A Life Touched by Mercy: A Grateful Patient’s Generous Gift

Ritz Naygrow, who grew up with very little, is truly a self-made man. Now in his mid-90s, he can point to starting his own company, Shasta Beverage Sierra Spring Water Company which, by the time he sold it in 1979, employed 3,400 people across 28 Western states. And Ritz’s entrepreneurial spirit didn’t end when he sold his business – at the age of 90, he bought Jim Denny’s, a classic roadside diner at 12th and I Streets in Sacramento.

Through all of the chapters of his life, one place has been a constant – Mercy General Hospital. When he was 13, he delivered newspapers to the hospital. Later, in the 1940s, Ritz and his wife, June, welcomed their two boys into the world there. It was where they later faced worry and illness, as Ritz experienced health scares over the years, including heart problems. And in 2005, Ritz endured his life’s greatest heartbreak when his dear wife June passed away there.

Through it all, he says Mercy General Hospital’s physicians, nurses and employees have provided unmatched strength and support. “I’ve been to every hospital in this area,” says Ritz, “and I can tell you, Mercy General is different. It’s almost like you are healed just by the attitude of the people there.”

Ritz has been particularly touched by the staff and patients in Mercy General’s Cardiac Rehabilitation Program. For over 16 years, Ritz has regularly visited Cardiac Rehab, putting in his time on the treadmill and with the weights. When he heard that the Cardiac Rehab team would have to move their older, outdated equipment into their new home in the recently opened Alex G. Spanos Heart & Vascular Center on Mercy General’s campus, he saw an opportunity. Ritz made a philanthropic gift through Mercy Foundation of $250,000 – the total amount needed to equip the new Cardiopulmonary Rehabilitation Exercise Suite to ensure it would be as world-class as the rest of the facility that will house it. Ritz’s generosity provided for all new, state-of-the-art exercise equipment within the new exercise suite, which will be named after Ritz and his late wife June.