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Thankful for extra time with aging parents, couple donates $3.5 million to local hospital

Published: Dec. 10, 2020 at 10:00 PM CST
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WACO, Texas (KWTX) - The daughter of former Dallas Cowboys star George Andrie and her husband, grateful for the extra time they had with her parents because of care her mother and father received as heart patients at Ascension Providence Hospital in Waco, have contributed $3.5 million to the facility.

Ascension Providence announced the gift from philanthropists Margaret and Weldon Ratliff of Waco Thursday, calling it “transformational’ for the future heart care of patients.

“It is something that moved me and others within the organization that this family has put their trust in us to grow a cardiac program,” hospital President Philip Patterson said.

“And that they want to be a part of it to such a sizable amount is tremendous.”

It’s a gift that’s deeply personal and about much more than money to the couple known for their generosity.

Margaret’s mother, Mary Lou and her father, who famously was part of the dynasty Cowboys Doomsday Defense in the late 60′s and 70′s, both struggled with health issues during the last decade of their lives.

When their health first began to decline, the two lived 1,500 miles away in Drummond Island, Mich.

The Ratliffs helped move them to Waco, so they could not only be closer to family, but also receive care at Ascension Providence.

The elder Andries were in and out of Providence many times before their deaths, Mary Lou fighting congestive heart failure and George with other issues, some related to old football injuries and others related to his heart, too.

Margaret said having her parents close to home and in good hands improved everyone’s quality of life.

“The hospital was not even five minutes from their home and five minutes from us,” Margaret said.

“There was a peace of a mind there and it was convenient. It was just a wonderful thing to have.”

George died in 2018 at the age of 78 and Mary Lou, her seven children say, couldn’t stand to be without him, often sitting at his graveside.

Eight months later, also at the age of 78, Mary Lou passed away.

“I told everybody she did die from heart problems, but she also died from a broken heart,” Margaret said.

The Ratliffs say the Andries died as they lived, with hearts full of love and kindness and it’s that kindness they want to pass on.

“If somebody is in the hospital, it’s probably one of the worst times in their lives,” Weldon said.

“Nobody wants to be there so if you can improve it, and Providence has done a great job of improving it, we just thought we could help.”

Patterson said the Ratliff’s gift will help in many different ways to improve overall cardiac care for the heart hospital which was first decades ago to locally perform an open-heart procedure and first to perform cardiac catheterization.

The funds will help expand services and research which will help recruit more highly-trained physicians to Waco.

“As we continue to expand and want to be on the cutting edge of medicine and technique, we can help to put money toward the research areas and resources that we need to continue that advancement,” Patterson said.

The gift will also aid in expanding the cardiac inpatient unit, adding additional beds while modernizing the floor.

A new operating room could soon be on the horizon with the boost.

“We are continuing to advance the structural heart program and the next stage of that is to improve our access to vascular care and to do that we need to add an additional operating room here at Providence,” Patterson said.

“It’s called a hybrid OR and what that does is it’s a traditional combination between a catheterization lab in the cardiac wing and an OR so having that sterile suite where you can do both minimally invasive and surgical techniques together.”

Patterson said the hospital is indebted to the Waco couple but so should patients who will benefit for years to come.

“The gift that Margaret and Weldon have trusted this organization with and trusted me with to help our community is something that I can’t even put into words,” Patterson said.

The former owner of Ratliff Ready Mix from Whitney and his family haven’t just helped the hospital. They give to countless organizations and nonprofits across Central Texas.

In 2016, the Ratliffs were named Philanthropists of the Year by the Association of Fundraising Professionals.

But Weldon said something about this opportunity struck him and that was the idea that one gift could be a gift for all.

“We donate a lot to different charities as much as we can,” Weldon said.

“We like to give back and when this came along, we looked at is as we could give to everybody, to help the local hospital stay ahead and it’s one gift that would help the entire community.”

“It was a no-brainer for us,” Margaret added with a smile.

“You ask ‘why?’ and I say ‘why not?’”

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