BATAVIA — As she exited United Memorial Medical Center, Catherine Weatherbee was expecting to meet up with Dr. Nicholas Loffredo for lunch.
Instead she was met with the flash of cameras as a 2016 Subaru with a red bow pulled out in front of her, Loffrendo stepping out to present the gift from him and the rest of the hospital’s staff.
“It was something we wanted to do for you. You’re so giving that when you give, you receive,” Loffredo said, wrapping an arm around her as she stared in shock at her new car.
He said Weatherbee, a third floor secretary, has always been such a giving person. She makes their unit a wonderful place — decorating it by hand every season, giving decorations to the children and being a tremendous bright spot to their medical-surgery unit.
“It’s been awhile now, but I wanted to give her this car so she can realize how much she is appreciated and deserving, and we really just wanted to do this for her,” Loffredo said.
The fundraising began just after Thanksgiving with the intent to give it to Weatherbee by her 60th birthday on Dec. 14. A GoFundMe was put up online and within a matter of days they had more than enough money to purchase the car. But before they could present it to Weatherbee, she fell sick to COVID.
“This was going to be a big 60th birthday surprise and she got sick,” Loffredo said, becoming emotional. “We called and she was doing good at home. We were going to give this to her when she came back, and we’re just happy that she’s back with us.
“I know a lot of people are probably going through very similar things, you know?” he said. “This is a good thing and we wanted to.”
So they all gathered together and talked with the assembled media outside the building where Wetherbee has long worked, and which has continued its mission of providing lifesaving treatment to area residents throughout the pandemic.Weatherbee previously had a 2002 Saturn with 189,000 miles on it. Its needed repairs were slated to cost more than the its value after its frame broke.
Weatherbee had been relying since then on rides and calling cabs in order to get around.
The new vehicle was a total surprise and the two were impressed that people were able to keep Weatherbee’s new car a secret for so long.
So what did she think when she received her new ride?
Weatherbee said they’re all in her prayers and she appreciates it.
“I have no words to say. I can’t believe this. This is unbelievable,” she said, adding when she woke up this morning all that was on her mind was she hoped the cab showed up and she would be having lunch with Loffredo. “This is my family. UMMC.”