Legacy of late baseball hall-of-famer to benefit patients of tomorrow

April 21, 2006
On Thursday, April 20, New Hanover Regional Medical Center’s dialysis was officially named “The Willie ‘Pops’ Stargell Dialysis Center” in memory of the famous Wilmington resident and hall-of-famer, Willie Stargell, known for his 21 years as first-baseman of the Pittsburgh Pirates.

When Mr. Stargell passed away in 2001, after a lengthy battle with renal failure and having spent the last five years of his life receiving dialysis treatments, it was his desire that patients who need dialysis are able to receive it and that it be done in a comfortable and relaxed setting.

Now, just days after the fifth anniversary of his death, Mr. Stargell’s widow, Margaret Weller-Stargell, is doing everything in her power to make his wishes come true.

“While he wouldn’t have chosen to live his last few years on dialysis, he would be pleased to know that efforts are being made to help individuals who find themselves in the same situation he was in,” said Mrs. Weller-Stargell. “He truly believed that one can maintain a quality of life even though they learn they have to be on dialysis. Being on dialysis did not define Willie and he would want us to help others understand that they can still have quality years while living on dialysis. So to make a comfortable environment, where people are able to receive services regardless of their ability to pay would be important to him.”

Mrs. Weller-Stargell is responsible for designating a gift from the Willie Stargell Foundation, using funds raised from the annual Willie Stargell Celebrity Golf Tournament, to rename NHRMC’s dialysis unit in his memory. In providing treatment to thousands of patients every year who find themselves in end-stage renal failure, the dialysis center will help carry out the Stargell’s vision of providing care to all in need.

Pittsburgh Pirates’ owner, Kevin McClatchy, attended the ceremony, along with other friends and family of Mr. Stargell.

“Everyone who loved and admired Willie, including his family, former teammates, the committee of our annual Willie Stargell Celebrity Golf Event, and the sponsors who have financially contributed to it annually, fully support this effort,” said Mrs. Weller-Stargell. “They know and understand that the purpose behind this event would make Willie happy.”

And if Mr. Stargell could take part in the naming ceremony Thursday, she believes it would bring a huge smile to his face.

“I think he would sit back in his usual modest way, very unassuming, not wanting any credit for anything, while saying, ‘If we’re helping people to live a better life, it’s a good thing,’ and that’s all he would care about. For Willie, it wasn’t about fame and glory. It was about making sure everybody was treated with dignity and respect and that’s the way he would want it to be.”