Old pics hospital

Former CHI Saint Joseph Berea Hospital employees, from left, Ruth Walker, Jan Gilbert, Phyllis Carraway, Brenda Marcum, Phyllis Hendricks, Pat Estep and Nancy Isaacs look over old photographs. Bernice Baird, not pictured, also worked on the year-long project.

It’s been said a picture is worth a thousand words. When a group of retirees from CHI Saint Joseph Berea Hospital stumbled across boxes of old photographs during a 120th anniversary open house in 2018, they wanted more than just pictures from the past.

“They had boxes of pictures and they had no names on them,” hospital retiree Pat Estep said. “Everybody from our little town was wondering (who) this is? Wonder who that is? I said, ‘some of us older people need to get together and put some names on those pictures. We had boxes, boxes and boxes of pictures.”

It took less than a year, but the group of eight core retirees put together 22 binders of photographs from the past, giving future generations a glimpse of history of the hospital. The binders are broken down by department, giving insights into the growth of the hospital. 

“We had 21 (binders) but then we started finding more recent pictures,” said Ruth Walker, also a retired employee of the hospital. “We (also have) two boxes of duplicates and they are the leftovers.”

During their weekly Thursday luncheon, the group delved through the pictures and “started out by just taking them out of the boxes putting in departments.”

“We started out by taking them out and putting names on them, but then we were getting duplicates of everything and so we started putting into departments.”

Although the photographs provided some samples of the past, the group also poured through archives at Berea College and pieced together a chronological history of Berea Hospital, now owned by Catholic Health Initiatives. Throughout that process, more boxes of photographs were discovered.

“When we thought we were finished we could have boxes and more boxes,” Estep said. “We found them in closets and in the attic, stuck here and stuck there. We went thorough thousands of pictures. We had multiple boxes.”

The project proved to be a rewarding one for each member of the group.

“We loved it,” Estep said. “We really loved it. We told stories and if one person knew the first name, but didn’t know the last name, another person would know the last name.”

The group also used social media as a source for information.

“We posted some (pictures) on Facebook and everybody loved them,” Walker said. “Sometimes we would put pictures up that had no names on them that we didn’t recognize and they would make comments (on the picture). We wanted to get as many pictures identified as we could.”

Throughout the process, the group learned more about the history of one of Berea’s oldest institutions.

“(In the past) the hospital had patients on bunk beds,” Estep said. “We have pictures when the hospital was being built and it was built in 1918.”

The binders are stored on the first floor and visitors can view the pictures on most Thursday’s from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. The group also plans to offer the photos for viewing during a reception from 2-6 p.m. on Feb. 6 at the hospital.

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