Community garden at NJ hospital renamed after longtime chef who created it

SECAUCUS, New Jersey (WABC) -- A community garden at the Hudson Regional Hospital in New Jersey was dedicated Tuesday to a longtime chef at the medical facility who passed away in 2018.

Wilfred "Freddie" Orozco worked for 12 years as the Secaucus hospital, where he prepared meals using produce and herbs that he lovingly grew in the garden located next to the hospital.

He planted that garden nearly 10 years ago but tragically died from a massive heart attack at just 58.

"I remember when he first came up with the idea to create a garden," wife Debra Wells said. "He was so excited and put it together so quickly."

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Orozco was the hospital's dietary department director, and he'd often cook with what he grew -- with herbs and vegetables going into cafeteria food and meals for patients.

"It was a learning experience, because I had never done that before, you know, cook from a garden," colleague Marvin McCray said. "So I get a chance to see some of the vegetables grow, and the process of taking it and actually putting it into our stuff was really cool."

After his death, though, his beloved garden was left untended. Then COVID hit, and it was off limits.

But finally, this summer, the garden was brought back. And the ceremony Tuesday officially named the garden after its late creator.

"I love what they've done, dedicating the garden in his name," Wells said. "That was so beautiful, very touching."

The garden is now open to any resident of Secaucus who wants to work it and reap its rewards, and cafeteria staff members have returned to snipping herbs for recipes.

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Council member Orietta Tringali readied the garden and also planted it.

"I was one of the volunteers that helped clean up," she said. "We didn't even think we'd get anything, and it was amazing to see the beautiful vegetables...and I was able to make delicious meals with it."

And it was all done in Freddie's spirit, a plot of land providing sustenance and comfort.

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