The beautifully decorated 9-foot Christmas tree in Memorial Medical Center’s Capitol Lobby — a new feature this year — was attracting plenty of second-glances and compliments the first morning it was on display Nov. 27.
As visitors and employees walked past the red, white and silver tree, many made comments to one another regarding its splendor.
If they knew the tree’s back story, they’d be even more inspired.
Last year, Elena Kezelis, executive director of the Memorial Medical Center Foundation, was asked by Ed Curtis, president and chief executive officer of Memorial Health System, to help decorate the lobby with what Kezelis called a “magnificent” tree to better connect MMC with Memorial’s Festival of Trees, which ended its successful nine-day run on Nov. 25.
Kezelis approached longtime Festival volunteer Joyce Silotto, a retired Pleasant Plains schoolteacher from Taylorville, to lend her talent and expertise as a tree designer. The two together picked out the tree earlier this year, and Joyce began searching for the perfect ornaments, ribbon and topper.
“Joyce always had done a beautiful job on the trees she decorated for the Festival of Trees,” Kezelis said. “She was tickled pink about being asked to decorate our lobby tree.”
Before Joyce had the opportunity to come to MMC to trim the tree, however, she died unexpectedly from an aneurysm on Nov. 17.
Foundation employees planned to decorate the tree in her place, but once Joyce’s friends and former colleagues caught wind of the tree she had been so excited about, they asked to decorate it themselves in Joyce’s memory. Joyce’s family brought in the decorations she had collected, and on Monday, Nov. 26, the group gathered in the Capitol Lobby to work on the tree. Joyce’s daughter, Pam, and granddaughter, Grace, stopped by to snap photos and say thank you.
“It became a pretty emotional night,” Kezelis said.
The Capitol Lobby tree is located near the Capitol elevators on Memorial Medical Center’s first level.