In 1949, periodic flooding of the Willamette River occasionally blocked access to the area's only hospital, located in Eugene. Given a rapidly expanding population, local residents decided it was time to establish a hospital in Springfield. After several years of fund-raising efforts, McKenzie-Willamette opened its doors as a not-for-profit community hospital on May 1, 1955 with 35 beds.
Between 1955 and 1981 several expansions, including the addition of a 4-story tower in 1975 and a 3-story ancillary building in 1981, added services and capacity to the hospital.
The hospital became McKenzie-Willamette Medical Center on October 1, 2003 and operates today as an investor-owned regional acute care center.
McKenzie-Willamette's mission statement: "Caring for People in Extraordinary Ways."
Making the Dream a Reality
Dedicated, Community-minded People Made the Dream of McKenzie-Willamette Hospital a Reality
The McKenzie-Willamette Hospital Association began as a nine-member board. Elected officers of the board were President E.H. Peterson, Vice President F.N. Jacoby, Secretary Max Gardner and Treasurer R.A. McInnis. On November 8, 1949, this board filed Articles of Incorporation for a new hospital. Their and other community members' efforts raised $100,000 toward building a new hospital.
In 1949, the Women's Guild (later called the Women's Auxiliary) was formed to fund-raise for a new hospital. These women held fund-raising dinners at local public schools to raise money for building a hospital in Springfield.
Unfortunately, in 1949, due to union strikes and unemployment, the hospital fund-raising effort suffered some setbacks. In 1953 interest in building a hospital in Springfield resurfaced. Louis D. Barr was hired to organize a fund-raising drive. Sixty men on the Advanced Gifts Committee (AGC) went door-to-door to get pledges. Later, in July 1953, they were joined by 100 more men, who made up the General Committee (GC).
From July to October 1953, daily breakfast meetings, provided by the Women's Guild (Auxiliary), inspired the men of the AGC and GC to make the hospital-building goal $450,000. The campaign ended on October 30, 1953, when enough pledges had been made to start a new 35-bed hospital in Springfield. Shortly thereafter, new Articles of Incorporation were filed under the name of McKenzie-Willamette Memorial Hospital. New board officers were elected: President Harry Wright, Vice President Hubert Gray, Secretary M.O. Sanders and Treasurer M.O. Dahl.
Bids for construction were opened in February 1954 and the hospital was constructed at 14th and G Streets, Springfield, during the following year. The hospital's doors opened on May 1, 1955.
In the early days, once the facility was open, the McKenzie-Willamette Hospital Board of Directors included the following: E.W. Balderree, A.E. Brandt, Fred Buell,* M.O. Dahl, Warne Empey, Hubert Gray, Edward Harms, Frank Jones, Al Knapp, Jack Larson, Glenn Lowery, Lee Martinson, Don Peglow, M. Norton Pemgra, Lee G. Raish, Marvin Sandeis, H. Ray Stafford, George Weyerhaeuser, Harry Wright and Max Gardner.
Recognition of Volunteerism
The Buell Family Devoted Many Volunteer Hours to McKenzie-Willamette
Mr. Fred Buell was one of the hospital's first fund-raisers and a member of the Board of Directors. Until the opening of the hospital on May 1, 1955, the Board met in Buell's living room. The hospital's first administrator, Peter D. Fleissner was hired in the Buell living room. Loudelle, Fred's wife, volunteered as a gray lady (a volunteer who wore gray vests and performed special duties) and worked as a nurse's aid. She was a member of the hospital board for a number of years and was state president of the women's auxiliary in the 1970s.
Gary Buell, son of Fred and Loudelle, served on the first Development Council, which later became the Foundation. Gary and his wife, Donna, initiated one of the first major fund-raising campaigns for the hospital: the M.A.S.H. Bash. The Bash was held annually for five years.
Gary's wife, Donna, started volunteering at the hospital over 30 years ago, putting in time on the switchboard and editing PulseBeat (the hospital's community newsletter). She served on the Board of Directors from the late 1970s until 2003 and was Board chair in the early nineties.
"We believe it's important to give credit to the citizens of Springfield who really stepped forward to make sure their community had a hospital, They were the real heroes. McKenzie-Willamette Hospital was created by the working folks of Springfield who contributed their hard-earned money in whatever amounts they could afford. Both Donna and I wish the best for the future of McKenzie-Willamette and hope the hospital will always be mindful of its deep community roots."
--Gary & Donna Buell, April 2005