Hospital Marking 70th Anniversary September 25
Hospital Marking 70th Anniversary September 25

Hospital Marking 70th Anniversary September 25

Hospital

Dr. J. Craig Bowman spoke on behalf of the Board of Governors at the dedication ceremony for Wyandot Memorial Hospital in September of 1950. Now 70 years later, his grandson Kyle Bowman serves on the Board, as did Kyle's father Craig Bowman.

On Friday, September 25, 2020, Wyandot Memorial Hospital will celebrate 70 years of service to Wyandot County and surrounding areas.

The hospital’s first patient was admitted at 12:30 p.m. that day and was the culmination of more than a dozen years of planning and building a hospital in Upper Sandusky. Prior to opening WMH, people traveled to other counties for their hospitalizations.

“The Wyandot County Medical Society was instrumental in starting a hospital here,” explained Public Relations Director Ann Kemerley.

She reported area physicians, dentists and pharmacists met on a regular basis as early as 1930 to discuss public health issues, medical advances and fee schedules. Society members Dr. J. Craig Bowman and Dr. B.A. Maloney spearheaded the effort to build a hospital and enlisted the help of other interested community members to consider funding options.

After a countywide bond issue for the hospital failed in 1938, a Joint Township Hospital District was formed in 1944 with Crane, Mifflin, Pitt and Salem Townships. The elected trustees of those four townships served as members of the Board of Trustees and appointed a Board of Governors in 1945 for hospital operations. The Joint Township Hospital District passed a bond issue in 1946 and was also awarded federal grant dollars for the construction. A fund drive for donations was conducted as well.

Groundbreaking was held in June of 1949 with F.M. Vaughn Building Company of Hamilton serving as the general contractor. The official dedication was held on September 10, 1950, and attended by more than 3,000.

“The photos we have of that ceremony are impressive,” Kemerley commented. “Many in the crowd are in their Sunday best with suit jackets, dresses and stylish hats.”

The dedication program featured a ceremonial flag raising by American Legion Post No. 225 and the National Anthem played by the Wyandot County Band under the direction of Wallace Bringman. Charles Artz served as the master of ceremonies for the event, which was broadcast on radio station WMRN. Upper Sandusky native Fred J. Milligan, a Columbus attorney, gave the dedicatory address before keys were presented to Adam Gamber, President of the Joint Township Hospital District Board of Trustees. Administrator Lillian Stoll, RN, then introduced her staff of graduate nurses.

Those nurses had to wait another two weeks before caring for the first WMH patients, as a strike at the plant supplying the new furnishings delayed their delivery. The furniture finally arrived on September 22 and an open house held on the 24th from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Newspaper accounts report “… an almost continual string of visitors…” that was “ … far in excess of the estimated 3,000 …” attending the dedication.

Retired WMH nurse Mary Rife remembers her family discussing the new hospital, although she was away at nurses’ training at the time of the grand opening.

“When I finished at Massillon and returned to Upper in 1951, my mother said I should go out and apply at Wyandot,” Rife shared. “I did what she said and planned to stay for maybe a couple of years or so. Who knew that I’d be here for more than 43 years.”

Rife holds the record at WMH for longest employment, and many other medical professionals dedicated their careers to serving WMH and their friends and neighbors in the area. Among current employees are several with parents or grandparents that also worked at the hospital.

“We know our purpose is to build upon the firm foundation of caring established by those that went before us,” Kemerley noted. “Our mission – Keeping Our Promise to be Your Hospital – reflects our commitment to remaining independent with local leadership to guide us into our 71st year and beyond.”

One of those leaders, Board of Governors member Kyle Bowman, is honored to be serving in a role also held by both his father – Craig Bowman – and grandfather – Dr. J. Craig Bowman.

“I am so thankful that I have been given the opportunity to serve this community as my father and grandfather did before me,” Kyle Bowman stated. “It is truly a blessing to be part of such a wonderful team of medical professionals, volunteers and leaders, and to carry forward the visions of those that came before us for access to quality healthcare that is close to home.

“The way that this community has always put their arms around Wyandot Memorial and embraced it and supported it from the very beginning is just awe-inspiring,” Bowman added. “The future of WMH remains bright.”

Kemerley indicated the 70th anniversary celebration was scaled back a bit due to the coronavirus pandemic, but added the next milestone at 75 is just five years away.

“It will be here before you know it,” she said. “We are starting to plan now for that occasion to recognize those that have given their time and dollars to make Wyandot Memorial what it is: a modern hospital with deep roots in the community it serves.”