A husband’s deep desire to honor his wife leads to a $1,700,000 bequest in support of Cancer Care at Cooley Dickinson Hospital.

“Marge always had a soft spot in her heart for Cooley Dickinson,” said Ernie Vitkauskas of his wife of fifty-five years.

For Margaret and Ernest Vitkauskas, ties to Cooley Dickinson went back a long, long way.  From 1961 to 1981, Marge was the administrative secretary to William T. Lees, Jr., then head of the hospital.  She loved her job, and her colleagues and the medical staff were “family.”

Long after Marge retired, the Vitkauskases kept their eye on CDH.  As the hospital steadily strengthened and broadened its facilities and services, their commitment grew.  In 2005, they proudly became members of the Caleb Cooley Dickinson Society, which recognizes the generosity of planned giving donors.  “We knew we had a winner,” said Ernie, “A place where we could really make a difference.” 

Making a lasting difference in their hometown meant a lot to the couple.  They were both born and raised here.  While Marge worked at Cooley Dickinson, Ernie pursued a successful career in sales.  Though they traveled extensively, home was where their heart was, in Northampton.  Marge died in 2007, but Ernie was determined to keep on giving to the hospital because of her.

The Vitkauskases particularly wanted Cooley Dickinson to have what Ernie called “the best in oncology.”  They were excited to watch the hospital build up its oncology staff.  They recognized how the Kittredge Surgery Center would positively impact the hospital’s ability to serve cancer patients.

Ernie Vitkauskas died in January, 2010, but the couple’s legacy lives on.  Thanks to Marge and Ernie’s love of Cooley Dickinson, Northampton, and each other—our oncology program is stronger than ever.  Now and into the future, their generosity will have a tremendous impact on literally thousands of lives.