The year was 2010, and things were looking bleak for Lower Bucks Hospital. In the midst of an unprecedented downturn in the economy, the hospital suffered some extraordinary circumstances, including operating losses of nearly $20 million in five years.
Many thought the hospital, located at 501 Bath Road in Bristol, would close. But Sen. Robert “Tommy” Tomlinson, whose father’s life was saved at the facility, stepped in, helping to pass Senate Bill 711, which legalized table games in Pennsylvania casinos in order to generate tax revenue and create economic opportunities in the commonwealth.
For this effort, as well as his longtime consistent involvement in the community, Tomlinson was the 2019 recipient of Lower Bucks Hospital’s Dee Brown Lifetime of Service Award. Among family, friends, neighbors and fellow elected officials, Tomlinson was honored during a special ceremony held in the hospital’s main lobby on the evening of Thursday, Nov. 7.
All proceeds from the event will benefit Gaudenzia, a regional organization that operates 169 drug and alcohol treatment programs that help men and women fight addiction, with 101 facilities located in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware and Washington, D.C.
Dr. Sonia Mehta, regional CEO and corporate chief medical officer with Prime Healthcare, explained to attendees the criteria that must be met in order to be nominated for the recognition.
“The award honors individuals who have devoted admirable energy and enthusiasm to the organization’s success. To be considered, nominees must have a demonstrated track record of loyalty to the hospital and its civic responsibility. The nominee must also personify Dee Brown’s tenacity for ensuring the best outcomes for the hospital’s initiatives,” Brown said. “Our honoree recognized the struggle within our community and the effect on Lower Bucks Hospital.”
Mehta then outlined Tomlinson’s vast history of local leadership. A native of Bensalem, with office locations in both the township and Richboro, Tomlinson graduated from Bensalem High School, the Bordentown Military Institute and West Chester State College. Here, he was captain of the football team in 1969, and helped the team capture the state championship in 1967 and 1969. He also graduated from Miami-Dade University in 1971 with a degree in mortuary science, and currently owns and operates the Tomlinson Funeral Home in Bensalem, which opened its doors in 1945.
From 1991-1994, he served in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, representing the 18th District, as well as on the board of directors for Lower Bucks Hospital. Currently, he is chairman of the Senate Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure Committee, and is involved with numerous area organizations, including Rotary Club of Bensalem, Lower Bucks County Chamber of Commerce, Bensalem Lions and YWCA Advisory Council.
Guests then heard from Rep. Gene DiGirolamo, who has known Tomlinson for many years.
“We used to fight over the same girls in Bensalem and he would always win,” DiGirolamo said with a laugh.
DiGirolamo presented his friend with a citation from the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, and one from Bensalem Township on behalf of Mayor Joseph DiGirolamo.
“I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that if it wasn’t for Sen. Tomlinson, this hospital would not be here. And I’m telling you the truth,” he said. “I watched him up in Harrisburg fight relentlessly on behalf of this hospital for a good number of years.”
Also present was Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick, who reflected on Tomlinson officiating his Eagle Scout ceremony when he was 18.
“I don’t like this man. I love this man,” Fitzpatrick praised. “He’s a good, decent, honorable human being.”
Next, the one-and-only Dee Brown, who has dedicated more than 60 years of service to the hospital and community, stepped up to the podium to present Tomlinson with the award.
“Many times, we were about ready to close the doors here at this hospital. But we could always count on Tommy figuring a way that we could find some money to keep the doors open,” she said. “We became a hospital that has saved many, many lives in this area. Many people will never go anywhere else but Lower Bucks Hospital.”
The man of the hour took a moment to say a few words of gratitude.
“It’s always been a warm place for me,” Tomlinson said of the hospital, adding how his mother once volunteered there. “It’s a community hospital and people need community hospitals. It’s still doing a wonderful job for all of the people that live around here. It’s crucial to our area to have this hospital be successful. That’s why I went to Harrisburg – to take care of my community.”
After the ceremony, attendees enjoyed catering by King George II Inn, artwork by Artists of Bristol on the Delaware and music by students of Bucks County Community College’s Epstein Campus. ••
Samantha Bambino can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org