist and Navy and Marine Corps veteran, said he plans to visit the wall every day.

“I lost friends. It represents them as well,” Taylor said. “I served 10 years, and then I went into the Reserve. It’s like a part of me that’s missing because the camaraderie and the friendship that you develop over the years, although brief, but it’s lifelong.”

Reporter:Rachel Cox-Rosen
Writer:Jack Lowenstein
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