Community Memorial Hospital, Spring Valley, from 1962 to 1996.
Community Memorial Hospital, Spring Valley, from 1962 to 1996.
In the light (or shadows) of recent tornado devastations about the country, I've been reflecting on the blessings of medical resources we have in this area. It's hard to imagine the suffering in those places that have lost doctors' offices, hospitals, services, and more, especially when the need for help is so great.

No doubt folks are planning class reunions for the coming summer and it might be worthwhile to consider what was happening in Spring Valley 30 to 40 years ago when it came to medical services.

Spring Valley's Community Memorial Hospital had been established in 1962 and was a boon to the entire area. The 35-bed facility was dedicated in August that year, with 3,500 people attending the grand opening. In the first six months there were 650 admissions and within eight months, 100 babies had been born there. Were you one of them? In 1982, the hospital staff celebrated 20 years of service and it was interesting to see the local paper carried a list of those discharged each week - talk about lack of privacy!

Valley Medical Clinic on Tracy Road opened in 1962 with doctors Norbert O'Keefe, R.W. Gustafson and Roland Matson. Doctors came and went, including Lee Podoll, Robert Snyder, Leah Williams and Brad Westra. In 1987, the clinic was sold to become a satellite of Rochester's Olmsted Medical Group. Doctors Steve Harder and Ray Krueger joined the staff and Matson retired in 1993. Today the staff includes doctors Harder, Krueger and Charles Slater.

The present nursing home was added to the hospital in 1976 thanks to a general obligation bond of $1 million. The 50-bed facility for those needing skilled nursing care welcomed Henry Kruegel, 101, as its first resident.

By 1980 the joint facility was considered the largest service industry in the area. It was 1984 when the hospital administration announced they had entered the new age of computer technology, and later that year the Mayo Clinic offered their helicopter service. Within a few months the helicopter paid its first visit, with response time of only 11 minutes.

Times changed. In 1985, the doctors decided to no longer deliver babies here and the surgeon from Austin was no longer on call. Financial problems became a big concern over time, and in 1995, the administration offered a "swing bed" program where hospital beds could be used for nursing home admissions if necessary to keep beds full, and rehabilitation services were added. However, in November 1996, the hospital closed after 34 years of dedicated service to the communities. The nursing home continued on site but the hospital wing was rehabbed into Spring Valley Estates, with 14 units for independent living.

Ambulance service? The funeral directors had long offered this service and Wally Osland became a "server" when he bought the funeral home from Loren Jorris in 1960. A "new" 1966 coach was converted from funeral coach to ambulance as needed, but soon failed to meet requirements.

By 1986, Osland announced he was worn out by the demands of 24-hour on-call, and at once the city was drawn into the ambulance business. A $50,000 rig was acquired and emergency medical technicians (EMTs) were in training. Jim Cooper was hired as ambulance director in 1988 and a year later the city acquired the former Costello service station south of the fire hall for an ambulance garage.

As we know, the Spring Valley Area Ambulance Association is now located in a fine new facility which opened in 2005 on the east outskirts of town. Read all about it in "Tales of Our Town," a Spring Valley history available at the historical society gift shop, or call me.

Other notes of interest regarding our welfare in those years? Did you know: In 1985, after six years of planning, we could call 9ll for emergency help. The community center was made handicapped accessible in 1987, and still serves us well. A nationwide campaign was launched in 1990 to remove asbestos from schools - we didn't have to get rid of "all" of it, but just "manage" it. What do you suppose that meant? The sanitary landfill controversy raged in the early l980s, with talk of water contamination from toxic waste and much more. Again, refer to "Tales of Our Town."

Doctors Bill and Kristi Mettler opened their chiropractic office on Broadway in 1993. Dr. Ken Barcel had been located on South Washington since 1969.

Dentists? Dr. E. L. Morse was in his new office on North Broadway but retired in 1988 after 40-some years; Dr. Brice Greene recently retired from that same office. Dr. Doug Peak joined Dr. Harry Esklund in 1977 and in 1990 Dr. Jeff Fleming joined Peak. This business was sold to a Rochester co-op, with Dr. Keith Casella now in a fine new facility on the edge of town.

Weight-loss groups have been around for some time - the TOPS (Take Off Pounds Sensibly) group that began in 1956 still meets weekly at the nursing home.

Do we have dependable fresh water? Of course; the new water tower was erected in 1965 east of the hospital; the old one came down in 1993 for safety reasons. Incidentally, Dr. Morse campaigned vigorously for fluoridation of our water and the practice was begun in 1963. That same year, the Jaycees sponsored a seatbelt clinic with installation for only $l2 each. There are now ambitious urgings and it's the law to fasten our seatbelts to help keep us safe.

Yes, we are blessed with medical facilities of all kinds, in town and nearby - be thankful!