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Longtime ELIH community director Patricia Kiernan dies at 63


Patricia “Pat” Kiernan, who for more than a decade helped to raise millions of dollars for Eastern Long Island Hospital as a leader of fundraising and outreach efforts, died Tuesday after a long battle with cancer, family members said.

She was 63.

Ms. Kiernan was well known and beloved as a “sparkplug” among hospital staff and community leaders, pushing to send a message that ELIH was a partner in the community, hospital leaders said.

“It’s hard to put into words what she’s done for the institution,” said Paul O’Connor, CEO of ELIH. “She was a relentlessly hard worker, probably to a fault. She was extremely dedicated and loyal.”

Ms. Kiernan joined the hospital in February 2001 and quickly energized the hospital’s community outreach. She also had a leading role expanding the hospital’s foundation fundraising efforts.

The hospital normally runs an operating deficit, Mr. Connor explained, so the medical center relies on outside donations and fundraising to keep a profit and continue improvements.

Ms. Kiernan also played a key role in the hospital’s 2005 emergency room expansion, which was paid for in part through a fundraising campaign.

Thanks to Ms. Kiernan, the amount of donations pulled in by hospital fundraising efforts like the annual golf outing and gala have nearly doubled, Mr. Connor said. In total, Ms. Kiernan’s work drew an estimated $25 million in donations for the hospital.

Eileen Solomon, the current director of community relations for ELIH, worked under Ms. Kiernan for 14 years.

Ms. Solomon called her a “role model” who encouraged others to do their best. Ms. Solomon recalled the hospital’s 100 year anniversary celebration, when Ms. Kiernan — sweating in the 110 degree heat — rushed around to make the event a success and never complained.

“You were excited to be there with her,” she said. “She was always in the moment.” Ms. Solomon praised Ms. Kiernan’s dedication to staying in touch with local community groups.

Ms. Kiernen met her husband, Jack Larsen, 14 years ago doing just that.

In an interview Wednesday, Mr. Larsen said the two became acquainted at a Greenport Chamber of Commerce meeting at Peconic Landing where Ms. Kiernan was representing the hospital.

Close mutual friends “knew we were both single so they pointed us in the right direction,” he said.

“I loved her energy. She had sparkle and a lot of life in her,” he said. The couple traveled a lot, he said, sailing around the Chesapeake Bay and the Bahamas in a catamaran. They were engaged one year after they met, after Mr. Larsen proposed in a restaurant high over Paris as the sun set behind the Eiffel Tower.

“As our one friend said, she was beautiful on the inside and the outside,” he said. “She was always ready for dancing or a party, just getting people together.” Though they didn’t marry at first, Ms. Keirnan became close with Mr. Larsen’s children from a previous marriage, treating them as her own.

Then, two years ago, Ms. Kiernan became ill. Mr. Larsen said cancer had spread in her body, and was caught too late to completely eradicate. Still, even while undergoing surgeries and cancer treatments, Ms. Kiernan still worked at the hospital. After she retired last year, Ms. Kiernan stayed on to help train her successor.

But her health took a turn for the worse this year, Mr. Larsen said. Last week, just days before she passed, Ms. Kiernan and Mr. Larsen were finally wed at her bedside by Town Clerk Elizabeth Neville.

“It was personal between Patty and I,” Mr. Larsen said. “That’s how we wanted it to end.” On Tuesday, Ms. Kiernan died in hospice, surrounded by her family.

“I feel a huge amount of sadness and a huge amount of relief,” he said. “It’s been two years that we’ve done this.”

Since her death, Mr. Larsen said something about their relationship has become perfectly clear.

“It was the best 14 years of my life,” he said. “Since she’s gone and passed, I realized I had not been lonely for the past 14 years.”

Visitation for Ms. Kiernan will be held tomorrow, Friday, July 22, from 7 to 9 p.m. and Saturday, July 23, from 10 a.m. to noon at Horton-Mathie Funeral Home in Greenport.

As part of her final wishes, Ms. Kiernan’s family has asked any memorial donations be made to East End Hospice. And, of course, her family ask that donations can also be made to Eastern Long Island Hospital.

[email protected]

Photo caption: Patricia Kiernan and her then-finance, Jack Larsen, pose at one of Eastern Long Island Hospital’s Summer Galas at the Corso residence in this undated photo. (Credit: Eastern Long Island Hospital, courtesy)

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