February 9, 2011

State of Alabama
Press Release: Mental Health, Department of

GOVERNOR BENTLEY PRAISES THE PRIVATE FUND RAISING EFFORTS FOR THE BRYCE HOSPITAL CEMETERY MEMORIAL GARDEN PROJECT

MONTGOMERY – In April 2010, the Bryce Hospital Cemetery Memorial Dedication Ceremony was held at the Bryant-Jordan Chapel in Tuscaloosa to pay tribute to the thousands of people who have been buried in the four nearby cemeteries at Bryce Hospital. The Bryce Hospital Historical Preservation Committee (BHHPC) set a goal to construct a monument and memorial garden at one of the cemeteries to honor the patients who lived, died and were interred at Bryce Hospital from the 1860’s until the present. Literally, thousands of unmarked graves have been largely neglected or vandalized for decades. The Alabama Department of Mental Health and the BHHPC wanted to make things right. An architect presented plans with projected costs of 80 to 100 thousand dollars. The small committee comprised of a variety of preservation advocates along with several descendants of Drs. Bryce, Searcy, Tarwater and Partlow, were challenged with the projected cost. The state department was already facing cuts and the committee would have to raise the money from public donations.

The committee had few resources at its disposal, very little or no fundraising experience and a daunting fundraising goal during a difficult period of economic scarcity. Nevertheless, the committee believed that the people of Alabama would step forward to help reserve the memory of Bryce Hospital’s past generations.

Dr. Tom Hobbs, chairman of the committee, contacted the Community Foundation of West Alabama (CFOWA) in Tuscaloosa and asked if they would act as the non-profit agency to receive tax deductable donations. The CFOWA, always interested in supporting worthwhile projects in West Alabama, willingly agreed to do so. The BHHPC then appealed to the people of Alabama, corporate entities and charitable foundations. After nine months of hard work, the committee has now raised almost $150,000! With the additional funds, they hope to expand the project to include placing a small monument at the other three cemetery sites and establishing a mini-memorial at the gravesites of Dr. and Mrs. Peter Bryce (located on the front lawn of the hospital). “The Bryce Cemetery Memorial Garden construction project will be bid according to state regulations,” said Zelia Baugh, Commissioner of ADMH. The department is contributing $20,000 in discretionary funds (raised through a golf tournament) to demonstrate support of the worthwhile project. Baugh reported the success of the fund raising efforts to Governor Bentley. He responded, “When one looks at this project in relation to the overall demands for strapped public funds, this amount of money is small. But, it represents the enormous potential of what people can achieve for projects all across the state with determination and without depending on government money.”

Regarding a timetable, Dr. Hobbs stated, “In view of 2011 being Bryce Hospital's 150th anniversary year, our objective is to complete the memorial garden in time to host a commemoration ceremony in the fall. In order to complete the other cemetery projects, it is likely that we will need additional funds. Thus, the fundraising effort will continue well into the future. Since Bryce Hospital has touched the lives of so many families in Alabama, we hope that those individuals will continue to step forward to help us ensure that the thousands of people buried at Bryce Hospital will never be forgotten.”

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To interview Dr. Hobbs, Commissioner Baugh, Bryce Historian Steve Davis or any of the descendants of the first four Bryce Hospital superintendents, contact ADMH’s Office of Public Information & Community Relations at 334-242-3417.

To obtain a donation form for the Community Foundation of West Alabama, use the following link: http://www.mh.alabama.gov/BryceHospitalProject/Documents/DonationForm.pdf


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