Big gloves to fill: 5 things to know about Sheldon Arkin
For MultiCare Health System’s retiring horticulturalist and landscape designer extraordinaire Sheldon Arkin, creating and tending the gardens of MultiCare over the past 30 years has been more than a job; it has been a calling. As he moves into retirement, here are five unforgettable things to know about Sheldon:
1. A master with a master's. Sheldon graduated from Santa Monica College with a bachelor's degree and continued his studies at Humboldt State, earning a master's degree. At 33, he joined MultiCare as a supervisor and eventually moved up to head groundskeeper for all MultiCare facilities.
2. Creating healing spaces. The creations of Sheldon's vision, perseverance and unrelenting patience are perhaps most visible at MultiCare Tacoma General Hospital’s gardens, which hold more than 1,400 rose bushes and 20 topiaries. The award-winning Baker Garden is often a respite for families seeking solace, a destination for employees joining together during lunch breaks, and a source of bouquets for patients with terminal illnesses and patients without visitors.
3. Weekend deliveries. Sheldon’s dedication to healing goes beyond the outdoors and extends to patients themselves. He coordinated weekly flower donations from local florists, organized volunteers to create bouquets with them, and then he and his wife Patsy often spent weekends delivering them, and a smile, to patients in our facilities.
4. Using his talent to help. As a master designer at the Mary Bridge Children’s Festival of Trees for almost 30 years, he used his talents to create elaborate trees that never failed to elicit a smile. He still holds the designer record for the most money raised in a single year.
5. Shaping our culture. In honor of Sheldon, MultiCare added a “Healing Places and Healing Spaces” category to the annual MultiCare President’s Award two years ago. The category recognizes aesthetic elements that create a healing environment, rather than only facilitating care. Sheldon is also the embodiment of the MultiCare value of kindness.
“I think the best attribute I’d like to honor with Sheldon is his genuine kindness,” says retired MultiCare President and CEO Diane Cecchettini, RN, who spent many years working with Sheldon. “He is kind to everybody – to the patients, to the visitors and the staff, and he makes us better people.”
Fortunately, Sheldon won’t be going too far as he still plans to help out around campus a few hours a week, and of course, he is already coming up with a plan for his tree at the 2018 Festival of Trees.
“This is the best job I’ve ever had,” Sheldon says. “I could not have asked for a better place to work for and better people to work for. Thank you all for being an encouragement and enjoying these gardens.”
(Editor's Note: Cindy Burtozzi Turco and Mark Swart contributed to this article.)