By Jacqueline Monahan
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Abe & Louise Jaramillo Garden of Hope Blooms at Nevada Cancer Institute

The morning of Thursday, May 21, was cheerfully sunny, not yet as hot as it could be for a late spring day in Las Vegas.  For a moment, you could forget that you were standing on the grounds of The Nevada Cancer Institute (NVCI).  And that’s exactly what the members of the Jaramillo family want you to do if only for a small moment in time as you stand in the Garden of Hope.

From 2001 to 2007, the Abe & Louise Jaramillo family, all long-time Las Vegas residents, lost seven family members to cancer. Together with the Nevada Cancer Institute, the family designed and installed The Abe & Louise Jaramillo Garden of Hope for cancer patients, their families and NVCI staff.


It all started when family patriarch Abe Jaramillo envisioned paradise out of a barren desert.  He and his wife, Louise settled in Las Vegas in 1942, where they founded Abe Jaramillo & Sons, a sand and gravel firm in Las Vegas.  By 1955 Abe had opened Las Vegas Fertilizer Company, Inc., a wholesale lawn and garden company supplying the western United States. Together with sons Earl, George, Joe, Ray and daughter Lucille, his companies were involved in the landscaping of hotels, malls, highway, homes, CCSD schools and UNLV.  With roots so deep, a garden is a fitting tribute to the couple and the entire family.

A winding pathway will let you travel the entire length and width of the garden. There’s an area filled with multi-colored roses, sapling trees that promise future shade, light wooden benches and stone memorials amid red-gravel landscapes.  Hummingbird feeders welcome tiny visitors full of energy, symbols of a life force that permeates this serene desert oasis.

Visitors can also walk and play on a putting green (the Jaramillo family has a decades-long love of golf), built to give patients and families a respite from worry, a cheerful place to make new memories.  A cancer diagnosis is daunting enough to deal with; this is a place for hope.

Commemorative stones memorialize the names of Abe & Louise Jaramillo, the seven Jaramillo family members whose lives were cut short by cancer, and the welcoming stone, which features the name of the garden and splashes of color.

The garden’s dedication took place just outside of the Support Services building bearing the optimistic address of One Breakthrough Way.  Speakers from NVCI included Shelley Gitomer, NVCI Vice President of Development, and Dr. John C. Ruckdeschel, M.D., NVCI Director and Chief Executive Officer.

"We share in the Jaramillo's vision that hope is at the heart of any cancer patient's journey," the former Detroit resident remarked, also noting that he had to abandon his plans to grow tomatoes when he moved to Las Vegas.  Desert gardens take some getting used to, Ruckdeschel maintained, but admitted that he found the Garden of Hope to be a place of peace, contemplation and meditation.

Family dynamo and garden organizer Nina Jaramillo Washawanny, granddaughter of Abe and Louise Jaramillo, declared that the garden “is for everyone.”  She shared her own acronym for the word hope:  Healing-Opportunity-Peace-Encouragement.

"We wanted to give cancer patients and their families a place to gather their thoughts and give them the courage to face what lies ahead of them," said Washawanny.   "We also wanted to give workers a place to get a reprieve so that as employees, they will have the strength to keep on doing what they do every day - help save lives and give patients hope."  She also added that her grandmother died at the age of 96, just six days after her cancer diagnosis.  The garden, she maintains, is a place where patients and survivors can “walk in victory.”  That word had been associated with gardens before and is especially appropriate for this one.

Special Assistant Mary Mason of Sen. John Ensign's office presented two Senatorial Certificates of Commemoration, one to NCVI and one to the Jaramillo family.  The dedication ceremony featured a ribbon cutting that included all of the Jaramillo family members in attendance as well as NVCI personnel.  Washawanny did the honors, brandishing a pair of enormous scissors, as supporters, patients and staff anticipated a subsequent self-guided tour.

Special Assistant Mary Mason of Sen. John Ensign's office and Dr Ruckdeschel

Daisy seeds, themselves a symbol of new life, were given to guests to start gardens of their own.  The putting green was put to use, as were the benches and pathways. There was no sadness amid the leaves and blossoms this day; only hope, and a living garden to symbolize it.

The Nevada Cancer Institute is the official cancer institute for the State of Nevada. A nonprofit organization, it serves communities in Nevada and the southwest through research, education, early detection, prevention and high quality patient care.  Scientists, clinicians, educators and caregivers lend their considerable expertise to NCVI’s mission, a dedication to education, patient care and research.

For further information:

The Nevada Cancer Institute
One Breakthrough Way
Las Vegas, NV  89135
(702) 822-LIFE


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