Remember When--50th Anniversary Celebration
March 16, 1969 was a sunny day with mild temperatures – a
perfect day for Ste. Genevieve County Memorial Hospital to hold its open house.
Nearly 50 years to the day, SGCMH had an equally perfect day to look back on a
half century of service to the Ste. Genevieve community. The hospital chose
April 9, 2019 for its celebration as this was the day in 1969 that the hospital
admitted its first patient.
Tom Keim, SGCMH CEO welcomed the crowd of over 150 by
recapping the story of how the hospital began.
“Jim and Rosella Grobe were expecting a baby that would be
delivered at Perry County Hospital,” Keim explained. “Jim remarked that it
would sure be nice to have a hospital in Ste. Genevieve. All the Ste. Gen docs at the time were in
favor of this idea and suddenly they were off and running.
“Community leaders and volunteers joined forces and set in
motion a fundraising campaign and the work to put a bond issue before the
voters-twice! The “Fifth of May is Hospital Day” became the rallying cry. How
exciting this time must have been!”
Who better to talk about those early days than the people who were there?
He began by introducing Rita Brumfield, SGCMH Chief Nursing
Officer, who as a 17-year-old Valle student in 1964 won an essay contest on why
Ste. Genevieve County needs a hospital. She read her winning essay to the
audience, which rang as true today as it did over 50 years ago.
Betty Joggerst, a 50-year SGCMH employee in the lab talked about
the changes she’s seen in her department over the years. “It’s amazing how much information can be
obtained from a tiny sample of blood today compared to the large amount they
used to have to take from patients years ago,” she said. “Technology has made
In introducing, Melinda Fisher, 50-year SGCMH employee and
director of Housekeeping, now called Environmental Services, Mr. Keim beamed
when he said if there’s a cleaner hospital in the United States, you’ll have to
show it to him.
“When I started, I never thought I’d be here 50 years
later,” said Fisher. “What’s interesting, even though we have many more off
campus sites to clean, is that I have about the same number of ladies working
in my department now as I did then.”
Cindy Kreitler, a 37-year SGCMH employer whose father, Lou
Schilly, was the first hospital administrator, was egged on by Fisher to say
share a few stories from her days of nursing.
“Things have really changed,” said Kreitler. “We used to
gather up the charts and make rounds with the doctors. It was a big deal going
from paper charts to computers.”
Kreitler had the audience in stitches when she talked about
the employee Christmas parties, doughnut days and the time when a fellow nurse
dressed as a witch for Halloween and stayed in costume as she ran to answer a
code blue. She was the first person the patient saw when he awoke. She also
relayed that it was nothing to see patients, doctors and visitors smoking at
the nurses station, even in the patient rooms when oxygen was being used.
Jeanette Wood, a 40-year SGCMH employee, began her stint at
the hospital as a nurse and later took on leadership roles.
“We worked hard, but we had a fun,” said Wood. “There were
so many cases I remember. Like the patient from Bloomsdale who came in and said
he was bitten by a copperhead and actually brought the snake in a five-gallon
bucket to show us. Needless to say he was rushed to the ER. But how fortunate
we are. I think all of us know what a great place this is.”
Mary Ann McCullough, SGCMH nurse practitioner, spoke of her
fondness for this hospital and the town. She’s the daughter of Dr. Joseph
Lutkewitte, who was one of a trio of doctors along with Dr. Gerald DeGenova and
Dr. Reed Marts, who were instrumental in getting the hospital built.
“It’s been such an honor to take care of people in this
community,” she said. “We owe a debt of gratitude to all the people who had the
vision back then and worked so hard to make the hospital a reality. Thanks to
the doctors, who really gave their soul to the hospital and the community. I
remember going on house calls with dad, but we owe so much to all the people
who put the work in to make what we have now a reality.”
Ann Bonnell, former Friends Board Member and daughter of Jim
and Rosella Grobe, also addressed the audience.
“What strikes me most about the that time before the dream
of a hospital was a reality was the determination, sacrifice and hard work that
the people of our community were willing to give in order to build this
hospital and continue to grow it for 50 years and into the future,” she
Even Larry and Jean Basler, who have the distinction of
having given birth to twins at the hospital—the first delivery at SGCMH—were in
attendance and talked briefly about their experience.
Rod Scherer entered his 35th year on the SGCMH Board of
Trustees. His grandfather, William Scherer, was mayor when the official
groundbreaking took place.
“I look at today as a celebration of the past 50 years, but
also as a kick start to the next 50 years,” said Scherer. You all are the reason we can do it.”
Keim concluded his formal remarks before the unveiling of
the cornerstone time capsule.
“The hospital is not so much about bricks and mortar, but
about an amazing group of people who over the years have made healthcare a
priority,” he said. “It is the individuals doing their part and making a
difference in the lives of patients that make this hospital and physicians
clinics a very special place.”
The cornerstone of the hospital was put in place on May 30,
1968. It was believed that a time capsule was placed inside the cornerstone.
There was no one that could be found to really verify it, much less say what
the contents were. Now we know. Inside the container were a number of Ste.
Genevieve Herald newspapers that marked milestones on the way to the hospital’s
completion. The first paper pulled out by Scherer was dated May 9, 1964 with
the headline referring to the first bond issue that read “Hospital Wins.”
Most residents might say they were the real winners.
As a side note, the Med Evac helicopter landed in the middle
of the ceremony, a subtle reminder that health emergencies can arise at any
moment, and SGCMH is there every minute of every day to take care of the
residents of Ste. Genevieve and the surrounding area.