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Memory of Champion gardener to live on

| Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2013, 8:58 p.m.
The late Debbie Ann White of Champion, who died Wednesday, Dec. 26, 2012, after a long battle with stomach cancer, is pictured with flowers she planted at her home in a photograph taken in summer of 2011. Submitted

Debbie Ann White always harbored a love and passion for flowers and gardening.

In particular, she adored tulips.

In fact, it was one of White's goals for 2013 to plant tulips on the grounds of Arnold Palmer Pavilion at Mountain View Medical Park in Unity.

The resident of Champion spent so much time there in recent years enduring painful chemotherapy treatments for stomach cancer.

White's pursuit of that goal ended tragically when she died Wednesday, Dec. 26, 2012, in Excela Health Latrobe Hospital. She was 54.

“Everybody was so heartbroken to learn of Debbie's passing; she made an impact on the patients and staff here and she cared for everyone,” said Katie Kalp, a medical social worker at Excela Health Home Care & Hospice and Arnold Palmer Pavilion. “We were very honored to be part of her care.”

In White's memory, Kalp said she intends to lead the staff at Arnold Palmer Pavilion in keeping up with the garden White planted there late last spring.

“The nurses and I already have plans that, in the spring, we're going to go out there and keep up with Debbie's garden work,” Kalp said. “She was looking to plant tulips there ... it was one of her goals ... so we will do that.”

In June, White had just finished replenishing the landscape surrounding the pavilion along state Route 20 with a variety of flower seeds.

At the time, White, then 53, had just undergone more than one year of chemotherapy at the facility while also enduring several surgeries for stomach cancer.

Employees of the facility reciprocated White‘s largesse over the summer by planting flowers at her home in Champion, where she resided with her husband, Randy.

“Next year, it will look much prettier; I can‘t wait,” said Debbie White at the time.

Soon after that, White learned that her cancer had returned.

Now Randy White said his most ardent hope is that Kalp and the others at Arnold Palmer Pavilion keep their word to make sure his late wife's garden survives there.

“She put a lot of time and effort into making it look good, so my biggest wish is that they don't let it grow back up to what it was,” Randy White said. “If they need some help with doing that, I'd be happy to lend a hand. We're all gonna miss her.”

White's daughter, Sarah Harshman, of Bryans Road, Md., said she shares in the hope of her father that her mother's garden lives on.

“I am very relieved that the staff at Arnold Palmer (Pavilion) is going to keep up with the garden. Mom was so proud and happy to do it for the patients receiving their treatments,” Harshman said. “She felt that, if she lifted just one person's spirits by looking out the window and seeing the beautiful flowers, it was well worth her time. I know Mom will do her best to make the flowers plentiful from heaven.”

A.J. Panian is an editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-547-5722 or