By David Rogers. June 9, 2016. BLOWING ROCK, NC — Highway intersections may be a dime a dozen, but single one out and it is likely to have special significance for someone. It might even be a treasured crossroads.
COVER IMAGE: Reba and Grady Moretz. Photographic image by David Rogers for Blowing Rock News
Appalachian Regional Healthcare System (ARHS) recently joined with the North Carolina Department of Transportation (DOT) and the Town of Blowing Rock to name the new bridge over the Middle Fork of the New River (at the intersection of Edmisten Road and U.S. 321) in honor of Reba and Grady Moretz. At the time, it is unlikely that ARHS, the DOT, and the Town could have known that few honors would touch the founding owners of Appalachian Ski Mountain more because of their many ties to that treasured crossroads — and their longstanding commitment to High Country healthcare.
This is a great, great honor. We can’t talk about it without tears.
“The naming of the bridge,” Mrs. Moretz admitted, “is a great, great honor to us. We can’t talk about it without tears. I guess it came about from several things, including our having ties to the healthcare industry for a long, long time. It even dates back to my parents and Grady’s parents, when our family doctors were Dr. J.B. Hagaman, Sr., and then Dr. J.B., Jr. Our connection to Blowing Rock started when Dr. Charlie Davant became our family physician. Grady was on the school board and Dr. Davant was on the school board. When J.B., Jr. died, we started going to Dr. Davant. It wasn’t long before Dr. Charlie asked Grady to serve on his Blowing Rock Hospital board.
“We have had such a long connection to the healthcare industry in Blowing Rock,” noted Mrs. Moretz. “We were married in 1955, so we have been around for the whole life cycle of Blowing Rock Hospital, which was built in 1953.”
Mrs. Moretz was quick to acknowledge that regardless of any personal sentimentality or emotional attachment to Blowing Rock Hospital, the industry has moved beyond the scope and capabilities of Blowing Rock’s historic healthcare property.
“Advances in technology, aging facilities, the new ways healthcare is being delivered today,” noted the one-time graduate of Appalachian State Teacher’s College, “all of those things have played a part in the need for Appalachian Regional Healthcare System to close Blowing Rock Hospital and transition to the new way of doing things at Chestnut Ridge.
“Through the years,” she added, “we have seen all of the things that Appalachian Regional Healthcare System has done for healthcare in the High Country. We have even had need for some of the services, such as from the Cancer Center, the neurologists, the cardiologists and more. We have such an appreciation for all that they have brought to this area for healthcare in our community. To be adding yet another facility like The Foley Center at Chestnut Ridge, well that enhances the quality of healthcare in our community even more and is such an important thing. This naming of the bridge, I think it was initiated by the Chestnut Ridge committee. It wasn’t something that we had even dreamed of.”
“As it happens,” Grady Moretz pointed out, “the entrance to Chestnut Ridge goes across that new bridge directly opposite of what is the de facto entrance to our business, Appalachian Ski Mountain. So that intersection is very special to us, even more so because in order to build that bridge they had to take down the landmark billboard we had on that side of the highway, a billboard that had been there for more than 50 years.”
That intersection has so much special meaning for us.
Mr. Moretz laughed in recalling for Blowing Rock News, “I remember that as App Ski Mountain got ever more popular, we would have as many as 300 cars leave the ski area down Edmisten Rd. to U.S. 321, between 10 and 11 o’clock at night. Sometimes it was snowing. Sometimes it might be raining. Sometimes it might be icy. But that intersection was dangerous and there wasn’t a (traffic) light. The Highway Patrol at first said we should just call them on busy nights and they would send someone to control the traffic, so those skiers could turn right or left without the danger of getting in an accident. That didn’t last too long because those troopers were having to stand out there in the cold and I don’t imagine they liked it too much!
“So eventually we got a part-time light,” he added. “During the warmer season, the Tweetsie Railroad intersection got the signal lights. During the ski season, the Edmisten Rd. intersection got them. Now, with it being a full intersection and with the bridge leading up to a big healthcare facility, we will have a year-round light Yes, that intersection has been special to us for a long time. We have a lot of ties to that intersection, as well as to the Blowing Rock healthcare industry.”
Smiled Mrs. Moretz, “Having the bridge leading to the area’s next evolution of healthcare named in our honor and at a special intersection that has meant so much to us and our business, well, it doesn’t get much better than that.”
Reached by Blowing Rock News at his office in Boone, Senior Vice President of System Advancement for Appalachian Regional Healthcare System, Rob Hudspeth, explained that the naming of the bridge for the Moretz family was related to Reba and Grady’s longstanding dedication and commitment to healthcare, economic development and service to the community.
Hudspeth added, “Reba and Grady have long been supporters of Blowing Rock Hospital and ARHS over the years, but this is also about their connection to that intersection, their sacrifice of the billboard, and everything that they have done for the community.
“Reba serves on our capital campaign committee for Chestnut Ridge,” Hudspeth noted. “Last summer I sat across the table from Reba when she was passionately describing to a potential benefactor ‘why Chestnut Ridge was so important.’ Reba went on and on about the history of healthcare in Blowing Rock, the role of the Davant family, the need for good local healthcare, and the advantages of Blowing Rock Hospital joining forces with ARHS in 2007.
“Jerry Hutchens was there and he grinned from ear to ear in response to Reba’s enthusiasm,” recalled Hudspeth. “He turned and whispered to me, ‘we should ask DOT and the Town of Blowing Rock to name the new bridge for Reba and Grady.’ We asked them (DOT and The Town of Blowing Rock), they agreed — and that’s how it happened. There were so many people involved and it was very gratifying.”
Hudspeth concluded his interview with Blowing Rock News by saying, “This is a very small token of our appreciation and it just makes sense in so many ways.”
The onsite bridge dedication is Thursday, June 9, 2016, 2:00 pm.