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Friday, October 04, 2013 - Crowd Celebrates KMHC's 60th Anniversary


Area residents line up for some tasty appetizers. Below, Administror Jim Austin talks with
a celebrant.

Appreciative Crowd Celebrates Hospital’s 60th Birthday
More than 200 celebrants enjoy delicious appetizers and live music

The prognosis for Kalkaska Memorial Health Center at 60 continues to be strong.

As the hospital completes its sixth decade and enters its seventh, several area residents took the opportunity to express their appreciation for the quality and availability of care while enjoying the hospital’s anniversary party on Tuesday, Oct 1.

“This is impressive. For a small community like this, we need this and the business here,” said Le Baxter of Kalkaska, who was among more than 200 celebrants enjoying appetizers such as shrimp, roast beef, and double-baked red jacketed potatoes. “This is an excellent place and I’m glad they’re here.”

 Hospital Administrator Jim Austin said it is important to remember that in the rural areas surrounding Traverse City, four hospitals were created within 10 years of each other in the late 1940s and ’50s.

“Starting in 1947, Antrim County created a hospital, in 51 Benzie County created a hospital, in ’53 Kalkaska created a hospital and in ’57 Leelanau County created a hospital,” he said. “And out of those four hospitals only two continue to exist.”

Austin said Kalkaska Memorial Health Center owes its continued existence to the faithful support of county residents. “There’s a tax millage for our capital improvements here,” he said. “We are very much aware that what we have is because of the great support we get in Kalkaska from the people who live here.”

At the 60th anniversary party held in the gleaming Outpatient Services Building, celebrants could view photos depicting part of Kalkaska’s medical past. Local historian Dave Wolfe also provided displays of medical equipment used by one of the city’s early physicians, Clarence Rolla Bernard, M.D.

Musical sounds from the 1950s and 60s rang out from Plant Engineering staff member Dylan Frashier’s voice and guitar, with an assist from pianist Randy Atwood, husband of the hospital’s Chief Operating Officer Sheila Atwood.

“I’m just very happy that so many in our community came to help us celebrate our 60th anniversary,” said Sheila Atwood. “It proves people are proud of us and happy that we are here.”

As the celebration continued, Margaret Whipple of Grand Blanc leafed through a pamphlet produced by the hospital that depicted the history of the village’s medical beginnings. She had spent the day visiting her sister who is a resident in the hospital’s long-term care.

“It’s been a wonderful place for her,” she said.

Longtime hospital board member Betty Dunham sat in a chair and smiled at the young and old who came to the celebration, all unaware of the many challenges that occurred as the facility negotiated its early years.

“I think that this is great because people think this is the greatest hospital in northern Michigan,” she said. “People appreciate all that we’ve done.”

 Munson Healthcare President and CEO Ed Ness praised the hospital’s longevity and example to other smaller facilities around the state.

“As president of Munson Healthcare this is very exciting for our system and this community,” he said. “This hospital really is a model of what small hospitals should be in the future, and they should be very proud of what they have here. Because of the travel distances in northern Michigan, it is very important to keep hospitals like this open.”