Donor garden honors fallen McAlester officer

·3 min read

Apr. 28—McAlester Regional Health Center CEO Shawn Howard said Friday was a fitting day to dedicate a donor garden in memory of a fallen officer.

"I had an employee reach out to me this morning and tell me today was National Superhero Day," Howard said during a Friday presentation at MRHC. "That couldn't be more fitting for the dedication that we're doing today."

McAlester Patrolman Joseph Barlow died on March 20 at St. John Medical Center in Tulsa after succumbing to injuries received in a head-on collision during a March 17 escort for fallen McAlester Police Captain Richard Parker.

Organizers said the Friday ceremony held at the main entrance of MRHC honored Barlow's bravery, generosity, and commitment to the community and his final act of selflessness — organ donation.

Life Share Oklahoma said Barlow donated his liver, heart, pancreas, and kidney, which had the potential to save up to four lives.

Howard said although he did not personally know Barlow, he was swept up by how the community came together and it brought back memories of how his grandfather's career as a Highway Patrolman ended after an accident.

"I knew there was something that the hospital needed to do to honor this gentleman," Howard said. "Whether it was fate or timing, or her own memories being resurfaced by this event, I was contacted by a community member and an old employee of the hospital named Dorothy Crone."

Howard said Crone helped establish the hospital's first Organ and Tissue Donor Garden outside the hospital's main entrance.

"After several conversations with my team and board members, we realized although our organ donor garden had been established many years in the past, it had never been dedicated to a special honoree," Howard said. "The impact that Officer Barlow had on this community left him as the obvious choice to receive this honor."

The hospital CEO said becoming an organ donor is a "special class of bravery" and when people check that box, they are making a selfless decision to affect someone's else life long after death.

"I hope in honoring Officer Barlow in this garden, his story will live on, and his bravery will live on to motivate others to participate in such a selfless act of giving," Howard said.

Several members of the Barlow family helped unveil the plaque that is inscribed with Barlow's badge and badge number and reads "May this garden serve as a reminder of Officer Joseph Barlow's bravery, generosity, and commitment to making the world a better place."

Chris Plunkett, executive director of the McAlester Regional Health Center Foundation, thanked MJ's Lawn Service for providing the flowers planted in the memorial garden. He also thanked McAlester Monument Company for providing the plaque in Barlow's honor.

MRHC Chaplin Louie Reynolds told those who attended that the tears that fall tell a story and thanked God for giving the opportunity for Barlow's legacy to live on.

"Capture that tear today, and it's a memory that will go on and be seen by many people. The story will be told," Reynolds said.

"His heart still beats, so father, we thank you for that."