Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Epilogue | Pamela Riter

Friends, family and staff rallied around popular hospital CEO with cancer

ST. PETERSBURG — Many of the more than 200 employees of Kindred Hospital St. Petersburg began folding paper cranes in 2006, learning all of the steps until their fingers knew them.

They planned to give the origami birds to their chief executive, Pamela Riter, who had been diagnosed with breast cancer. If they could make 1,000, a Japanese legend maintained, their wish for her recovery would come true.

A Newport, Ky., native, Mrs. Riter earned a nursing degree at Northern Kentucky University. She worked in area hospitals before moving to Tampa in 1980. She worked in Tampa hospitals, including University Community Hospital, moving up through positions in infection control, quality review and as an administrator.

She took over as CEO of Kindred Hospital in 1997, the year it opened.

"When we had hurricanes, she was the first person to get us cots and sleep over at the hospital," said Dr. Fadi Saba, a former Kindred chief of staff. "She pitched in with cleaning and moving beds. She served food to the staff and patients."

She challenged and empowered. "She would let you know if you were doing a great job," said lead case manager Helene Bush.

She discovered the lump during a self-exam about five years ago. She underwent chemotherapy, radiation and surgery but never complained.

"It's just my piece and my turn," she said.

When her hair fell out, she went without a wig because it was too hot.

Her staffers cut their hair short, too. They wore pink bracelets, walked for miles and raised money for All Children's Hospital.

In their spare time, they made cranes out of wrapping paper, construction paper and stationery. They folded and folded and tucked and folded, at least two-dozen steps for one bird.

"We went to a website to learn how to do it," said Bush. "Everyone started doing it."

Mrs. Riter took a crack at the origami, too. She remained hopeful even after Steve Riter, her husband of 24 years, died at age 60 of prostate cancer in March.

She died Jan. 8 at Hospice House Brookside. Mrs. Riter was 55.

Friends gathered at her condominium recently to share stories and laugh and cry.

"It was beautiful," said Christina Gibson, Mrs. Riter's daughter. "There were cranes everywhere. In baskets, in centerpieces, displayed in bowls."

Guests at the celebration each took home a crane.

"We were all hoping the story behind it would be true," said Bush. "You make cranes and you get your wish."

But in a sense, she added, their wishes were at least partially realized.

"We got an additional five years with her. Considering what her diagnosis was, I consider myself lucky."

Andrew Meacham can be reached at (727) 892-2248 or [email protected]

.Biography

Pamela Marie Riter

Born: Aug. 1, 1955.

Died: Jan. 8, 2011.

Survivors: Daughter Christina Gibson; stepdaughter Bianca Dyar and her husband Mark; and three grandchildren.

Friends, family and staff rallied around popular hospital CEO with cancer 01/21/11 [Last modified: Friday, January 21, 2011 7:23pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. 'Empire' star Grace Byers keynotes USF Women in Leadership & Philanthropy luncheon

    Human Interest

    BY AMY SCHERZER

    TAMPA — The first University of South Florida graduate to address the USF's Women in Leadership & Philanthropy supporters, Grace Gealey Byers, class of 2006, centered her speech on her first name, turning it into a verb to share life lessons.

    Grace Byers, University of South Florida Class of 2006, stars on the Fox television show Empire. She delivered the keynote at the USF Women in Leadership and Philanthropy luncheon Friday. Photo by Amy Scherzer
  2. Southeast Seminole Heights holds candlelight vigil for victims' families and each other

    News

    TAMPA — They came together in solidarity in Southeast Seminole Heights, to sustain three families in their grief and to confront fear, at a candlelight vigil held Sunday night in the central Tampa neighborhood.

    A peaceful march that began on east New Orleans Avenue was held during the candlelight vigil for the three victims who were killed in the recent shootings in the Seminole Heights neighborhood in Tampa on Sunday, October 22, 2017.
  3. It's not just Puerto Rico: FEMA bogs down in Florida, Texas too

    HOUSTON — Outside Rachel Roberts' house, a skeleton sits on a chair next to the driveway, a skeleton child on its lap, an empty cup in its hand and a sign at its feet that reads "Waiting on FEMA."

    Ernestino Leon sits among the debris removed from his family’s flood-damaged Bonita Springs home on Oct. 11. He has waited five weeks for FEMA to provide $10,000 to repair the home.
  4. McConnell says he's awaiting Trump guidance on health care

    STERLING, Va. — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Sunday he's willing to bring bipartisan health care legislation to the floor if President Donald Trump makes clear he supports it.

    Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says he’s “not certain yet” on what Trump wants.
  5. Tampa's Lance McCullers shows killer instinct in pitching Astros to World Series

    Ml

    HOUSTON — It felt like the beginning on Saturday night at Minute Maid Park, the arrival of a new force on the World Series stage. The Astros are back, for the first time in a dozen years, and they want to stay a while.

    Houston Astros starting pitcher Lance McCullers (43) throwing in the fifth inning of the game between the Houston Astros and the Tampa Bay Rays in Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Sunday, July 12, 2015.