Construction of Hedrick Medical Center and Hedrick Medical Plaza reached a milestone Thursday when the final beam for the entire project was set in place.

Construction of Hedrick Medical Center and Hedrick Medical Plaza reached a milestone Thursday when the final beam for the entire project was set in place. The beam had been signed by employees of Hedrick Medical Center, as well as medical staff, hospital board members, city representatives and construction workers, and was placed in the area that will become part of the lobby entrance of the medical office building. Work crews paused for a moment and joined a small group of people gathered on the west side of the site for a brief “Topping Out” ceremony and to witness placement of the final beam. “Today is an opportunity to recognize all the workers who have played an essential part in the construction project and reaching this great milestone,” said Hedrick Medical Center Chief Executive Officer Matt Wenzel. “I would like to take this opportunity to recognize all the workers on the construction site and say 'thank you' for your diligence and dedication to building this beautiful new facility that will serve those in need of health care services for many years to come.” “The temperature has changed drastically today than when we broke ground on this project on Aug. 1, 2012,” Wenzel said. “But, the excitement for this project has not changed. This project continues to receive notice from those across the Saint Luke's Health System, the city of Chillicothe, as well as the state of Missouri. Today, we are here to hold a ceremony in honor of the men and women who are making these facilities a reality.” Wenzel also recognized the foundations that have provided funding for this hospital complex: Joe and Lenore Lambert Foundation, Minnie B. Hedrick Trust, James Lawson Trust, Mervyn W. Jenkins Foundation. In building construction, a topping out ceremony is one of the industry's oldest customs, explained Greg Euston, of JE Dunn. “It is a celebration of the last beam being placed at the top of a building,” Euston stated. The exact origins of the ceremony are somewhat obscure, but written accounts have been traced to ancient times, as well as to both European and Native American customs. The celebration usually includes the placement of an evergreen tree and an American flag upon the structure. The evergreen has come to symbolize a safe build, growth and good luck for the future occupants, Euston said. The tradition of elevating an American flag a the Topping Out ceremony dates back to more than a century ago, when steel framing became popular. Tradesmen began draping their work in American flags to show patriotism, to represent the American dream, to thank American soldiers, and to acknowledge a foundational product made in USA. In addressing the crowd Thursday morning, Chillicothe Mayor Chuck Haney contrasted the day's 32-degree temperature to that of the groundbreaking ceremony, which took place on a 103-degree August day. “It was more than three years ago that we really started on this project in earnest, looking for a new location and coming up with a new plan,” Haney stated, adding that “good things come to those who wait.” “Good things came because we waited... better interest rates, better location, and on and on,” he said. The mayor complimented the construction crews building the new hospital complex. “I tip my hat to you guys,” he said. “You have done a fantastic job under very bad adverse conditions. You came in under 21 inches of snow and continue a project like nothing happened.” “To all the employees, all the people involved, and to you guys out here working in these conditions, we salute you, we thank you, and we are going to be very proud come 2014.” Wenzel also recognized the workers for practicing safety first. “Since the start of the project on August first, there has been no lost time accidents by any trade,” Wenzel said. “That's a big accomplishment and we want to recognize all for practicing safety first.” Thursday's event included the Pledge of Allegiance, led by Wenzel, and an invocation by John Cook. At conclusion of the comments, the actual beam was hoisted from the ground and set into place. Following the ceremony, a meal was offered for all of those attending. Not only did Thursday mark the day for the final beam to be put into place for the hospital complex, it was also the day when the final concrete for the facility was poured. Around 210 yards of concrete were poured for the patient wing on the second floor. Contractors who have worked on the facility are: Ambassador Steel Fabrication, Barts Electric Company, Benton and Associates, Chillicothe Iron and Steel, LICO Steel, and D&M Plumbing. Groups recognized included JE Dunn Construction Company, K Building Specialties, KAT Excavation, Kissick Construction Company, Lawrence Pest Control Company, Nebel Construction Services, P1 Group, Rebar, Inc., S&W Waterproofing, Shaw Electric Company, Waterhout Construction Company.