By Sue Kiesewetter
HAMILTON - Seventy-five years ago Carl Sipple stood in line to tour the brand new Fort Hamilton Hospital - a hospital his grandfather helped to establish through membership drives.
Sipple again toured the hospital Saturday as it celebrated its 75th birthday with a community open house attended by more than 500.
"I had to come. I was here for the opening. I'm here for the anniversary," said Sipple, 82, a lifelong Hamiltonian. "There's a community spirit here. I'm real proud of it."
Fort Hamilton opened its doors May 1, 1929, shortly before the Great Depression hit. Sipple was one of 14,000 who lined up three city blocks deep to tour the hospital during the inaugural open house two days before patients arrived.
The day it opened, three surgeries were performed in the 108-bed hospital. During its first two weeks, 66 people were admitted.
Viola Faye Dwyer Durrough said her mother had hoped to have the first baby - Viola - at the hospital. But it opened quicker than she thought.
"I was number 52," said Durrough, who will be 75 in July. "I just feel like this is my hospital."
Since those early days the hospital has undergone several expansions, merged with Hughes Memorial Hospital in 1971 and joined the Health Alliance of Greater Cincinnati six years ago.
With about 1,100 employees, the hospital is Hamilton's largest employer. It became the city's only hospital three years ago when Mercy Hospital Hamilton closed.
"They provide first-rate service to our citizens, not only in care but opportunity - for employment and drawing small satellite businesses that support it," said Mayor Don Ryan."We're especially thankful to the hospital and staff for all they do."
Once again, Fort Hamilton plans to grow. Next month, the hospital breaks ground on a $16 million, two-story, 42,000 square foot addition expected to open in January 2006.
The first floor will include expanded and reconfigured outpatient services while the second floor adds 16 intensive care unit beds. The project will allow the hospital to treat 1,500 more critically injured patients annually - something needed as the population ages.
Lyn Oswald, senior vice president, praised volunteers who have worked at the hospital. Last year, 500 volunteers donated 42,776 hours of their time.
Ursula Pridemore, 79, has been volunteering at the hospital for 13 years, contributing 28,000 hours through 2003. She still works at the hospital six days a week, working 55 hours.
"My sister-in-law talked me into it - then she quit," Pridemore said. "I really love being here. I'm needed. Everybody needs to be needed."
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