In Gowanda, back in 1950, it was a new day recorded in the annals of time! Tri-County Memorial Hospital on Memorial Drive in Gowanda officially opened its doors for the first time. It was Saturday, Nov. 25, 1950.
Through the untiring efforts of countless individuals, that day finally arrived. And the community was proud of what their genuine dedication, sincere commitment, charitable sacrifice, and hard work, had been able to achieve.
A modern up-to-date hospital facility stood solidly and stoically in their midst, to be of service to the community and the surrounding areas. It was a great day, and history verified that their valiant efforts were not in vain.
Tri-County Memorial Hospital on Memorial Drive officially opened its doors in November of 1950. Drawing is courtesy of the Gowanda Area Historical Society.
In the weeks and months leading up to the hospital construction, there were many who scrimped and saved and contributed to the financial needs of the new emerging facility. Many gave what they could, even to the point of self -sacrifice. It is known that there were some who took a loan, or took on an additional mortgage on their property, just so they might contribute to the cause. There were many who went the "extra mile" so to speak, because they believed the cause was of paramount need for the area. The fruits of their labors were realized that Saturday in November of 1950.
For nearly 60 years, the hospital fulfilled a desperate calling. Additions were made to the original facility to meet the emerging health care needs. Hundreds upon hundreds of appreciative patients and their families have been professionally well served through the years. There are those in our midst who took their first breath of life in the maternity unit of the hospital. And, sadly, there were those who, surrounded by skilled and comforting hospital personnel, took their final breath at Tri County Memorial.
We were indeed fortunate, through these many years, to have an array of most competent, skilled, and caring folks on the hospital staff. Also, we were blessed with invaluable hospital volunteers, dedicated auxiliary members, caring hospital aides, highly motivated students in the medical sciences, judicious hospital board members, and broad based community support.
During its nearly 60-year history, the hospital knew both good times, and hard times. But through it all, the hospital met its obligations to the patients: up-to-date equipment, spotless sanitized rooms, attractive surroundings, and especially highly competent and warm personnel caring for patients with dignity. Truly, when the need was there, the hospital was ready to respond with professional treatment and gentle care. "We are here for the patients" was often their motto. And therein is the legacy of Tri County Memorial Hospital.
Indeed, the hospital had many good years and several difficult moments. At times, there were financial stresses and several weather-related demanding events. But all in all, Tri County Hospital then was there to meet the call. The resilience of the institution, the dedication of the personnel and community support helped the hospital stand strong, tall, and responsive.
However, the event which occurred in the evening and early morning of Aug. 9 and 10, 2009, was an event with catastrophic consequences. The hospital was ravaged by the rushing waters of a devastating flood. The hospital personnel and community emergency services were there for the patients but ultimately, the devastation to the facility was just too great to be restored!
Immediately, the Hospital Administration was on the scene. Step by step with precision, the Administration took vital action to provide for restoration of essential services. The process of action planning by the administration and the Lake Erie Regional Health System of New York board was placed on the top priority list for constructive transformation.
Now we fast forward to the present day in 2012. It was only a few weeks ago, that the actual visible work began on the demolition of the flood ravaged facility of Tri County Memorial Hospital on Memorial Drive. However, days and weeks of intensive planning had been undertaken. Hospital administrative personnel met with neighbors in proximity to the Hospital to apprise them of developments. Site surveyors had mapped and marked the entire site. Demolition plans had meticulously and painstakingly been developed and approved by appropriate State, Federal, and Health agencies.
An historic preservation assessment had to be made. A tall metal secure fence was erected around the entire site perimeter. Safety and health measures were in place. A portable project work office was moved into place. Then, multiple large pieces of demolition equipment began to arrive. Stage by stage, the massive project, got under way. Each day, we saw less of what once was. Now, the demolition is complete.
Today, stands the sprawling stately trees which once surrounded the impressive hospital buildings. With the tranquil landscaped site now in place, we are reminded of what once was the busy, burgeoning, and responsive hospital facility. Truly, the building facade itself is now a treasured and fond memory of the past.
But, what so richly remains, is the great legacy of the professional services provided at Tri County Memorial Hospital. Indeed, it is stoically, firmly, and warmly ensconced in the hearts and minds of generations of people from all walks of life. That 60-year old historic legacy, is a legacy this community cannot and will not forget.
Dr. Robert L. Heichberger is professor emeritus at the State University of New York at Fredonia and distinguished professor at Capella University in Minneapolis. All of the past columns can be viewed on www.fromourperspective.net/ Send comments to: Rheich@aol.com