OPINION — A few weeks ago, many in St. George said goodbye as a local legend and friend, Berniece Godfrey, passed away. I don’t remember the exact time I first met Berniece 20 years ago, but I’m pretty sure she looked me squarely in the eyes and said something like, “What are you doing to make this community a better place?” The Berniece Paxton Godfrey I knew lived to do just that and was a catalyst for those around her to step up and do the same. We loved her for it and miss her greatly.

Have you ever needed chemotherapy? Has someone you loved needed hospice care? Have you ever had a reason to visit Intermountain St. George Regional Hospital or one of the hospital’s Jubilee Homes? Has someone you know benefited from a scholarship to Utah Tech or attended Utah State University? Are you an American Veteran or member of Rotary? The list goes on and on.

If you answered “yes” to any of the above, you’re one of the thousands who owe a debt of gratitude to Berniece.

She began her life of volunteerism and philanthropy at age 13 when she collected funds for the first-ever March of Dimes campaign in association with Primary Children’s Hospital. Nearly three quarters of a century later, the fruits of her volunteerism and philanthropy span the state. In addition to three decades of service as a trustee for the governing boards of both St. George Regional Hospital and its foundation, she also served as a trustee at Cottonwood Hospital.

Berniece loved youth, taught and rescued many young men and women who were in difficult circumstances throughout her life, and provided significant support for Utah State University and Dixie State University (now Utah Tech). Her countless contributions in time and treasure include those to many nonprofit endeavors from American Veterans to the Salvation Army, Rotary, Dixie Care and Share, the Dove House and The Children’s Justice Center.

She and her late husband William (Bill) made the lead gift to help launch the building of the first Jubilee Home in St. George, a charitable residential lodging facility for patients and families of patients receiving critical hospital care. After Bill’s passing in 1993, she established the Godfrey Endowment for the express purpose of providing ongoing support for compassionate services at Dixie Regional. Her donations reach well beyond the million dollar mark, yet more important is the role she filled influencing the profile and direction of the organizations with which she associated.

“She was never just a member, an average donor or a typical volunteer,” said Loriana De Crescenzo, the region executive director for Intermountain Foundation. “Berniece has been a driving force.”

Berniece’s gifts have not only provided financial assistance. She mentored and persuaded others to go and do likewise. Her energy and unflagging generosity created momentum and generated an increase of positive community action.

When then Dixie Regional Medical Center announced our New Hospital Campaign to raise dollars for the River Road Campus, Berniece at the front of the line, stepping forward with a leadership gift before the project was even fully defined.

I’ll never forget a favorite quote Berniece shared often:“Charity is the rent we pay for living here.” Berniece and her wonderful husband Bill paid their rent countless times over. While I believe and am glad she is once again united with him, she will be sorely missed in our hospital and community. We send our love to Ron, Randy Russ and the rest of the Godfrey family and friends. Thank you, Godfreys, for making a huge difference in health care and across our state.

Submitted by MITCH CLOWARD, Intermountain Health Desert Region President.

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