JOPLIN, Mo. - Robert Riley and Rodney Plumb, local Joplin ironworkers, stood atop the nine-story tower of St. John’s Regional Medical Center in the early 1980s and placed the last piece of steel on the hospital addition. Two years later, Riley passed away at age 37, leaving a wife and several small children behind.
For Rachel McPheron, who was 8 years old when her dad died, recovering a piece of what her dad’s hands helped build carries incredible meaning. So when Mercy and DORE & Associates Contracting Inc. laid aside a steel beam from the tower, something special took shape.
Knowing the family’s story, DORE’s Dennis Hoff cut a Mercy cross out of the large beam along with smaller crosses for each of Riley’s children. After three decades, both the Riley and Plumb families recently gathered at the site for an emotional reunion.
“We are so thankful for this gift to our family,” said McPheron. “We will never go anywhere else for our care.”
Besides holding special meaning for the family, the cross within a cross symbolizes the beginnings of Mercy’s ministry that dates back almost 200 years ago. For Catherine McAuley, Sisters of Mercy founder, the inner cross was a reminder to dedicate ourselves to the work God has given us, take up our own cross and serve with a deep respect for others.