Helicopter propeller blades are incorporated into the garden design (KRBD staff photo by Maria Dudzak).

On June 6th, the Ken C. Eichner Healing Garden was dedicated and opened.  Eichner was an aviation pioneer from Ketchikan, and elements of his career are included in the garden design.

Though the day was rainy and windy, spirits weren’t dampened during a grand opening celebration of the Ken C. Eichner Healing Garden. Eichner was co-founder of both the Ketchikan Volunteer Rescue Squad and TEMSCO helicopters.  He died in 2007 at the age of 88.

In his honor, his family made a sizeable donation to the PeaceHealth Ketchikan Medical Center Foundation to create a special garden at the hospital for patients, their families and hospital caregivers. Foundation Executive Director Matt Eisenhower says the gift is the largest private donation made to the foundation.

A bed in the Ken C. Eichner Healing Garden (KRBD staff photo by Maria Dudzak).

Dan Eichner, Ken Eichner’s son, says his father was not one to beat his own drum, and that his father’s accomplishments speak for themselves. He says his father would be proud to know he is still helping people by providing a place where individuals and families can come to heal.

Margie Adams, PeaceHealth Ketchikan Medical Center chaplain, gave a blessing.

“And so we ask in the name of our God who calls us together and who loves us, who blesses us, sustains us and heals us, bless our garden, the tears that may be shed here, and the joys that will be celebrated.”

An iron gate created by Rhonda Green at the Ken C. Eichner Healing Garden (KRBD staff photo by Maria Dudzak).

Eisenhower described the features of the garden. An iron gate created by artist Rhonda Green depicts a helicopter pulling the American flag.  Ken Eichner began the tradition of flying the flag overhead at the start of Ketchikan’s 4th of July parade. Along with flower boxes, benches, tables and chairs, helicopter blades and booms are incorporated into the design. There are also glass awnings with overhead heaters.

“The main intent is for it to be a peaceful place for both our patients and families, as well as caregivers, to find a place to enjoy nature when they can.”

Eisenhower thanked the contractors, administrators and gardener for their work.

Several generations of the Eichner family gathered near the podium for the ribbon cutting. The honor was done by Karen Eichner.

PeaceHealth Ketchikan Medical Center Chief Administrative Officer Ed Freysinger shared the mission of PeaceHealth which focuses on physical, emotional and spiritual healing.

Members of the Eichner family gather for the ribbon cutting (KRBD staff photo by Maria Dudzak).

“Healing is really a personal journey. In a setting like this, it’s simple, yet it is complex. When we looked at it, you can look at the setting and go, it’s a very simple setting to come and reflect and to heal, and it’s a very rich, complex setting, whether it’s the blades from the helicopter, whether it’s the plantings, the design of the seating. And healing is that kind of a complex process too.”

Father and daughter Mike Fitzgerald and Sarah Fitzgerald sang “God Bless America.”

Shortly after, a TEMSCO helicopter, pulling an American flag, flew overhead and hovered while guests joined in a reprise of the song and applauded.

A TEMSCO helicopter, piloted by Deron Hehr, hovers above the garden. Eric Eichner arranged the flight to honor his grandfather (KRBD staff photo by Maria Dudzak).

The garden is located behind the hospital cafeteria. Photos of the garden and the helicopter tribute are posted with this story on our website.  Friday, June 8th would have been Ken Eichner’s 100th birthday. This year is the 60th anniversary of the founding of TEMSCO.